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How do step-grandparents build relationships with stepgrandchildren and be included in the family dynamics? What are the challenges and concerns a counselor should address? As there are many families deciding to remarry, these questions have become significant in modern society. This paper suggests the ways of incorporating and encouraging the role of step-grandparents from the perspective of a counselor, as well as addresses the methods of building connections between new family members.
Encouraging and Incorporating Stepgrandparents’ Role
With the increased lifespan of grandparents, their role in families’ lives has become even more significant. For instance, Gold (2015) reports that 95% of individuals of the age of 20 have at least one living grandparent. Remarriage may change the family dynamic significantly, as it may add up to four step-grandparents into children’s lives. In addition, more than 50% of American families are remarried or recoupled (DeGreeff & Burnett, 2017). Thus, the role of counseling is to incorporate and encourage the role of step-grandparents within the stepfamily.
As a counselor, the first problem I would address is eliminating the challenges associated with stepgrandparenting. First, Gold (2015) notes that the relationships between grandparents and stepchildren are usually not considered when individuals form a new family. It is vital to ensure step-grandparents are not forced to build connections with their stepgrandchildren. A counselor may discuss the potential concerns and address the benefits of incorporating them into the stepfamily dynamic. It is evident that many step-grandparents may feel uncomfortable interacting with stepgrandchildren and vice versa. Some of the questions to step-grandparents may include:
- What are the topics or questions you are concerned about regarding being a step-grandparent?
- What, for you, are the obstacles to establishing positive relationships with your stepgrandchildren, and what are the steps you could take to improve the situation?
In addition, it is necessary to manage couples’ expectations for step-grandparents involvement. The study by Chapman et al. (2016) shows that many step-grandparents rely on their children’s perspectives of how they should be involved in the new family dynamic. As a counselor, I would discuss the potential boundaries and desired roles of step-grandparents with remarried families. I would address the role of extended family in children’s upbringing and suggest the methods step-grandparents can use to spend more quality time with their stepgrandchildren.
Another significant issue of concern is the children’s attitude towards step-grandparents. The problem is less significant when children are very young, as it is easier for step-grandparents to build connections with them from the start.
However, with older children, especially teenagers, incorporating the role of step-grandparents into the family may be challenging. To address this issue, I would discuss young adults’ expectations towards the relationships with the members of their extended stepfamily. Some individuals may want step-grandparents to be involved in their life, while others prefer to set particular boundaries. In the latter case, I would discuss children’s concerns and suggest the measures that could help them to bond with step-grandparents. They could include attending public events together or having personal talks about their expectations and preferences.
Incorporating the role of step-grandparents into the family dynamic may be challenging because they may feel uncomfortable, encounter stepgrandchildren’s boundaries, and deal with remarried couples’ expectations. To eliminate these problems, a counselor should discuss step-grandparents concerns and the potential benefits of being a part of a new family. It is also vital to talk about couples’ perspectives of their parents’ inclusion and role in the family dynamic.
Chapman, A., Ganong, L., Coleman, M., Kang, Y., Sanner, C., & Russell, L. T. (2016). Negotiating a place in the family—A grounded theory exploration of stepgrandmothers’ enactment of roles. The Gerontologist, 57(6), 1148-1157.
DeGreeff, B. L., & Burnett, A. (2017). Are you my grandmother?: Constructing and maintaining stepgrandparent identity and roles. Communication Quarterly, 65(5), 603-623.
Gold, J. M. (2015). Stepping in, stepping out: Creating stepfamily rhythm. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.