Gransnet forums


stressed by being a special guardian

(16 Posts)
lizzie610 Fri 15-Nov-13 12:49:16

Have posted this under Am I being unreasonable but think it needs its won thread
My husband and I became special guardians to our then nearly 14 yr old grandaughter in November of last year and she lives with us here in France and attends the local collège
Whilst she loves living with us and has settled into being here, I find it increasingly stressful dealing with not only a teenage girl but one who has come from a totall dsfunctional background and who can't live "normally". Unable to understand rules & regulations, unable to memorise anything from one minute to the next, disorganised and unwilling to learn. How do other people in this situation cope? Advice and encouragement sought please

Ariadne Fri 15-Nov-13 17:31:46

I can't offer any practical advice, lizzie but there will be people on here who can, I am sure. Meanwhile, would a (hug) do? It must all be very difficult for you, much as you love her.

Aka Fri 15-Nov-13 17:42:27

First of all you are wonderful grandparents to take your granddaughter on. I'd say make haste slowly and accept little improvements, they will build into big ones as time goes on.

Many 14 year olds from 'functional' homes are difficult anyway. But you say she loves living with you so that's a huge plus.

Put aside an hour or so each week for family time. Agree together (with her) a few simple achievable rules. Do not be tempted to go to far too soon. Agree together sanctions if these few rules are broken and rewards if they are achieved. (Don't go overboard with the rewards though).
Tell her you love her, and love having her with you. Encourage her to talk to you and really listen to her.

Good luck. I expect you'll get lots more good advice.

Eloethan Fri 15-Nov-13 19:37:31

I agree with Aka that many teenagers are a bit of a handful and can be quite self-centred, inconsiderate and scatty. It is a difficult time in their lives - not really children but not yet adults. But as you say she loves living with you, she presumably gets on with you reasonably well and would want to maintain a good relationship with you.

You say that she comes from a dysfunctional background and I would imagine that it will take some time for her to understand what is acceptable behaviour. I agree with Aka re the importance of listening to, and showing a genuine interest in, her thoughts and feelings. I also think that some achievable rules should be discussed in a calm and non-critical way and, where possible, boundaries set through negotiation.

I think you're doing a great thing taking on what is undoubtedly a big responsibility. I hope that in time you will feel less anxious and able to enjoy a relationship that is rewarding to all of you. I have great admiration for you and hope that all works out well in the end.

Just a thought - I wonder if other gransnetters can recommend any books or websites that might be helpful?

Faye Fri 15-Nov-13 19:46:40

Your granddaughter loves living with you and has settled in, two very important facts. This is probably her only opportunity to taste normal life before she becomes an adult.

What is 'normal' for a young teenager, especially one who has come from a dysfunctional background? You could be describing my children, they were disorganised, my son forgot to turn up for a university exam once. To get them to do their homework was always difficult and they could be messy. We enjoyed cooking and we did a lot of things like that together. They have all done very well as adults.

I think aka has given good advice. I also think some parents make problems where there would be none by expecting too much. Just give her lots of love and enjoy your time with her. One thing I did with my children was talk, they could always tell me everything. My eldest daughter says that is why she didn't do too many things wrong, because she knew she would tell me about it later.

Best wishes lizzie I am sure your granddaughter will appreciate you giving her a decent home when she looks back to her life with you in years to come. flowers

Iam64 Fri 15-Nov-13 20:14:46

lizzie - I can imagine some of the stresses you are having to face on a daily basis. It's not an easy move to full time parental responsibility, from the less demanding relationship between grandchild and grandparents. You don't say anything (understandably) about the relationship your granddaughter has with her birth parents, or whether they are living in France. Special Guardianship to relatives is usually the best option for teenagers who can no longer live with their parents. Was there a written support package for you and your granddaughter when the SGO was made? Given what you say about her earlier life experiences, I hope so.
I don't know enough about the availability of family support/guidance in France for relative carers. You may be able to find online support from forums for relative carers. Many relative carers feel they've needed more financial, practical and emotional support than has been available. Being 14 isn't the easiest age, even if you haven't had any particularly difficult life events to negotiate yet. It's great to hear your granddaughter loves living with you, but it does sound as though she's struggling with some aspects of her life.
Your comments about her life before she came to you, possible difficulties in retaining information, learning or being able to 'live normally' seem heart felt.

FlicketyB Sat 16-Nov-13 07:28:26

Never having been in a situation like this, I am really the last person to give advice, but (there is always is a but just before you give advice nevertheless). Perhaps it would help for the household to start living a very routine guided life for a while. Fixed times for all to get up, go to bed, eat meals, fixed to put dirty washing, do the washing etc etc.

This may help to introduce a measure of order into a chaotic life. Then, hopefully, when things improve , household habits can become more relaxed.

Iy must be a very difficult situation, stressful and tiring, but although we may not be able to offer practical help. Gransnetters are great listeners and full of helpful(?) advice.

grannyactivist Sat 16-Nov-13 10:08:54

Hi Lizzie - firstly, well done for taking on the responsibility of your granddaughter.
A year is just enough time for the 'honeymoon' to be over and your granddaughter will now be feeling secure in your home, so it's a good time to sit down together and discuss things.
I have two teenaged foster sons who have been living with me for almost a year now and I would say that what works for me is to write things down that I need them to remember. Often they simply forget to do what's required because some of the things are alien to their previous experiences. A checklist goes a long way towards encouraging them to do the practical things I need them to do. (i.e. switch off lights, recycle, don't leave wet towels folded on furniture, take your key when you go out......) For every 'apparent' criticism I make sure I give plenty of specific praise or encouragement because youngsters remember the former much quicker than the latter.
Another useful tool for us has been to say, 'in this house we do things in this way' as an encouragement for them to adopt our culture and practices without dismissing their former way of life. (Although of course we have adapted some of our ways to incorporate theirs.)

lizzie610 Mon 18-Nov-13 11:29:42

Thank you - your huge much appreciated!

lizzie610 Mon 18-Nov-13 11:41:34

Thanks to you all for your kind words
We have agreed rules & sanctions but rules are for other people and she picks up & carries on after a few days
She has contact with her parents - via Skype/phone etc and sees them when she spends some of each holiday in England - this is hugely stressful for her and she normally falls out with one or the other but luckily not both at the same time! She is really thrilled to come home and find that her things (and we) are just as she left them and she is also benefiting from continous schooling ( a novelty!)
We had no "support package" tho the Social Workers did say that they would be there when we needed them - easier said than done living where we do! Their stated objectives were that she should be happy and if possible, finish school and those are working well but they did feel that too much damage had already been done and it would be virtually impossible for her to make any real strides
Hubby & I do give a calm approach and all meals are eaten together with no distractions but N has a limited attention span and absolutely no memory apart from what food has been eaten, when & by whom!
We struggle on - hey ho!

Skylark Mon 18-Nov-13 13:14:26


Heartfelt respect and admiration for taking on this responsibility. I've nothing to add to the wisdom above. Teenagers can be challenging in the best of circumstances. Your GD will value this time of stability in her life, and also the opportunity to have lived and gone to school in another country - is she bi-lingual? It seems to me that the SWs were a big negative to say that it would be "virtually impossible for her to make any real strides" - it seems to me that she is making strides, just by being with you and going to college. Does she have any ideas about what she'd like to do when she leaves school?

It is good that she does come back to the UK from time to time, as this gives you a much-needed chance to have time to yourselves and to recharge your batteries.

Good luck ... x

Iam64 Mon 18-Nov-13 18:33:50

Lizzie - echoing the good luck from Skylark. There are so many grandparents in your position. I bet there are forums if you're interested in trying to find one. I have close friends without whom their grandchildren would have been in a real pickle. It's great to know there are so many people for whom family links continue, despite problems with the generation between grandparents and their grandchildren. The teenage years are a challenge for all involved, so very best wishes to you

grove1234 Sat 28-Dec-13 19:44:36

focus focus focus on the positive. look hard for the good recognise and praise it.
give your self treats .Think about your reactions what triggers your anger.

rosesarered Mon 30-Dec-13 18:57:43

Lizzie no experience of this to offer you, but it sounds as if you are doing all the right things anyway. Offering a calm and loving household with some continuity sounds the best plan of all. You are doing a marvellous thing, even though she is your grand-daughter, not all would do this. I would not impose too many rules and regs, but maybe have a few that are your own boundaries if you like, that she must observe. She is dealing with a strange country and language and 14 is still young, even though they look like 21 sometimes. Good

janerowena Mon 30-Dec-13 19:24:04

A friend of mine who also lives in France has, together with her brother who also lives there with his french wife, inherited a teen from England, the daughter of their aspergic brother and his vietnamese totally uneducated wife. Wife left him when he became ill and the girl is completely wild, they have taken her to France and are facing very similar problems. To add to the confusion, she has just produced a small baby son. The father died a few weeks ago and they are all she has, but they are all getting on and in their late 60s. I admire them so much, my friend takes over at weekends and she says it exhausts her and they are all still in their first year. However much the girl rebels though, I am on facebook (they don't use the internet much) and can see that she (public page, silly girl) loves it, and them. She never shows them that side, but I can quietly reassure them that they must be doing something right. Who knows what will happen, but they are doing the best they can and that is all anyone can do. The years will pass so fast, and maybe at the end of the second year, when her hormones have settled down, she will be a completely different person. I would love to know how it turns out.

jeanie99 Tue 31-Dec-13 00:11:39

Lizzie, I think you and your husband are wonderful to take on our teenage granddaughter in your 60s.

I always say we survive the teenage years because no matter what we say or do it's never right as far as the teenager concerned, we can only hope that a little of the standards we set are taken in and considered.

I was very strict with my children from even the early years and I look back and think I was too strict but my son says he would be more strict with any children he had if they behaved like he did and not to concern myself about it.

I did give my time to the children and always told them how much I loved them and gave them lots of hugs and cuddles. Even when children are rude and disrespectful we have to sit down and talk quietly to them explaining why they should not do something but still say you love them but are disappointed with their behavour. We didn't spoil the children and presents were only on birthdays and Christmas they had to clean their own room for spending money.

I didn't sit on their shoulders to do homework just said if you want to get anywhere in life you have to be educated and left the decision to them.

I think parenting is one of the hardest things we ever have to do in life and no matter how many children you have they are all different.

I do you wish you very best for the next few years and feel sure that things will turn around and everything will work out for the best.