When a child loses his or her parents, no one doubts that living with grandparents is the best solution. But often mothers and fathers make a voluntary and conscious decision to hand over the reins of upbringing to older family members. Can such a childhood be considered a fulfilling one?
FOR FAMILY REASONS
Six-year-old Sasha has been living with her grandmother in the suburbs of Moscow for four years now. At first her mother came to visit her every other day, then at weekends, now once a month. And it is hard to condemn the woman for that. She is only 28, has a bright appearance, a broken heart, a responsible job and a rented flat in Moscow. “I’ll settle in a bit and take you in,” she promises over the phone. In the meantime she is living pretty well at her grandmother’s. The environment is better here and people are kinder.
Sasha was looking forward to her birthday: her grandmother said that her mother was likely to visit them for the whole weekend. So on 22 September they baked a cake, stewed some chicken and potatoes and sat down to wait. But the woman did not come. She had important things to do.
With the receiver firmly pressed to her ear, the girl listened to how she had spent the last hour in the crowd of the Savelovsky train station, trying to pass a teddy bear: “I got soaked in the rain, I got cold, I had to go home by taxi, and tomorrow is a very important event…”. Sasha felt sorry for her, but the phrase “I love you” at the end of the conversation seemed somehow superfluous and alien. She hung up the phone and cried on her grandmother’s shoulder.
Sasha is not the only one who is raised by mothers of mothers due to circumstances
Kirill’s parents live in the North, the nearest school is ten kilometres away, the nearest shop is three. And my grandmother has a flat in the centre of Moscow with a concierge and all the amenities.
Arina’s mother recently gave birth to a baby boy. She does not have enough time for her elder daughter: even when the child is asleep, she has to do the laundry, wash the dishes, and cook dinner. And the girl watches cartoons all day long. Her grandmother wants to take Arina with her – for a while. She and her grandfather adore their granddaughter; they have many sports, art and developmental activities in town. Arina’s mother is sure that her daughter will be better off there for the time being.
However, in both situations, everything is not so clear-cut. Yes, parents need to win a place under the sun and arrange their personal lives. Yes, grandparents, in whose lives everything has already “happened”, can deal with their grandchildren. It is both their sincere desire and something of a handout, as they once did not have enough time for their own children. Now it is as if they are making up for lost time.
Of course, the most important thing for children is love and care. And if parents cannot give this, it is good that grandparents are there for them. However, separation from mother and father can have a big impact on the formation of a child’s personality and the rest of his or her life.
WHY BE AROUND
“Probably no one will argue that the best option for children is to live with loving parents,” argues family psychologist Vladislava Ladmari. – A child is “flesh from flesh, blood from blood”. And its whole internal structure is their continuation. In order for them to grow up happy, to reach their full potential, they need to be present with their “prototypes”. This will make it possible to understand and feel who he is, what is in him and why, to feel similarity and belonging. Parental love is like water for a seed: it best helps a child to grow and develop.
A close relationship with the mother is especially important during childhood, from birth until the child becomes self-reliant and independent. By being there, the mother feeds the child with energy, love, attention and care.
“The father gives mother and child a safe space, protects, gives a sense of security,” adds Vladislava Ladmari. – He is also invisibly connected to the child, but more so through the mother and the relationship with her. That’s why it is so important for parents to live in love and harmony.
WHY THINGS DON’T WORK OUT
Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. In a difficult life situation, it can be very difficult for a mother even just to live. Unsettlement, problems in relationships, constant conflicts “dry up”, leave no strength and love for the child. Trying to recover, the woman gets caught up in her work or tries feverishly to start a new relationship, becomes depressed – and gives nothing to the child.
It is also the case that the mother herself did not receive enough parental love as a child and does not feel able or necessary to give it to her child now. This is where grandparents can come to the rescue. They can provide care and warmth, but – remember – they can never replace parents. The love of mother and father is indispensable for children in any case and must not be diminished or devalued.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
In the distant future, it’s much better for a child to be with loving grandparents than with a mother filled with problems, irritation and fear. In the close perspective, it’s important to him that she loves him. And the fact that his mother leaves him, even if it’s with his own people, is very traumatic. Subconsciously, the child feels that his parents are abandoning him. And this inner feeling can lead to irreparable consequences.
Often, children who grow up without their parents become insecure. They have no sense of self-worth or self-importance. Parental love deficit, not satisfied in time, leads to an emotional break with parents and to the fact that the child will look for love everywhere – at school, then at university, at work, in peer groups.
Without finding what he or she really needs, the child will grow up to be a “slave”.
This means that they are more likely to be guided not by their own interests, but by the desires of those who promise “love”, to become dependent on someone – in the worst case, to fall into a bad company, a cult.
All these “side effects” are actually very unpleasant. And they should definitely be taken into account before making the final decision – to give the child up or not. Psychologists say that there are very few situations in which being with grandmothers is better than being with parents. More often it is a matter of basic domestic comfort – it seems to parents that everyone will be more comfortable that way.
A CHILDMINDER’S NOTE
What to do when fostering a child is really necessary? How should parents and grandparents behave?
To the mother and father
- Talk about love. Tell them that, despite the difficulties, you love the child very much and want to be there for them, but that circumstances do not allow it yet.
- Show your feelings. Fill your phone calls and meetings with your feelings. Tell him that you really miss him and are thinking about him.
Talk about your parents. Otherwise your child will feel you are silent about something very important and think it is their fault. Talk to your child about how he/she is feeling, and acknowledge that he/she misses you.
Don’t criticise your parents. Your child correlates and associates itself with them: “If your parents are bad, so am I”. Tell them how great their mother and father are. Tell stories from their childhood in which they showed themselves to be strong, brave, smart. Children’s pride in their parents is the strongest bridge to their child’s future success.