A grandmother has taken on her troubled granddaughter after she got thrown out of home, but is struggling to cope with her behaviour. She’s asked FamilyPoint for advice in this week’s A Problem Shared.
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My 17-year-old granddaughter has gone off the rails and is staying out all-night and drinking. I’m trying to help look after her as my daughter and her partner can’t cope and have kicked her out. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to kick her out too as she’ll have nowhere to go, but I’m struggling and I’m really afraid that something bad will happen to her. What can I do?
Hi there thanks for coming through to us here at FamilyPoint. It sounds like the situation with your granddaughter is really worrying you, but hopefully we can provide some tips on how to cope with the situation.
Not so uncommon
Behaviour like this is very common in teenagers. They act out and test their boundaries at this age, as adulthood looms over them. At 17, she may be dealing with a lot of changes in her life. There may be new emotions and feelings that come with changes in her body. There will be big changes in her lifestyle as she finishes school and takes those next steps into adulthood. All this, along with the breakdown of her relationship with her mother could be making this a very confusing and difficult time for her.
Talk is good
It might seem obvious, but talking to her would be a good place to start. Pick your moment carefully. Make sure you are both calm and relaxed. It might be a good idea to get out of the house and choose a positive setting to have your chat, treat her to a coffee or lunch or go for a long walk. Tell her what actions make you feel comfortable or uncomfortable. It might help her to know that you’re worried about the consequences of her actions. She might not be aware of the risks she’s taking, so honesty is the best policy.
There are some great resources out there that can give you tips on how to talk to a young person about something, such as drinkaware’s How To Talk To Your Child About Alcohol.
Don’t worry if things don’t change straight away. Having these chats will show her that she has a safe place to be heard. When she is ready she is more likely to let you know what’s going on.
Setting boundaries early
You mentioned that she is “going off the rails” and things clearly haven’t worked out at her mums. Am I right in thinking that she’s still behaving in the same way with you?
If her behaviour is still worrying then it’s important that to think about setting boundaries for her as soon as possible, so that she understands what you expect of her. If you don’t set boundaries for her behaviour now, then things may get worse to the point they did with her mum. Although it may feel natural to lay down the law to try and take control of the situation, this could cause more problems and create a barrier between you.
Encourage her to invest in the house rules herself. Sit down with her and discuss what you both want from the situation, for example she wants to stay, and you want her to stay. Ask the question how can WE make it work. If you can agree on the rules together then she’ll feel that she is in control of the situation, which means she’ll be much more likely to stick to them.
Consider emotional health
Sometimes young people can act in a challenging and often worrying way because they are not coping with their own emotional health. It sounds like your granddaughter has had a tough few weeks having been asked to leave her mums. Maybe she needs a little extra support.
Talking as we discussed above will help but sometimes you might need help from someone with more experience in dealing with these things. If you are still worried about her then it might be a good idea to visit the GP together. They can explain what support is available and perhaps talk to her about the effect alcohol can have on emotional wellbeing.
Grandparents Plus has an advice and information section looking at emotional health and how you can support your grandchild.
If she wants to talk to someone in confidence, she could contact the Meic helpline for support and advice. Meic is an information, advice and advocacy helpline for children and young people in Wales. The more tools she has to cope through this period the better for her health and your relationship.
Look after yourself too
It sounds like the arrival of your granddaughter has made some big changes to your own life. This might take some getting used to. Taking on this responsibility is invaluable to your granddaughter but is also likely that you will feel a big shift in your lifestyle. It’s really important that you look after your own wellbeing as well.
Take some time out to do the things that keep you calm and relaxed. People often forget to look after themselves when faced with a stressful situation. Talk about what is happening at home with a trusted friend or relative, it might help to relieve the stress.
There are helplines out there that can help you too. Try the Grandparents Plus helpline on 03001237015. Grandparents Plus is a charity in England and Wales dedicated to grandparents and their role in the care and development of their grandchildren. This would be a great place for you to get advice.
We wish you and your granddaughter all the best and we hope you find these tips helpful.
The Familypoint Team.
If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
A Problem Shared… is your space to share both your problems and your advice with the FamilyPoint community.
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