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Family Rules - Do the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Need Them?

Harriet Hodgson

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I'm a GRG, a grandparent raising my 16-year-old twin grandkids. When I was growing up family rules were clear, so clear that nobody put them in writing. My job was to do well in school, help out around the house, and avoid alcohol and sex. I adhered to all of these rules.

What are family rules? According to the University of Wisconsin Extension Web site, they are a way to “improve understanding about what is OK. " If something isn't working, the site said, family members should discuss ithe point and make the necessary changes.

An article on the Family Education Web site, “Defining the Family Rules, " is a good resource for setting behavior guidelines. According to the site, “family rules are your family values in action. " The rules you establish depend on your family situation and the reasons for raising your grandkids. We had to take into account that our grandkids are still in shock about the deaths of their parents, who were killed in separate car accidents, and grievin for them.

You may wish to set different guidelines for television viewing, driving, and Internet use. The Media Awareness Network Web site has posted “Family Online Rules. " These guidlines are a way for parents, and in our case, grandparents, “to work together on how to be safe, wise, and responsible on line. " My grandkids have been living with us for four months and, though we may consider Internet guidelines at a later date, we are dealing with practical and daily topics now.

My husband and I had a brief meeting with the kids and showed them a draft of our family rules. The kids did not come up with any additional ones and agreed to the draft. What did it say?

* Change sheets weekly and wash in hot or warm water.

* Wash/dry your clothes and clean out the dryer lint trap when you are done.

* Tell us when you are low on clothing, supplies, medications, and money.

* Empty the bathroom waste bask when it is full.

* List all appointments and events on the master calendar.

* Keep us informed about your activities and plans.

* Call immediately if your plans change.

* Tell Grandma when we are getting low on snacks.

* Fill the car gas tank when the gauge reads one quarter full.

* Let Grandma know, a day ahead of time, if you are supposed to bring food to an event.

* Let us know, several hours ahead of time, if you are not going to be here for dinner.

* Let Grandma know, several hours ahead of time, if a friend is coming for dinner and/or sleepover.

* No phone calls, loud music, or drum music after 9 p. m.

* Always remember that we love you and are proud of you.

You will find many family resources on the Internet. Some sites tell parents to state rules in positive words. Others tell parents to use “we" as often as possible to make points inclusive. These are good suggestions and we may revise our family rules later. You don't have to be having discipline problems with your grandkids to set behavior guidelines. Indeed, setting behavior guidelines may prevent them.

Copyright 2008 by Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance nonfiction writer for 29 years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, " written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from

Visit Harriet's Web site, , to lear more about this busy author and grandmother. You will fnd a free list of anticipatory grief symptoms on the site and links to other articles.


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