This week marks a year since Michael Jackson died. After his untimely death, a major focus was the future of his children, Prince, Paris and \’Blanket.\’ According to Jackson\’s will, his mother was to raise them – and the judge granted her permanent custody. All the while, pundits were busy predicting who would really take care of them.

The number of boomer grandparents assuming care and financial responsibility for grandchildren continues to increase. Statistics show that over 2.9 million grandparents are raising more than 4.5 million grandchildren. This is particularly true in families that involve a habitual drug user, a single parent or one with a chronic illness.

Despite the superstar status of the Jackson family, there is something quintessentially human and familiar about them. Haven\’t each of us, as a result of death or divorce, had a complicated situation in our own family? If you\’re caught up in the middle of a painful tragedy or complex crisis, here are some ideas to consider as you begin to take better care of your grandchildren and yourself:

  • Do what you can to maintain structure and continuity. By stabilizing the children\’s environment with a familiar routine, they\’ll begin to feel less anxious and more secure. Children are resilient. As you consistently model hopeful thinking and positive actions, they are bound to thrive.
  • Accept the changes in the family, whatever they are, even if you\’re in the crossfire. Validate the children\’s feelings and withhold blame regarding their parents. While you\’re showing support, try not to take a particular side or excuse bad behavior. Remember that your primary concern here is to attend to the immediate concerns and needs of the children.
  • It is necessary to mourn what you have lost. In divorce, it may be the dreams you had for the future. In death, the sadness about not having the loved one as a part of your life. As you work to communicate openly, all of you can feel safe enough to talk and grieve together.
  • Protect the children from the comments of others. Whether the absent parent\’s behavior stemmed from a serious emotional problem or a hunger deep inside, now you can shield the children from its impact. Focus on your relationship with them and build trust so that they\’ll feel more accepted, nurtured and confident.
  • There will be a huge void to fill and you may be confused about your role now. Don\’t be afraid to see a family therapist, child psychologist or parenting coach. Understanding your particular circumstances and learning new skills can make a big difference the second time around. And talking with an expert with an objective perspective can truly be a lifesaver.
  • While Michael Jackson was alive, a main priority was to protect his privacy and his children. And their grandmother has had their best interests at heart, knowing their pain in losing the only parent they knew. Without a lot of fanfare, she has made a coordinated effort to bring stability to the children\’s lives.

    In accepting Michael\’s posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award last January, Prince choked up while thanking fans for their support since his dad\’s death. And Paris spoke about her love for her dad. What little information the media has received about the family this year – and that\’s a good thing for the Jackson children – makes you think that they\’re all doing the best they can.

    © 2009, Her Mentor Center

    Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are family relationship experts who publish a free monthly newsletter, Stepping Stones. Whether you\’re coping with acting out teenagers, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law, we have solutions for you. Visit our website, www.HerMentorCenter.com, and blog, www.NourishingRelationships.blogspot.com, for practical tips about parents growing older and children growing up.