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When grandparents become parents again

For 67 years Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, has provided gifts to children in need at holiday time. Please consider giving by phone, mail or online at globesanta.org.

For most grandparents, the responsibility of child-rearing is something to be regarded in the rearview mirror.

They can hold dear the weekend visits, the ballgames, and the walks in the park.

But for some grandparents, and even great-grandparents, when their role is recast to one of primary caregiver — again — it is a completely different picture.

“I am 72 years old and on a fixed income,” writes a great-grandmother from Malden, the “proud great-grandmother of my great-grandson who is under my custody due to his parents not being able or willing to care for him.”


The challenge of being a senior parenting a 9-year-old only increased in January of this year, when her husband passed away. “Things have been very hard and stressful,” she writes.

Great-grandparents in Bellingham, who were retired and relying on Social Security benefits when they were granted legal custody of their 11-year-old grandson, face the same pressures.

“We do appreciate any help Globe Santa can give us” the great-grandmother writes, adding “PS — we are struggling with the high prices.”

For grandparents who have become parents again, one of the biggest challenges is as basic as feeding the children in their care. It is a nationwide problem.

The term for it is “food insecurity,” — constantly facing the prospect of not having enough to eat. In 2021, 34 million people in America were coping with it. As grim as that statistic is, it’s worse for households headed by grandparents, one-fourth of which faced food insecurity in 2020, twice the national rate.

But they still want the children in their care to experience joy in the holidays. And so, they turn to Globe Santa to make that wish a reality.


“My mother and I are still guardians of my grandson,” a Saugus grandmother writes in the elegant but slightly shaky handwriting of an older person. “He is now seven years old. He is happy, healthy, and so appreciates the care and love he gets from his small family. He doesn’t ask for much.”

Instead, she is asking for him. “In the several years he has been in our care he has shown himself to be a caring, polite and proper young man, worthy of some small treasure my mother and I may not be able to provide.” If Globe Santa can help, she said, “It will be appreciated.”

“They are my joy on rainy days,” a Roxbury grandmother writes of the two grandchildren who have been in her care since the death of their mother two years ago.

“At times it is a struggle trying to do everything alone, but I wouldn’t change having them in my life. They were so much younger when their mom passed and every day we still deal with our loss. They are so smart and very well behaved but to try and answer their questions about their mom is heartbreaking. I wish I could just give them the world.”

If not the world, “can you please help me put a smile on their faces on Christmas morning?

Helping a child deal with the loss of a parent may be one of the hardest parts of being a parent again. A grandparent in Brighton writes that for her 11-year-old granddaughter the shock of losing her mother is still sinking in.


“Her mother (my daughter) passed away Easter morning of cancer. She is struggling with this loss, and I would appreciate any help you can give, to try and make Christmas more enjoyable for her.”

Globe Santa will help. A program of the Boston Globe Foundation, Globe Santa has been providing holiday gifts for 67 year, to children in need in Greater Boston. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of its donors, who last year gave $1.7 million, Globe Santa delivered toys and books and games to 30,000 children.

You can help brighten a child’s holiday today, by visiting GlobeSanta.org.

Christopher Tangney can be reached at ctangney22@hotmail.com