How far would you go for your grandkids?

It’s a decision that no grandparent wants to make and in past generations did not have to make: do we move to be near the grandkids?  Our American past is one of almost communal generational living: adult kids didn’t move.  A hometown was home and Grandma was the stopover on the way home from school.  Today that stopover is often a flyover — jobs require moves to different states, divorce leaves a single parent needing assistance, the reasons vary but the end result is the grandkids are zip codes away.

It is one of my favorite episodes of “Everyone Loves Raymond.”  In this early episode Raymond and Debra are trying to decide where to buy a house.  Standing in front of an easel Ray has diagramed the exact circle of geographic range: a perfect balance between too close to Mom and Dad (they come over every day) and too far (we have to spend the night when we visit). The reason the episode is funny is that we’ve all been there, and it is, for many, very true.

According to a 2012 AARP study, the vast majority of American Seniors say it’s very important to be near their grandchildren.  However, thinking and doing are very different decisions.  Decades in one town breeds a familiarity that is hard to leave: you have your church, your friends, your favorite deli and your doctors.  Do you really want to start over?  For some, retirement doesn’t start until the grandkids are teens — can you afford to move?  And finally, there are some sage opinions that too close is too much — is it the right thing to do?

Experts say it is far from a simple decision.  Like going on a cruise, the idea is lovely.  For a week. Do you really want to live on the ship?   Things to consider:

  • Cost: The sale of a home, the purchase of another, moving expenses, re-settling expenses, rehiring expenses for those still working: the costs add up. Is it less expensive to plan regular trips to visit the adult kids and grandkids?
  • What do your kids want? Pay particular attention to the opinions of the unrelated spouse. Have they invited you to move closer?  What are the “ground rules” for this new proximity? All need to be frankly discussed.  For some it is a welcome third hand to help with the kids, for others too close for comfort.   The boundaries go both ways:  you don’t step on their private space and they don’t expect you to be the built-in babysitter.
  • Are you good at “re-homing” yourself? At your age can you get out again to make new friends, establish a new yoga group, or find a new church? If not, the danger is that your child’s family becomes the center of your existence putting unwanted pressure on both families.
  • How permanent is your adult kids’ job and location? How many times are you willing to move?
  • Are you somewhat independent by nature? You have never depended on your child for financial or social support. If this is the case, you will likely land on your feet in your new home.  If not, the stress of starting over may strain the relationship with your child.

Facing these issues head on with frank communication is the key to a peaceable and happy move that benefits both parties.

Next week: we talk to a grandparent who packed it all up and moved to be near the grandkids. This Blog is written by Kathy Chiero, Lead Agent for The Kathy Chiero Group.  We can’t make the decisions for you, but we can make the transition smooth!  Visit us a

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