After three years my grandchildren’s mother just showed up and wants to see her children. Should I allow it?

I am raising my two grandchildren because their father, my son, passed from an overdose three years ago. The childrens mother had left him with both kids because she was using drugs herself. After he passed away, I received full custody of the children. Last month the mother showed up unexpectedly. She claims to be sober and wants to be able to see the kids again. What should I do?

The innocent victims of the current crisis are certainly the children born to parents struggling with addiction. The grandparents who step in and do the hard work of raising children at an age when they should be starting to focus back on their lives are certainly heroes.

You have my deepest sympathies on the loss of your son. To have had to grieve that loss while raising his children must be both comforting and very difficult. You have clearly put aside your own needs to do the best for these children, and I would encourage you to remain vigilant in the protection of them while hopefully making room for the possibility that their mother might be on the road to recovery and be able to be the mother they need in their lives.

You are going to need legal advice going forward, so meeting with a lawyer and finding out what your rights and responsibilities are should be the first course of action.

I understand you may be worried that she will come into their lives only to leave again, so you’ll need to make some strong boundaries around visitation, should you decide to allow that. While protecting your grandchildren should be your first priority, if you can try to be open to the idea that she may be successful in her recovery, she should be a part of their lives, too, if at all possible.

You may want to take a look at this article from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, which offers many resources for raising grandchildren:

Sending love,
Coach C.

Disclaimer: The above advice is not meant to be construed as medical or legal advice. If you need professional medical, psychological, or legal advice, please contact a doctor, lawyer, or medical center.

Maureen Cavanagh is a peer recovery coach and interventionist who works with families and loved ones supporting a person struggling with a substance use disorder on their own recovery. She is the founder of Magnolia New Beginnings and Magnolia Recovery and Consulting, and the author of If You Love Me: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Addiction and Recovery, published by Henry Holt/Macmillan. You can learn more about her at

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