Ask Amy: Childless Retired Couple Take on Grandson

By Amy Dickinson | May 14th, 2021

Childless man with his grandson Image

Dear Amy: My wife and I are retired teachers. We’re childless.

When 9-year-old “Jacob” asked me at church, “Can I call you Grandpa?” he filled a spot in our lives that had been empty.

That was nine years ago, and now Jacob is planning his university study.

Jacob’s parents immigrated with him from a formerly communist country where they both studied at universities.

In America, they have both worked hard, but their combined income is far below ours and they have no retirement savings.

When we pay for things for Jacob, they protest loudly that we do too much for him.

My wife and I are now wondering: how we can support Jacob’s university study without offending his parents’ pride?

We could give him enough to get through university without federal loans, but how can we persuade his parents to let us do that?

– Grandpa


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Dear Grandpa: First, a shout-out to all of the de facto “grandparents” out there, who step up to engage in powerful and lasting relationships with young people they aren’t necessarily related to. “Jacob” sounds like a lucky young man.

I suggest that you and your wife sit down with Jacob and both of his parents.

Tell them that you have set up a scholarship fund for his education, and that it would cover tuition (and whatever other expenses you choose) at his chosen college. Tell them that this scholarship would be a gift to be applied only toward his education, and that there are no other strings or expectations attached.

Ask them to discuss it together and to let you know.

If these parents believe that you are overstepping (or if you have overstepped in the past), this offer could create a problem within their family. I hope you will be sensitive to that possibility, but … at 18, Jacob is legally an adult, and he should take the lead in terms of financing his college education.


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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