Perhaps the greatest impact I can have on my grandchildren is to love their parents. When my own grown children and their spouses have their emotional tanks filled, have margin in their day, and are physically and spiritually replenished, it is more likely that they will have something to give to their own children. What are some ways we can ensure that is more likely to happen?
Reinforce the Rules
Unless they are completely unreasonable, discover the standards set by the parents and help the grandchildren respect them by mirroring them when they are in your care. If you feel you must make slight adjustments, seek permission in a private discussion with the parents prior to any deviation. Grandparents like to joke about “spoiling the grandkids,” but it’s no laughing matter if we are communicating to our grandchildren that it’s okay to break rules as long as no one knows. I’m still in trouble for letting Jax see parts of the PG13 version of King Kong on a road trip with PawPaw before he was 13. I’ve told them it won’t happen again.
Give Parents a Break
Parents sometimes feel guilty about wanting to get away from their precious little ones. Yet it’s important that they do so from time to time. Mom and Dad need couple time. Single parents need rest. “Stranger danger” in our current society makes it harder than ever to find sitters with whom parents feel comfortable. This provides a great opportunity for grandparents to step in.
To be sure, grandparents must communicate reasonable time boundaries so they don’t become resentful and feel used. However, much of the dynamics are changed when grandparents see these times with the grandchildren as opportunities to influence and nurture these little lives rather than just a chore to fulfill.
My wife, Marsha, is great at this. Whenever the grandkids are coming over, she plans the entire evening for all of us with such activities as craft projects, reading times, walks to collect nature objects, and sometimes just-released, age-appropriate movies (no King Kong). Because she has been proactive, the time flies, we and the kids look forward to it, lessons are learned, and valuable relationships are built.
Affirm their Mom and Dad
Sometimes in our efforts to be the hero, we inadvertently rob the parents of their rightful place as the most significant adults in our grandchildren’s lives. There are times when grandparents need to choose to stay in the second chair and allow the parent to take center-stage with their own child. This is more of an art than a science, and there are very few, if any, hard fast rules. However, the following may be examples of when, with agreed-upon exceptions, the parents should take the lead:
- Buying the child the most-desired present for Christmas, although the grandparents could contribute behind-the-scenes to make it possible.
- Leading a child to Christ. Grandparents should be on the team but make sure, when possible, to let the parents experience the joy of hearing that special prayer themselves.
- First trip to the ballpark or first fishing trip.
Grandparents also have a wonderful opportunity to affirm their grandkids’ parents and remind them to love their parents. No parents are perfect, and you may disagree at some point with how your grandkids are being raised, but those issues should be discussed in private with their parents and not expressed to the grandkids. Even when there are difficulties in the relationship, you can find things to affirm about their parenting to their children.
Heroic Grandfather Challenge #4: Identify one tangible thing you can do this week to demonstrate love for your grandchildrens’ parents. Then make it happen!
Find more ideas at the INTENTIONAL GRANDFATHERS page.