Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged. – Proverbs 17:6a
We have many beautiful trees in the Inland Northwest. I especially enjoy the cedar tree. The cedar tree is a wonderful model of the Christian life. It grows by dying. As it develops stately and beautiful new boughs and leaves, the old ones drop off to give strength to the new ones. Likewise the saints of old live to die and die that others might live a more abundant and prosperous life.
Some time ago I was asked to deliver two messages to a group of retirees on various topics The person coordinating the event specifically asked that one of the messages be on the subject matter of “Strategies for Being an Effective Grandparent”. My research into this topic suggests different ways we can better connect to our grandchildren. A number of Christian psychologists are suggesting the importance of the grandparent-grandchild relationships. “The bond between a child and a grandparent is the purest, least psychologically complicated form of human love,” says Dr. Arthur Kornhaber. “Grandparents can offer an emotional safety net when parents falter. They pass on traditions in the form of stories, songs, games, skills, and crafts.” They also can serve as a model of godly character and can demonstrate the importance of grace.
And they have another magical ingredient that parents often lack – TIME. Kornhaber has found that children who are close to at least one grandparent are more emotionally secure than other children; and they have more positive feelings about older people and about the process of aging.
Another great thing about being a grandparent – ya get do-overs! It gives every grandparent a second chance. Perhaps history’s most dramatic illustration of that truth is the story of King Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33. Manasseh has been called the most wicked man who ever lived, but in his old age he repented and turned to God. The son who succeeded him was evil, but Manasseh’s grandson, Josiah, became one of the best and most beloved kings in Jewish history.
By studying the chronology, we learn that the last six years of Manasseh’s life and the first six years of Josiah’s overlap; and the last six years of Manasseh’s life were his repentant years, his godly years, his years of reform and contrition. It was too late for him to influence his own son, Amon. But it wasn’t too late for Josiah, and we can easily picture the old king spending long hours with his small grandson, telling him, “Now, one day you’re going to be king. Don’t make the mistakes I did. From the beginning, serve the Lord.”
The Apostle Paul said to the younger Timothy, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois…” Yes, it is true that grandparents can make a real difference in shaping a child’s vision, future, character, and self-worth. Most importantly a godly grandparent can help a child develop great faith.
How can grandparents use their “grand positions” to the best advantage? Proverbs 17:6 says that grandchildren are a crown to the aged. There are five tools I’ve found helpful in being a grandparent or adopted grandparent to those families who don’t have a grandparent nearby:
- Prudence – It takes a little time for grandparents to find the right balance, learning to be involved without interfering. Grandparents have a lifetime of wisdom stored up, and unfortunately most of our children feel threatened by our knowledge and desire for us to keep silent on most matters. That is difficult given the depth of our love and commitment to helping them become successful. Developing prudence is an art. The waiting game is often difficult. Pray – Pray
- Presence – Do all you can to be accessible for your grandchildren. Open your home and schedule to create opportunities to read to them, talk with them, share stories, and create adventures. You may have to show a lot of patience waiting for the right time as too many young people are self-absorbed in their activities and electronic games. There is no day wasted in the life of an effective grandparent.
- Provision – Grandparents can provide materially for their grandchildren. A bit here and there will help out. Providing for the vacation treats or extra special needs tell a child they are special. Go ahead – spoil them a little.
- Patience – Have patience with your children. They don’t value or realize the significance of the grandparents until later in life. When spending time with your grandchildren model a patient spirit and temper your reactions. They need to know that both quality and quantity time are part the job description of a loving grandparent.
- Prayer – Samuel said to the Israelites, “God forbid that I should sin against Heaven by failing to pray for you.” And often, grandparents have more time for prayer and Bible reading than anyone else.
Did you know? A West Virginia housewife and grandmother first suggested national Grandparents Day to President Jimmy Carter. It was established in 1979 and is on the first Sunday after Labor Day.
If you are a grandparent what are some of the ways you can be more effective in your relationships with your grandchildren? For those reading this who are younger parents: how best could you more effectively utilize the experience, skills, time, talents, spiritual gifts, and resources of your parents to help you inspire your children?
Dr. Jim Grassi