The call was one of the most heartbreaking I’ve had from a grandparent. A much anticipated trip to Disneyland with her two young teen granddaughters had gone terribly wrong. “My daughter has instructed me to return home with my granddaughters, and to not speak with them again,” Joy sobbed. “What am I to do?”
Strained relationships with grown children top the list of grandparenting concerns that I hear. Not all are as tragic as this, but the number of broken relationships in families is significant. Many result in grandparents being torn from their grandchildren or restricted from talking about spiritual things.
What is a grandparent to do in such situations? Above all, remember that your grandchildren need you. Do not abandon them. Here are some specific action steps for a grandparent who is in a broken relationship. Following them will increase the possibility of reconciliation and healing:
1. Never give up. It is easy to become discouraged or intimidated by our grown children or their spouses. A son-in-law or daughter-in-law likely comes from a very different background and family dynamic. It can be tempting for grandparents to take the easy way out and just pull away rather than deal with the drama. And under certain circumstances that may be the wise course for a time. In fact, you may not have a choice in the matter. But, whatever the situation, never stop looking for opportunities to mend fences and reconnect with your children and grandchildren. Remember what is at stake—the grandchildren.
2. Pray. This should not be our last resort. It should be the front line defense and offense against the schemes and lies of the enemy. When Dan was a boy his grandmother told him she was praying for him every day. When he got married and began his family, she reminded him that she had always prayed and was still praying for him every day. Dan says he is convinced his grandmother’s faithful prayers changed the entire trajectory of his life.
It doesn’t matter whether you are in a situation that seems hopeless or not, grandparents on their knees praying for their grandchildren (and adult children) make a difference. Prayer is aligning your heart with the Father’s. We know that the Father is not willing that any of His little ones should perish. Why would we not want to join with Him in that cause?
3. Cultivate a trusting relationship with your grown children. Even though that may seem difficult for some of you, you might begin the journey by adopting a policy of do ask, don’t tell.
Begin by asking yourself a question: “When I was a new parent, would I have wanted my parents’ unsolicited advice about parenting?” Probably not. On the other hand, if your goal is to help them be the best, most successful parents possible (which is probably their goal too), why not ask them how they would like you to help them achieve that goal?
If you’re serious about cultivating a trust relationship, take these practices for a test drive:
- Humility: Am I more concerned about my agenda and being right than what is good for my family? Remember that pride and humility cannot coexist. More importantly, God opposes the proud. And God also promises to give grace to the humble (see 1 Peter 5:5). If grace is sufficient for everything, that means even healing broken relationships.
- Forgiveness: Forgiveness flows in two directions. One asks for forgiveness for wrongs. Few words are more difficult to utter than these: “I was wrong. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” Sounds a little like humility, doesn’t it?The other direction freely offers forgiveness when wronged. It is easy to talk about forgiveness when you want to be forgiven. It’s another thing when someone has deeply injured you. So, let me ask you, is reconciliation in your family worth the effort to lay aside your pride and hurt … and forgive?
- Blessing: Words are powerful whether used to bless or curse. Intentionally speaking well of another—even a daughter-in-law who refuses to let you see your grandchildren—promotes trust and peace. Blessing never goes out of style or loses its power. When you bless, you act as a conduit of God’s grace and truth and that communicates high value, purpose, and personal commitment that says, “I believe in you and value you.”
4. Find appropriate ways to stay connected. Here are some things you can do to maintain a positive relationship with your grandchildren, in spite of the barriers:
- For younger grandchildren, use Skype or Facetime to stay connected as much as you can if you are long distance. You might also occasionally send gift packages that have special treats from you, encouraging notes or cards, and some kind of meaningful gift. It could be something you make, something you have in your house, or something you buy that links you and your grandchildren in some unique way.
- For grandchildren who are teens and young adults, using technology like texting allows you to send messages expressing encouragement and your interest in them. You can even include a Scripture verse from time to time. Or, why not call them and ask if they would be willing to join you at a local coffee shop just to chat?
Whatever the relationship with your grown children or grandchildren, there’s too much at stake if grandparents are not willing to fight for their grandchildren and adult children. Never stop praying, never stop trying, never give up. God never does.
Copyright © 2016 Cavin Harper. Used with permission. All rights reserved