By Stacey Monaco, Crosswalk.com
My oldest grandson just entered his last year of elementary school. The years have whizzed by in a flurry of sweet and sometimes salty photographs, each representing an opportunity to spend time with this blonde bundle of energy, who will become a full-fledged man in what seems a nanosecond. He would like my use of the word nanosecond, as it is so much more interesting than the word “second” and much more current than the expression “in the blink of an eye.”
It has been said, “grandparents are a delightful blend of laughter, caring deeds, wonderful stories, and love.” I hope that my grandchildren would agree!
As Christians, our view of how we choose to engage in the lives of our grandchildren can be guided fully by our faith, our deep desire to fulfill the call of Scripture to love others well, and by our strong desire to leave a legacy of God’s “righteousness with our children’s children,” Psalm 103:17. Let me share with you eight wise ways that you can have a rich and lasting impact on your grandchildren.
1. Overflow With Unconditional Love
Grandparents have a unique opportunity to be honest with themselves regarding the missteps that they may have made as parents, while aligning with the Psalmist in declaring, “Search me, O God, and know my heart” Psalm 139:23-24. In doing so, grandparents can move forward humbly and boldly in caring for their grandchildren with a truly Christ-informed mindset of love that is unconditional. Such love values grace over judgment, shuns comparison, and sees each individual grandchild as beautifully unique and made in the image of God.
2. Lead a Healthy Lifestyle
Four to five mornings a week, I stand in the downstairs powder room with my not-quite-four-year-old granddaughter and listen to Mickey Mouse sing the brush your teeth song. As I put toothpaste on her toothbrush this morning, she handed me my toothbrush. She stood on my little step stool, and the two of us made our teeth sparkle. We have all heard the phrase, “More is caught than taught.” Whether getting out and taking walks together or snacking on berries and juicy summer watermelon, healthy behavior catches on. It has the added potential benefit of grandma and papa being around for a long time!
3. Be Present and Available
It goes without saying that any truly good relationship has a foundation of ongoing and consistent interaction. One author calls this “the power of being there.” For grandparents who live near their grandchildren, this may take the shape of assisting with after-school care, a special weekend date, or simply showing up for special school programs and extra-curricular activities.
Some crucial keys to significant grandparent-grandchild interactions are as follows: 1. Check-in with parents to clear outings and activities. 2. Always show up and be where you say you’ll be. 3. Focus on your grandchild in a loving and supportive manner. This is the present in being present!
4. Be Intentional
Even if your grand’s live far away, and you only have the opportunity to visit in person once a year or so, you still can create a present and meaningful relationship through intentional, planned visits that will focus on time with them. Throughout the year, caring deeds such as phone calls, FaceTime, handwritten letters, and thoughtful small gifts continue to move forward the connection you seek to build. A postcard from a trip you have gone on or a photograph can be a fun way to connect. You can even try being pen pals with your grandchild. Whatever your circumstance, the goal is to be intentional in building a strong, loving connection that will impact your grandchild throughout their lifetime.
5. Have Fun!
The beauty of fun is that it is just plain a good time. A grandparent, who is a blend of part laughter and part love, starts with a sense of play, allows for a pinch of silliness, and adds a whole lot of imagination. Counselor and pastor Charles Shedd noted, “Grandparents are, without a doubt, some of the world’s best educators.” It is amazing how we can share hobbies, a love of reading or nature skills, and all sorts of wisdom and wonder when we mix it with a generous portion of fun-having. Consider what your grandchildren already enjoy, and learn about it. Let them teach you a thing or two as well, or look for creative ways to present what you love and invite them into new learning worlds full of delight.
6. Stay Relevant
Two of the greatest missteps a grandparent can make in their relationship with their grandchild are losing their sense of what it was like to be young and scoffing at the changes or new trends that come along with each generation. As the older generation, we may want to imbue the younger ones we love with certain ideals and traditions. We may feel confused and dismayed when our well-meaning lessons fall on deaf ears. Remembering that we, too, were once the generation questioning traditions, and embracing new ideas, can help us to build common ground with our grandchildren. Ask questions, be curious about new technology and paradigms, and be willing to try something new when possible. Listen well without judgment, and seek to understand rather than point to the way things used to be. I am not suggesting you shrug off your faith or family values, but rather that you listen and love well in order to honor their interests and actively example your faith.
7. Tell Your Story
“Young people need something stable to hang on to – a culture connection, a sense of their own past, a hope for their future. Most of all they need what grandparents can give them.” Pastor J. Kesler
Every grandparent has a story that has been written on their life by the hand of a loving and purposeful God. There are flawed parts that perhaps can only be shared carefully and with great wisdom when speaking to young hearts, but among these, there is tale after tale of redemption, kindness, and hope. All of these are part of the history that can be laced with humility and passed down to our descendants. These wonderful stories can unfold naturally as you enjoy a meal together, walk in the neighborhood, or drive to an outing. You can also share bits of history in notes and letters or even in a more formal legacy journal.
8. Love Jesus by Example
Psalm 92:14 encourages the older Christians to continue to bear fruit and stay fresh and green as they maintain relationships and righteousness through Jesus Christ. This Psalm creates a vivid word picture of a valuable life that leads others to God simply through a flourishing vitality in their faith. As grandparents, we may not always have the opportunity to share our faith verbally with our grandchildren, and if we do, it should always be supported by the actions of our daily life. As noted previously, godly grandparents can impact their grandchildren through an unconditional love that reflects well how God loves them and us. Grandparents can actively live out their faith in the day-to-day, seeking to exemplify a growing faith in God integrated into all aspects of life. It may be a simple prayer for travel safety as we evidence our reliance on and hope in God.
Grandparents who value prayer for the powerful gift it is can become legacy-makers, deeply impacting the lives of their grandchildren through diligently praying for their grandchildren, and they can love them with biblical words of affirmation and blessing over their lives. Almost daily, as I buckle my youngest granddaughter into her car seat, I remind her that she is a gift from God. My oldest grandson often hears the words, “You are a fine young man of God.”
Billy Graham once noted, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
Within every grandparent is a great well of impact potential to influence the generations that come after with grace and truth. We can be not simply grandparents but also mentors, trusted allies, a place of safety, an inspiration to seek God, and a warm, delightful example of love and laughter. These are the makings of character and faith and the wise ways you can have a rich and lasting impact on your grandchildren.
Stacey Monaco has been speaking and writing since her first unpublished children’s book in the fifth grade. Her journey as a writer has taken her from the depths of blue water exploration, to the simplicity of crafting words to encourage and educate in the areas of loss, legacy, leadership, and living life passionately with purpose. Stacey received her Masters Degree in Christian Ministry and Leadership from Talbot School of Theology, and has worked in many roles from slinging coffee to pastoring women. To find more on living the Christian life with intention, head over to her website at StaceyMonaco.com.