I am helping to raise my grandchildren. What can I do to make a happy family?
First, thank and praise God for those grandchildren. They are your reward for not strangling your teenagers. God has given you a wonderful, but challenging assignment. You have been given the gift of grandparenthood, but it has also come wrapped in extra parenting duties. You probably thought you were finished with those when your children were grown, but God works it so that we must shed our expectations in order that we might grow into a deeper, self-sacrificial love.
This dual role calls for creativity. Two things must remain paramount: Do not usurp the authentic parenting role that belongs to your adult children, and do not forgo the joy of grandparenthood that is the fruit of your own parental labors. This is, of course, a challenging proposition considering that you may have the children in your home many hours each day, and may be responsible for getting them to and from school, supervising homework and piano practice, and trucking them to their activities.
When issues of discipline, food choices, bedtime routines, etc. come up, consult the parents. What structures would they like you to have in place, and what rules and values do they want you to reinforce? Try to honor their wishes as much as possible.
When they come to pick up the children, let them know how your time together has gone. What did you do today? Be sure to emphasize the clever, sweet and responsible things your grandchildren did. This is balm to frantic, over-worked parents.
Questions for Christ may
If you have areas of concern, mention them gently and tactfully. I have noticed Dylan has trouble settling down to do his homework.
Do you think working on it right after his snack would be best? I was thinking a small desk and quiet area of his own would be helpful. What do you think?
Back in the strictly grandparent role, what “house rules” do you have that need to be kept? If you are caring for your grandchild at your home, that is your prerogative. At Grandma’s house we don’t jump on the couch, watch certain TV programs, or use outside voices inside.
In matters of faith and spiritual practices, speak to your grandchildren of God and how much our Creator loves them. Spend as much time outdoors as possible. God is so close in nature. I am ever indebted to my Grandpa Joe who took me for long walks on his land and taught me to listen for the call of the bobwhite, and showed me how to roll wintergreen leaves in my palm to release their cooling fragrance.
Teach your grandchildren simple prayers, grace before meals, and how to say the rosary. Talk about the religious art you may have in your home and get them each a small statue of Jesus to keep by their bedsides.
Have healthy boundaries in your family. Grandparents need time off, too. Your adult son or daughter needs to have back-up child care so that you can have time with your spouse, go away on trips, attend your Scripture group, and do all the fun and interesting activities that are the joys of your time of life.
What would you have been doing at this stage of your life if you weren’t helping to raise your grandchild? A wonderful book to give you some ideas is “The Master Class,” by Peter Spiers. If you sacrifice all your time for your grandchildren, you will be exhausted and resentful. Don’t be so duty bound that you can never get away.
Lastly, outside of the extra parenting duties you have taken on, take some separate time just to be a grandparent. Go to the zoo, have a picnic, go sledding, bake bread. Do the fun things.
God may have given you extra duties, but you have also been given extra opportunities to enjoy, and to positively influence your grandchildren. Embrace your assignment. So soon, like your own child, your grandchildren will be grown. You will not regret the time you have spent together and the bond of love between you.
(Christ is a consultant in ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The married mother of four young children, she gives talks and workshops, leads retreats and is a spiritual director. Christ self-publishes materials for parishes, and is the author of “Journeying with Mark,” “Journeying with Luke” and “Journeying with Matthew.” Published by Paulist Press, the books are intended to be used by families in the car on the way to Mass.)