By Jennifer Waddle, Crosswalk.com
A few years ago, when things took a much different turn than expected, my husband and I were informed that we were going to become grandparents at the age of 42. Nothing could have prepared us for that news. And even though we had God and each other to depend on, the bottom line was we were not ready to become grandparents.
Perhaps life has thrown you a similar curveball and you are wondering how you are going to transition into grandparenthood. You may wonder if you will instantly bond with the baby or feel detached. You may worry that your son or daughter will ask too much of you. You may even wish that you weren’t in this particular season at all.
I get it. That’s why I’d like to offer several tips to help you embrace grandparenting and actually thrive in the beautiful role that it is. Here are a few things you can do when you’re not ready to become a grandparent:
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Pray instead of panic.
After the big announcement that changed our family dynamic forever, my first tendency was to panic. I had a 9-year-old and 13-year-old still at home, so I felt completely unprepared to be a grandma. My first thoughts went something like this:
How did I fail as a parent?
How can this possibly work out?
I don’t think I can handle this.
However, it was during those first life-changing moments that I also remember turning to God. I was reminded of the words of a prominent Bible teacher who said in one of her studies that in the midst of crisis we have the choice to either paralyze, panic, or pray.
I chose to pray.
No matter how tempted you are to let panic take over and cause you to do or say something you regret, stop and pray. Go to your prayer closet and pour out your fears, frustrations, and feelings to the Lord. He knows. He sees. He hears.
I even suggest having a few Bible verses on hand for those tough times. Pull them out and read through them as a way to calm your spirit and know that everything is going to be alright.
“… fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 ESV)
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14: 27 ESV)
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Praise instead of complain.
Once the initial shock wears off, you might be tempted to whine and complain about your situation. And, with a few trusted friends, a little venting might actually help! However, it is far more beneficial to praise the Lord for His goodness, even when you are unsure of the path ahead. After all, a heart of thanksgiving goes a long way in preparing your heart to become a grandparent.
Instead of complaining about what could have been, start worshipping God for what is. Praise Him for forming your grandchild fearfully and wonderfully. Thank Him for working all things out for His glory.
“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, \when as yet there were none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16 NKJV)
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Communicate instead of closing up.
If there are tensions within the family concerning the arrival of the new little bundle, you might find it easier to shut down and say nothing. And in many instances, holding your tongue is actually a wise move. However, if there are truthful and important things that need to be said, pray for the wisdom and opportunity to communicate them in love and gentleness.
There is no changing the situation—either by withdrawing or lashing out. But there might be some much-needed healing and restoration that begins when you communicate your feelings in a timely manner.
Family meetings, handwritten letters, and even mediation with a trusted Christian counselor are ways you can communicate in healthy ways. Don’t allow resentment to build because you’ve decided to handle your emotions stoically. You can still remain strong in the situation while expressing your feelings honestly.
“These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace.” (Zechariah 8:16)
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Encourage instead of enable.
The lines can sometimes become blurred when it comes to encouragement vs. enablement. You want to help your grown son or daughter as much as possible but you don’t want to enable them. You want to be supportive of your new grandchild but you don’t want to raise them.
There are some practical ways to encourage them, by offering help that you know you can handle. Be careful not to overcommit yourself to things that will eventually become overwhelming. Sit down with everyone involved and work out how much time and help you can reasonably offer. If financial help is needed, make sure to give only what fits within your budget.
Don’t feel bad if you have to say “no” to certain things.
Ultimately, you want to be able to love and enjoy your grandchild. By remaining an encourager instead of an enabler, you will have the freedom to pour into them as your time and resources allow. Set healthy boundaries without apology.
Here are a few practical things to consider—things that may help keep the boundary lines in place:
- Instead of offering full-time daycare, select one or two days per week to help out.
- Instead of handing out money freely, consider giving gift cards to help with household needs.
- Instead of interfering with advice, offer only what is necessary and even wait to be asked.
- Instead of trying to fix everything, allow God to work it out for His purpose and glory.
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)
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Plan to invest.
Investing in the lives of your grandchildren is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling investments on earth. There is a sweet connection between grandparent and grandchild that is unmatched by any relationship.
Even if you aren’t ready to become a grandparent, allow yourself to think of ways you can lovingly invest your time, talent, and treasure into the precious new addition. Perhaps you missed out on some of your kids’ growing up years. This could be a wonderful time to do the things you always wanted to do with your own children.
Here are some fun and meaningful ways to invest in your grandchild’s life:
- Come up with a special name for them to call you. (Be creative!)
- Start a hobby or activity that you can eventually do with your grandchild. (Painting, woodworking, and hiking are just a few ideas!)
- Begin praying the Psalms over your grandkids, even writing out your prayers for them. (Save these as keepsakes to give them one day.)
- Start a new family tradition that your grandkids will long remember. (Perhaps take an annual trip to the zoo or aquarium.)
- Invest in a college fund for them. (Every little bit helps!)
- Bring out your inner child. (Think Legos, blocks, puzzles, and matchbox cars!)
- Have Bible studies with them. (Even preschoolers can learn about God!)
No matter what your current feelings are about becoming a grandparent, you won’t regret investing your heart. In fact, the moment you hold them for the very first time, all of your apprehensions may very well fly out the window!
Perhaps, none of us are fully prepared to become grandparents. After all, it means we are entering a new (older) stage in life. However, it can be a beautiful season that brings great joy.
Don’t let disappointment, fear, or any other emotion rob you of the joys of grandparenting. You have a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the next generation!
Jennifer Waddle considers herself a Kansas girl, married to a Colorado hunk, with a heart to encourage women everywhere. She is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer, and is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, and Abide. Jennifer’s online ministry is EncouragementMama.com, where you can find her books and sign up for her blog, “Discouragement Doesn’t Win.” She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth.
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