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Wednesday, December 11, 2019
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The Immeasurable Value of Grandparenting Well

 
By Kristen White
 
            There are some things we can’t live without—chocolate, fluffy blankets, good friends. One of those things everyone should get to experience is an adoring grandparent—someone who loves unconditionally and encourages extravagantly.
            Did you know that your prayers, words, and loving deeds as a grandparent could actually change the course of your grandchild’s life? Leverage the opportunity you have to influence the children around you. Even if they aren’t your biological descendents, intentionally grandparent the little ones the Lord has brought across your path. How do you do that?
 
Pray
 
            Consider this: you may be the only person interceding for a child on any given day. It is easy to get stuck in a rut praying for health, safety, and prosperity, but God wants more for the people we love—and our prayer life—than that.
            Ask God to work in the character of your grandchild. Pray that specific godly traits like integrity, determination, and kindness will develop. Pray that God would use uncertain and hard times to teach your grandchild about His faithful love. Pray that your grandchild would never significantly stray from the Lord. Ask for spiritual growth more than worldly success, and that if success comes, your grandchild would use it to benefit others and tell people about the Lord.
            Start a prayer journal dedicated to each grandchild. Write requests and answers, memories, and verses the Lord brings to your attention for that child in the journal. Present it to your grandchild upon graduation or marriage, but show it to him or her throughout the years, if you desire.
 
Affirm
 
            One of the greatest needs of the human heart is belonging, and one of the greatest sources of belonging is having people in our lives that are interested in us. Asking questions and listening to others’ answers may seem like a very insignificant or unimportant habit, but those to whom you give your attention regard time with you as priceless.
            Most people we encounter—including those who teach, ride the bus, and befriend your grandchildren—operate out of their own insecurities. They are looking for affirmation that they are special, so they aren’t necessarily sensitive to giving affirmation away. They may even tear your grandchild down to look better themselves. You can model another way. Even if you struggle with feeling like you’ve accomplished all you want to in life, give the children around you what you also need—an encouraging word. Praise their character qualities more than their looks or accomplishments, but it’s okay to compliment those, too.
            Work together with your grandchild to memorize verses from the Bible that address our need to know we are loved. You can even offer a prize, like going out for ice cream or a $5 bill, for memorizing a set number of verses.
            Write notes telling your grandchild the wonderful strengths you see in him or her. Include inspirational quotes or Bible verses. Even if you live in the same town, an old-fashioned love note or lunch-box note means more than you will ever know. My husband’s parents write our children regularly. They discuss what’s happening with the animals on the farm and say sweet things like, “We are proud of your hard work at school and church.” Who doesn’t want to hear words like that? Small efforts to listen and to say encouraging words multiply in the hearts of your grandchildren and give them confidence . . . and even the ability to turn around and give those around them encouraging words. You’ll never know how far your relational efforts may reach.
 
Encouraging Words You Can Use
 
You can do it!
I like how much effort you put into that.
You have a fantastic imagination.
I appreciate your honesty.
I like how you reach out to people who feel left out.
You have a wonderful laugh. Keep using it!
Thank you for being so responsible.
You have a lot of insight for someone your age.
No one does something easily the first time. Keep trying!
God gave you unique abilities. I am glad to see you developing those.
You are special and dearly loved. 
 
Give Opportunities & Experiences, Not Just Toys
 
            One of the first things we want to do as a grandparent is buy gifts—clothes, books, and toys are all part of a little one’s life. However, flooding a baby with too much material “stuff” can be overwhelming for the parents and can set a difficult precedent. If love is bubbling up in you and you want to show care with money, think about these ideas:
 
* Ask your children, the grandchild’s parents, to let you know what they’d like to receive as a gift. What are their needs and priorities? Do they want books, or do they want a night out? Periodically provide what they ask, and periodically give what you desire to give.
* Save!! Set up an account for your grandchild to use for a car or college in the future, or for the grandchild’s parents to use for educational expenses, such as lessons. My parents started a checking account into which they contributed a set amount each month. Out of that, my children participated in swimming and music lessons that we could not have afforded. The skills (and confidence resulting from learning a skill) are part of their lives today.
*Wait to give large gifts until your grandchildren are preteens and teens. The preschool years are extremely important—perhaps the most important in terms of laying a foundation of positive relationship habits. In the early years, focus on giving time, reading books, and developing skills and self-control in your grandchildren. But, Lord willing, more years are ahead—years in which you can take trips together, chaperone at the mall, go to live theatre or a concert, or take your grandchild and a couple of his or her friends out to eat, activities that parents may not have time or money to pursue. You don’t have to drop out of their lives as friends and activities become more important; instead, suggest experiences that will broaden their perspective. Even if you live a great distance away, you can plan a special trip, provide a week of camp, or contribute toward the first cell phone. 
             Toys are fun, but it is not essential to give expensive gifts, especially in younger years. Prioritize the relationship and big-picture needs of your grandchild. Ask the Lord to give you ideas about what would most benefit your grandchild—what would most develop his heart for people, his mind for learning, and his experiences for life?
 
Talk about Jesus
 
            You may feel uncomfortable talking about Jesus in every day conversations, but it is important for you to practice telling your grandchild what you are reading in the Bible, what you are praying about, and how God is working in your life. Talk about how thankful you are that Jesus washed your sins away, and how all people need Him.
             While Jesus won’t be the only thing you discuss with your grandchild, if He is something you regularly open up about, your grandchild will likely feel comfortable coming to you with questions and prayer requests.
             There’s no way to be a perfect grandparent. We are certainly limited in energy, time, funds, ideas, and insight. But unlimited doting is not what grandchildren need. What they do need is our prayer and our influence, nudging them closer to the God who made them for His glorious purposes. Will you intentionally put thought and effort into grand-parenting toward this end?
 

Kristen White writes for national parenting, devotional, and children's magazines, as well as contributing to curriculum for LifeWay Publishing. Her passion is helping people of all ages learn to love God's Word through hands-on activities, stories, and encouragement. Catch a devotion at www.womenwithroots.com.