Sm grandparents sitting on bridge with grandkids copy

Four Ways to Prepare Your Younger Children for Adulthood

Intentionality, more than proximity, is the key to impacting our grandchildren and helping them grow in their thinking and understanding as they grow from childhood to adulthood. God gave us, parents and grandparents, the primary responsibility for that task. It is foolish to think they will figure it out on their own, or that we can wait till graduation to talk about it. 

From preschool on, we must use the moments we are with them to teach them about life and the Creator of that life. Every connection with them is a teaching opportunity. This isn’t about being fun-snuffers. It’s about intentionally making the most of natural opportunities to teach lessons they will carry throughout life. It’s learning to use the fun times and the not-so-fun times to teach what is true and matters both now and for eternity

Here are four ways to keep life the classroom for learning and cultivating a biblical worldview with preschool and grade school age grandchildren when you are with them:

#1 – Start Meaningful Conversations About Life 

There are three very significant opportunities for engaging your younger grandchildren with meaningful conversations about life. They are…

  • Playtime:As you do fun things with your grandchildren, stay alert to spontaneous opportunities to ask good questions that have the potential of turning play into learning. For example, if working on a puzzle together, you might ask: “Did you know that life is kind of like a puzzle? Can you imagine what puzzle pieces of your life need to all be in place if the picture is to be complete?  Why do you think God designed us like a puzzle?”
  • Mealtime:This is a great time to ask questions about things they did or something that happened during the day. Use questions to encourage them to think about what happened or how it could have been handled differently. For example: “Natalie, why did you handle Jenny’s unkind comments about you today the way you did? Would you do anything differently if it happened again?”
  • Bedtime:There are few more powerful moments for debriefing life experiences or asking them about things they may be wondering about than at bedtime. It’s also a good time to talk about the difference between a child and an adult. You might be surprised to learn what they understand, or questions they will raise. 

#2 – Encourage Growth-Producing Events

With so much emphasis upon sports and digital devices today, you can encourage your grandchildren to do things that shape them into productive citizens and neighbors. Here are a few ideas to prime the pump:

  • Involve them with you in serving others—like the local Rescue Mission, food bank or Habitat for Humanity.
  • Bake cookies together and take them to a shut in or someone in the hospital.
  • Take them to a theater play (choose carefully) or a concert hall to hear music they might not otherwise hear. Talk about what you experienced.
  • Visit museums and art galleries—what is art and what is its purpose?
  • Instead of watching TV, read a book or a Bible story together. Gwen recalls reading Jesus Loves Meover and over to her twin grandchildren when they were toddlers. At age four, without any coaching from her, one of them announced, “Gram, I have Jesus in my heart!” To which his twin declared, “So do I?”.
  • Take them fishing or teach them a craft skill. Talk about God’s role in what you’re doing as you are doing it.

#3 – Work at Being Critically Open-Minded 

Be careful about being drawn into thinking that you should always be ‘open-minded’ about anything culture says is okay. Open-minded is not the same as critically-minded. Today, open-minded often means accepting without evaluation or examination to determine if it’s true (right), or not?

Make sure you know the difference between being critical-minded and being judgmental. Critical thinkers value truth over public opinion, even at the risk of being accused of narrow-mindedness, but they do so with compassion and grace.

When your grandchildren say something you are unsure about, ask them to help you understand. If you know what they are saying is wrong, instead of lecturing, ask questions like these: “Why do you think this is true?” “Who told you it’s true? What if it’s not? Would you want to know?” “How do you think we can find out the truth?”

#4. Be Careful What You Say

Little ears are listening. If you would not want your grandchild to repeat what you say, don’t say it. We are human, and sometimes things come out of our mouths we wish didn’t. Are you adult enough to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong saying what I did. Will you forgive me, and will you pray with me to do better?”

Impact requires intentionality. Children need our intentional commitment to train them in the way they should go, so they will grow to be mature, responsible and godly adults.

What are you doing to be intentional? Share with our readers some things you are doing.

A Grandparent’s Greatest Challenge: PART TWO

Guest Blogger Mark Gregston
Spend time with the wise and you will become wise,
but the friends of fools will suffer. (Proverbs 13:20 NCV)

Last week I introduced you to Mark Gregston, founder of Heartlight Ministries. Mark concludes today with his five steps (keys) for beginning the process of engaging and connecting relationships with your adolescent and older grandchildren. Last time Mark unpacked the first two steps: Show Interest, and Adapt to Their World. Now we turn attention to the final three keys to cultivating good relationships with your grandchildren.

Build Relationship

A real relationship takes an investment of time and effort. The key word is investment. The focus of that investment has to be the benefit of the grandchild, motivated out of love for that child.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and said, “We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

Teens are looking for genuineness, authenticity, and relationships that offer something more than only correction when they mess up. They desire someone who is frank, honest and isn’t afraid to speak the truth in love because they know the motivation comes from a deep empathy for their plight.

Create Connection

The connection I’m talking about is the next step in the relationship with your grandchild. It’s when communication, effort, and desire to spend time together become a two-way street. This is what you want to happen with your teenage grandchildren. It is more important than the message you have to share. It has to be cultivated…and watered…and fertilized…and allowed to grow.

So here are some things I’ve learned about connection with grandkids:

  • • Connection is more than just a relationship.
  • • Connection is not measured by the number of pictures of your grandchild you post.
  • • Connection is having the relationship that is measured by two-way communication.
  • • Connection is not an opportunity for correction.
  • • Connection is a mutual love for one another established because a grandparent determines to pour life and love into a child.

Invite Questions

When I initially show interest in any teen, including my grandkids, I do it by asking questions about his or her life, thoughts, and heart. It’s not the interrogating type, but types of questions that convey value.

I want them to start asking me questions. You’ll know you have a connection when your grandkids start asking you:

  • • Can you keep a secret?
  • • Can I tell you something?
  • • Hey, want to get together for dinner?
  • • Grandma, did you ever fall away from Jesus…I mean, just not get it sometimes?

As a grandparent, this is what you’ve been waiting for. It’s their invitation to you to speak the truth (however painful that may be) into their lives. Their questions will let you know there is a connection, and they want wisdom.

Over time, you’ll find that talking about the hard stuff and sharing the reality of the lessons you’ve learned will convey those rare qualities of good relationships called genuineness and authenticity—two items in high demand in today’s teen culture.

Known as the “Teen Whisperer,” Mark Gregston can be heard on his nationally award-winning radio program, Parenting Today’s Teens with Mark Gregston, as well as his new book, Leaving a Legacy of Hope: Offering Your Grandchildren What No One Else Can. Mark is the founder of Heartlight, a Christian residential counseling center for struggling teens for nearly 30 years.