Even as Christians, our current age and culture of divorce, division, and disillusionment brings an unforeseen challenge and opportunity for grandparents. Many of us have the privilege to influence and impact the very special and unexpected gifts of step-grandchildren.
We by no means profess to be “experts” in the area of grandparenting stepchildren. We do however feel God’s presence and direction helping us to learn, love, and help lead these special gifts in the paths that will demonstrate His and our love for them. It is our goal to encourage and support them as they navigate the challenges of dealing with the circumstances of divorce and discovering their own callings, gifts, and purposes in life.
Approaching such an endeavor could be said to be simple—yet not easy. I say that because, initially, though we were excited to welcome two amazing step-grandchildren into our family, we had not had the privilege of knowing them from birth. They came to us with their own set of expectations and values from their own parents who were not our own blood. We were also yet another adjustment to a whole new family as the result of their parents’ remarriages.
Following are the ABCs we have incorporated (along with much prayer) as God leads us to have the influence and impact that He calls us to have in their lives.
A: ACCEPT, APPRECIATE, and even celebrate each of their unique qualities and differences.
As with so many things in life, we have learned that different is not worse, it’s just different—and requires a growth and adjustment period. Each of our own children, blood-related grandchildren, and step-grandchildren has his or her own gifts, desires, personality, and dreams. We try to identify these, praise them, and encourage their development in each person. We resist putting ALL of our grandkids in the same mold or mindset. We try to gift them with things and experiences that they each enjoy and that foster their unique creativity and individuality.
B: BOUNDARIES. Defining and honoring healthy boundaries in their lives is necessary and indisputable. We noticed initially when we welcomed our step-granddaughters into our family, we as grandparents would get much more excited to see them than they did to see us. We live halfway across the country, so our times together are limited and valuable. Considering their current ages of seven and twelve, we realized that this was really age-and-stage-appropriate behavior on their part. Once we factored in the value of the roles of their friends and activities, it was much easier to relax and be grateful for their reception of us and our time together. Also, we had to remind ourselves that their birth parents had already instilled values and boundaries that we wanted to honor and support. When asked—and only then—we give our suggestions or input and opinions.
C: COMMUNICATION. We endeavor to communicate inclusiveness in all of our family gatherings and celebrations. Not just in presence but also in participation and celebration. As with many kids, all of our grandkids delightfully became fast friends and vetted cousins. There are some times when our step-grandkids are not able to participate due to custody arrangements with their other parent. In those cases we intentionally try to schedule our events around their schedules to be inclusive in all gatherings. It is truly a process—every opportunity we have together is an opportunity to communicate our support of them via love, words, actions, and encouragement.
As Ephesians 1 states, we are called, adopted, chosen, redeemed, sealed, and given an inheritance in Christ— all of which we did nothing to earn. We want nothing less for all of our kids, grandkids, and step-grandkids!
Our desire and prayer for all of them is that they would each discover the identity and calling God has for them. We are just honored God would give US this opportunity to be used by Him to help foster and support their discovery.