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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Grandparents and Divorce


A movie I really enjoy is the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin and Jason Robards.  In case you didn’t see it, there are lots of twists and turns as the movie depicts multigenerational family life, with plenty of family disputes, dysfunctions and difficulties.  The different family members have different issues, and the story centers around Martin’s character as he struggles to be a good dad, and wrestles with the decisions that involves.  Robards portrays Martin’s dad, who is also struggling with issues that center around his grown children, one son in particular.  In one scene, as Robards expresses the struggle, the comment he makes to Steve Martin as he reflects on the difficulties he is having with his youngest son, is that the most difficult thing about being a parent is (in -paraphrase) “that is never ends.  Never.   It just keeps on going.”  I suspect those individuals wrestling with their child’s divorce can relate to such a statement.

Last blog I discussed the impact a child’s divorce has on parents, and the various roles the parent might play as they seek to help their child through a difficult time.  I want to go one step further tonight, and make some suggestions in relation to the grandchildren whose lives are also caught up in the turmoil.

The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is a very special and unique one.  Grandchildren may often feel able to discuss their struggles in the divorce that they do not feel comfortable with parents -  with a grandparent.  While this can become a valuable ministry opportunity for the grandparent - it is also a very heart-wrenching one.   The child may describe things in one or both home that leaves their grandparents speechless, and heartbroken.  While often unable to change the child’s situation, providing the child an outlet to vent can be invaluable in helping the child cope…if you are willing to provide a listening ear and comforting hug.  

These conversations can be very tricky.  If the child shares things about your child’s ex that trouble you….such as details about a new lover that has moved in, or how the values in that home no longer match the values they had been taught previously in their intact home.  Their lives may have become more hectic, more deprived, more uncertain.  The grandchildren may also bring up struggles they are having with your child during this transition time, struggles that may be very difficult to hear.  On occasion, there may be a struggle mentioned that you could address effectively with your child, but more often than not, you can only listen to the grandchildren’s struggles.  And cry with them.  And encourage them.  And hug them.  And serve as an important source of stability in the midst of their discombobulated lives.   

You will find there are times when you have to bite your tongue.  You will find there are other times you can offer a bit of perspective, or some wise advice.  You can not only pray for your grandchildren, you can pray with them.  And, when appropriate, you may be able to help your child understand the struggles of their children just a little better, and sometimes even make suggestions that can help guide your child toward effective parenting.  

“It never ends,” is the line from Parenthood, but that can be a good thing, because not only do you carry the heartache and the hardship, but you also have the opportunity to be the positive, supportive influence for your children and grandchildren when they most need someone.  It is a privilege that only grandparents have in that unique relationship you have with your grandchildren.  

Use that privilege wisely, in a godly and exemplary fashion.  Not only your children, but also your grandchildren need you, perhaps now more than ever.  Let me also remind you that God notices, God listens to your heart cry, and God will honor you for your commitment and ministry to children in need.

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