Sticky SituationsDecember 7, 2005
Today on the broadcast, Dr. Tim Kimmel, along with his wife, Darcy, talk about sticky situations, like divorce and parental rules, that make grandparenting sometimes difficult.
Today on the broadcast, Dr. Tim Kimmel, along with his wife, Darcy, talk about sticky situations, like divorce and parental rules, that make grandparenting sometimes difficult.
Tim: Here's a good principle to go by, and that is never sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate. You may have to watch your kids make mistakes with your grandkids. When I look at my kids, and I see them making those mistakes they will make, immediately I could react to that, but I might be sacrificing the long term, and God is in the long term with us.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, December 7th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to help grandparents today learn when and how to bite their tongues.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. We've been talking this week about being a grandparent, which, I'd just like to add one more time, I am the one in the room who is not a grandparent. I guess it's because I'm the youngest one here, aren't I?
Dennis: But you're old enough to be a grandparent.
Bob: I am old enough.
Dennis: Forty-seven is the average age to be a grandparent.
Bob: And I'm over that but just barely, and a little defensive about it, too, so back off, will you?
Dennis: You know, we're going to celebrate the big five-oh with our listeners this year with you.
Bob: Is that what we're going to do?
[applause, cheers, whistles]
Dennis: You have to hear our listeners cheering right now – hear them, hear them? It's an ovation. They want to join with you in the wake.
Bob: Thank you. Grandparenting is still out there on the horizon for me, but as we've been talking about it this week, I'm thinking there are a lot of issues that can come up for grandparents. I mean, issues like what do you do if your kids are messing up bad with the grandchildren? You know, there are a lot of grandparents raising their grandchildren today, stepping in as surrogates. How do you know when to do that? What about when the kids come over to your house to spend a few days there, and the rules at your house are different than the rules at their house, and what about spoiling the grandchildren?
Dennis: You mean like blue pop? I gave my grandkids, very health-food conscious, blue …
Bob: … soda pop.
Dennis: Blue soda pop.
Bob: That's right – full of sugar and lots of blue dye.
Dennis: But you heard Ashley, she thought it was cool.
Bob: Yeah, she thought it was fine.
Dennis: She was angry about the fish, however …
Bob: … that is still in the freezer …
Dennis: … that is still in the freezer, that I promised her parents would clean and cook for …
Tim: Man, am I glad you didn't go duck hunting.
Bob: There are those kinds of issues, but then you get into some real serious issues – what about step-grandchildren? What do you do as grandparents if your son and his wife or your daughter and her husband are going through a divorce? How do you intervene? How do you deal with those kinds of things? It can be complicated to be a grandparent and to do it right.
Dennis: And, you know, if you're going to be equipped, you've got to have experts – someone to mentor you, and we have – well, Bob, if you could call anybody in the world to be a mentor of grandparents today – anyone. I mean, out of 6 billion people on the planet, who would you call?
Bob: Well, it wouldn't be these guys. I mean, they've just got two grandchildren.
They're just getting started. Actually, they've given it biblical thought, they've wrestled with these issues. You guys have been thinking about this for years.
Tim: A long time, yeah.
Bob: They've really done a nice job. They've got a video curriculum they've put together called "Grandparenthood – More Than Rocking Chairs" – study guides to go along with it. So it's not a bad choice to call Tim and Darcy Kimmel.
Dennis: I think you're right, and it's good to have you back on FamilyLife Today. Darcy, Tim, welcome back.
Darcy: Thank you.
Tim: Thank you.
Dennis: Let's talk about one of these issues that Bob hit here earlier. Let's talk about rules, house rules for grandparents. Where should we start?
Darcy: Well, first of all, probably the best advice I can give is have as few rules as possible. That way you're not spending most of your time enforcing those rules. What it might require of you is to re-childproof your house a little bit. So you remove the dangers. In Arizona, we have a lot of swimming pools, and so we had taken the fence down on our swimming pool because our children had gotten older. When we knew that we would have a grandchild, we put it back up, because we didn't want to have to worry about that.
But have as few rules as possible. Make sure that if you are going to have a rule that is different than your – the rule that is in your child's house, your adult child's house, make sure you run it by them if you think that's going to create some problems.
Bob: For example, can you think of one?
Darcy: Perhaps your adult children don't allow their children to eat in front of the TV, but at your house you allow your grandchild to have a snack while they're watching a little video or something.
Bob: And you're saying run that by Mom and Dad before you do it?
Darcy: If you think it's going to be problem – if that's one of their hard, fast rules, then you need to ask permission.
Tim: And you might have kids that are unbelievers. Maybe one of your children married somebody that doesn't know Christ or maybe neither one of them know Christ, and so in your house, though, the Bible is a part of daily life. Or maybe you like to read a passage of Scripture with the kids when you're putting them to bed.
Darcy: Or take them to church on Sunday.
Tim: Take them to church on Sunday.
Dennis: And so if your adult children ask you not to take them to church?
Tim: You know what I would do on that one? There's more than one way to influence my kids spiritually without having to stick my finger in the eye of my own kids.
Dennis: So you wouldn't do it at that point?
Tim: Yeah, I'd just stay home and spend Sunday with them and just show them what a Christian looks like, up close and personal – loving on them, teaching them, and spending good time with them. It's not the end of the world, but, you see, that's not usually the problem you have. It's usually a parent that's just not prioritizing spiritual things, but in your house you do.
I find a lot of the parents want the grandparents to carry out that spiritual standard, because they know that it's missing. They wish that there was more there, but maybe it's because one of the spouses just isn't interested, isn't antagonistic. So usually you can work through those things just fine.
But the key is that we communicate with the kids so we're letting them say, as for me and my house, there are certain things that we just have to have here.
Bob: And you're talking about times when the grandchildren are coming to spend a few days. If they're coming for the afternoon, you don't childproof the house for the afternoon. You can tell them, "Don't touch Grandma's stuff this afternoon," maybe.
Dennis: I can tell you have not got grandchildren, Bob.
Darcy: It takes about three seconds for them to find the Comet cleanser.
Dennis: That's exactly what happened this past weekend. I turned around, and the rubber band was left off of the cabinet doors that kept underneath the sink kind of locked from our 18-month-old …
Tim: The childproofing, yeah.
Dennis: Yeah, yeah, and Tyler got the Comet, and he had dumped half of a large, tall container of Comet cleanser, the powdery stuff, you know, on the floor and was sufficiently grinding it into the surface of – you know, it's a good thing our wood floors have been well-worn for a number of years, because we raised our six on them, but it was a mess.
You know, the tendency is, is to go, "Man, look at what you've done, blah-blah-blah," you know, and kind of blow a gasket, but it didn't happen. It was, like, it's just an 18-month-old. Just clean it up. And I agree with Darcy, keep the house rules to as few as possible and operate with a lot of grace.
Tim: Yes, I think of two things – make your home safe for the kids, and then make it fun. Because sometimes we have things that – well, a three-year-old is going to get ahold of it, and it's an heirloom to us, and for them it's just a projectile, and they're going to break it. Well, for the sake of my grandkids, I'm just going to maybe box those things away for the duration of time that they are going to be young and in my home.
You see, sometimes they come to live with you, and they're not going home in two or three days. They come to stay.
Dennis: Yeah, let's talk about that for a second. What advice would you have for parents who now find themselves, for all practical purposes, raising a grandson or a granddaughter as if the child were their own?
Tim: Well, the fact is, there are right now millions – we're talking with an "M" – millions – plural – of grandparents raising their grandkids. Here's what's interesting, though. They've done studies, and they found the most effective parenting being done today is by grandparents. They're doing the best job ever and, of course, part of it's, like, well, it's logical. It's like a mulligan in golf, you know, a do-over. You knock the first one in the lake and the other one in the woods, and finally you get to be a grandparent – "I think I know how to knock this one down the middle." Keeping between the lines, and so a lot of it is just logical. But there is very effective parenting going.
But here is the thing that you want to do – you want to allow them to make it their home. It's not that they're just visiting your home temporarily, but don't mess any of my stuff up. You might let them redecorate their own bedroom, like a teenager's home, or a little kid with Barbies or something like that, so that they can feel like "I belong here." The worst thing you can do for them is make them feel like they're just a visitor here indefinitely, because that affects their level of security and their sense of significance.
So grandparents can play a big role, if we say "Look, I hold everything I have in an open palm. It all belongs to you, Lord, and if you want me to rearrange this on behalf of these children who are eternal, and they have a life ahead of them, so be it."
Dennis: You know, you speak of grandchildren coming to live with us – one of the reasons why they come to live with us is perhaps there has been a separation or even a divorce that may be occurring in our adult children's lives. You all believe it's important not just to make your home a safe place, but you believe, Darcy, that how grandparents relate to the grandchildren, if a divorce has occurred or is in the process of occurring, is very important.
Darcy: It is true, and we talk about how it's so important to preserve and protect that supportive relationship with your grandchild, because that is one of the opportunities that grandparents have to make such a difference in that grandchild's life. You have to assure them that it might look as if their immediate world is falling apart, but in the big picture of things, they're going to be all right, and you are part of that stability that you can offer to them that – "We're going to get through this, we're going to get through this together." That's where a savvy grandparent can come alongside a child and let them express their emotions and listen and be there with self assurance and let them say things to the grandparent that they can't say to their parents right now – things about how it's hurting them; how it's making them feel afraid.
Tim: A lot of times grandkids act out their frustration with their own parents when their parents are going through a divorce, and this is where we can show much more patience and understanding, because we can see, from our position, why they are like that. And so we don't want to put them down and beat them up because of the problems that are going on inside.
But the whole issue of interfering and intervening come into play, and there is a balance there. For instance, you don't like the way your kids are disciplining the grandchildren, maybe they're not disciplining them at all, and you come in there with all the guns blazing and tell them what misfits they are and how they're raising these juvenile delinquents, and these kids are going to be nightmares when they're teenagers. Well, I don't care how well-intended you are, no parent wants to hear that from their parents. And so you basically shut down your opportunity to make a difference.
You may have to watch your kids make mistakes with your grandkids.
Dennis: Oh, you will watch them make mistakes, and I think a real law here for grandparents that they need to embrace is that you know what? You need to keep your mouth shut.
Dennis: We just need to button it, not provide any advice or counsel unless …
Tim: Unless they ask.
Dennis: They ask, and at that point, I think it's fair game to provide some encouragement.
Bob: Wait, wait, wait, because I hear you saying that, but what if the discipline is the other way around. What if you're concerned that your children are being too severe? What if you're concerned there may be an abusive situation. You don't just button it then, do you?
Tim: Well, abuse is a different category, but keep in mind that we don't make abuse – this word that we drop in anytime we see something we don't like. A lot of people overuse that thing, but we've got to see something that really puts the kids in peril.
Here is a good rule of thumb or a good principle to go by, and that is never sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate. When I look at my kids, and I see them making those mistakes they will make, immediately I could react to that, but I might be sacrificing the long term. And God is in the long term with us, and so I want to make sure that "Is this battle worth it?" To get that across, and there are some grandparents that just don't get this.
Tim: And they shut down their chances of being the kind of people that God wanted them to be, and you know what? Even if they were well-intended, even if they're right, if I were the parents I wouldn't want them around my kids, either.
Dennis: Grandparents have to be very careful about stepping into situations where they've not been asked. And in a situation, Bob, like you asked about abuse – I think if I was facing that, I might go to one or both of the parents and ask for permission to make an observation or to see if they would be interested in some counsel or advice around an issue in regard to their children, and the counsel and advice may be to go see a counselor. It may be to go see somebody else that can provide that objective counsel that they need. They may not be able to hear it from you as a grandparent. It's that simple.
Let's talk about another area, though. Let's talk about children who get divorced and then get remarried but now import stepchildren into the extended family. What advice would you have for a grandparent about that?
Darcy: Well, I think it's a time for a grandparent to look on this as another opportunity for ministry. So many grandparents think in terms of, "Okay, now, these are my grandchildren right here, and then these are those other kids." What an immature way to approach a great opportunity.
Tim: It's painful for those stepchildren to feel like, you know, here's birthdays coming, and the blood grandchild gets this nice gift, and then their birthday comes, and they get nothing, or Christmastime, and they watch their siblings get it, and it causes a lot of friction between them, and competition. We have a chance to expand our influence to more kids for the Lord Jesus Christ's glory. And we should see those stepchildren as a stewardship that God has now handed us, and they get the same privileges and recognition as if they had been there from the beginning, and they have part of our gene code.
Darcy: One thing we have to realize is that those step-grandchildren might want to keep a distance from us for a while. We can come on too strong as their step-grandparents, and so what we need to do is approach them with love, establish a relationship up to a point, and then we might need to ask permission – "Would you like me to do this?" Because they may have another set of grandparents that they're clinging to as part of that original family that they feel has been pulled away from them.
Tim: And, Darcy, dovetailing off that – this is another thing – we need to make sure that we don't undermine the other set of grandparents, whether it's in a step situation or just a normal nuclear family. It's real easy, let's say, if one grandparent has a little more savvy, a little more time, a little more money, to just overshadow that other set of grandparents. We should try and arrange activities where all the grandparents are together, and encourage them to be with them and applaud the other grandparents and mention them and just say "What a blessing, you have Grandpa Mike or Grandma Terry in your life" – that kind of a thing.
Dennis: And if you are being grandparents to a stepson or a stepdaughter, reduce your expectations of the relationship and of how you bond with them. You may never, ever experience the same bonding. In fact, you're likely to never experience that that you would have with your biological children.
Tim, you mentioned a subject, though, that I want you guys to comment on, and that's money and spoiling grandkids with gifts. You always hear the stories of grandparents who take the grandson or granddaughter to Kids R Us or Toys R Us or Pets R Us and come out with a pickup …
Darcy: Stuff Is Us …
Dennis: Yeah, and …
Tim: Yeah, Junk Is Us …
Dennis: … and come back with a pickup truck loadful of toys or pets or stuff.
Bob: Or blue pop, you know, sugary blue pop, a whole case of it.
Dennis: I think that was a very spiritual decision on my part, Bob, to spoil my grandkids with blue pop. Anyway, back to the question, Tim.
Tim: Okay. The basic thing you're trying to figure out is the balance between a handout and a hand up. There is a need for a hand up to our kids. In fact, let's do this thing two ways. One is dealing with the grandkids, but what about our kids? You know, Ron Blue, I think you've had him on your show a couple of times, and Ron Blue is a very wise man, and he gave us some great advice about money. He says, "Listen, your kids do not need your money when they're 65, and you're finally dead. They need it when they're young, and they don't have any. And so if you're going to come alongside and help them, that's the time you can help them."
Now, obviously, you don't want to be paying their bills and making them co-dependent upon you, that would be a mistake. But there are things that you can do that can help them. For instance, maybe the grandkids need braces, braces, but they just can't afford them, and you might be able to come along and help that. We're sending the kids to camp. Those are great things that you can do but, once again, you don't just assume the right to do that. You talk with your kids, and you make that available, understanding if they reject, that's okay.
Dennis: What about being grandparents to special needs children?
Darcy: That's where one of those assets that we talk about relief can come alongside. So many times, a special needs child puts just incredible emotional and physical drain on a set of parents. It can actually undermine a marriage many times, a special needs child. And so a grandparent would be very wise to give some relief to the parents of a special needs child.
Tim: You know, as I get older, and I think more what my purpose in life is and what I do, I like to think that I am in the hope business. I just want to give people hope. And when you have a special needs child, that can be a very hopeless environment for a lot of parents. And so a grandparent can come along and, once again, we talked about money. There might be some extra financial needs that grandparents can come along there and help with, and then, obviously, not just that shoulder to cry on, but that shoulder to kind of put behind the load and help push and give them breaks.
You letting your kids – the grandkids come over for a weekend so your kids could get away – there are so many parents of special needs children, they'd never had a weekend away at a nice place just to kind of relax and be together. There's a lot we can do there.
Dennis: What you're saying is our assignment as grandparents is really, really important.
Bob: And along the way, it's going to help if we've got some mentoring and some coaching and some who have gone before us and thought through this subject who can nudge is down the path, and that's what the two of you have done in the video curriculum we've put together, which is called "Grandparenthood – More Than Rocking Chairs." We're hoping that churches, individuals, small groups, will begin to go through this material and that we could see cultivated an army of grandparents.
Bob: That sounds – I'm getting a mental picture of that, and – coming in their RVs.
Dennis: The sun is bouncing off of their gray hair, and it's blinding. But Tim, Darcy, I really want to thank you guys for creating material that I think God is going to use in a mighty way to challenge a generation of grandparents who will, in turn, pass on life's lessons and their love for Christ to future generations. Thanks for doing that.
Darcy: You're welcome.
Tim: Our pleasure, thank you.
Bob: We've got copies of the resource we've been talking about in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can to go our website, FamilyLife.com, at the bottom of the screen there will be a button that says "Go." Click on that button, it will take you right to the page where you can get more information about what Tim and Darcy have put together. Again, it's great for church groups or small groups to go through together, or you can use it on your own to develop a strategy for grandparenting.
We've got other resources available on our website that are designed to help with the same thing. In fact, there's a book called "Long Distance Grandma" that has some great suggestions for things you can do each month with your grandchildren. For example, in a month like December, you would mix up some hot chocolate mix, and there's a recipe for it here in the book. You would buy a mug for each of your grandchildren and a couple of packages of microwave popcorn, call your daughter or your son and ask about a movie that the grandkids would like but don't already have, and you buy a copy of the DVD, and you mail it off for your grandchildren and say, "I thought we'd have a movie night together. Grandpa and I are going to watch the movie here and have our hot chocolate and popcorn. You guys watch it, and we'll talk tomorrow and see what we thought about the movie." Or you call them right after they're done. There are lots of great ideas like that in the book, "Long Distance Grandma," and we've got it in our FamilyLife Resource Center.
Go online, FamilyLife.com, click the "Go" button at the bottom of the screen, and that will take you right to the page where you can get information on all of these resources. Or call 1-800-358-6329, and we'll see if we can get the equipment necessary so that you can be enlisted in this battalion of marching grandparents we've been talking about here.
By the way, let me say thanks to those of you who have already called us here at FamilyLife and who have mentioned the matching gift opportunity. For those of you who have not heard, because of this matching gift opportunity, any donation we receive is being matched, dollar for dollar, during the month of December up to a total of $350,000. We are hoping to hear from as many FamilyLife Today listeners as possible so that we can start 2006 launching some new ministry initiatives in the months ahead.
If you can help us with a donation to FamilyLife Today and want to see that donation doubled dollar for dollar, you can go online at FamilyLife.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY. Your donations are tax deductible, and we appreciate your ongoing financial support of this ministry.
Well, tomorrow we want to talk about the big movie event of the year. We're going to talk about "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" on tomorrow's program. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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