Much More Than Babysitters
by Amy Diller
When my firstborn was about 18 months old, I was offered a part-time job as a school librarian. My husband and I agreed that the only way I would accept it was if she was with family while I worked. Our parents said they’d be happy to help. Even though we offered to pay them, they refused. Their free babysitting was a huge blessing to us. Several years later, when I took a full-time position, my parents came over every morning to get our kids fed, dressed, and on the school bus – another fantastic blessing. Aside from the no-cost babysitting, infinitely more important was the fact that the girls would be with people who loved them, shared our values, and modeled Jesus for them.
Many grandparents are happy to take care of their grandchildren, but they can be so much more than babysitters. When you have Christian parents, they are legacy-makers. Their investment in the lives of your children is a priceless thing. Not only are they able to share fun and meaningful stories and family traditions, but they can also be strong faith leaders and mighty prayer warriors. Grandparents are second only to you in teaching your children to be followers of Jesus, so their involvement in a discipling relationship is very important.
The Bible talks about one generation declaring the things of the Lord to their children and grandchildren. Deuteronomy 4:9 exhorts, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deuteronomy 6:2 directs, “…so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.” Sometimes grandparents need to be reminded of just how important and God-ordained their influence is in your life and the lives of your children.
Here are a few areas where grandparents can make an impact:
Traditions & Stories
Sharing traditions around holidays and birthdays or even regular things like family dinners or fun nights at Grandma and Grandpa’s helps create bonds within families. If you’re not sure what family traditions you have, ask your children what things you do together that they really love. Chances are they’ll come up with a lot of responses, and it’s also never too late to start something new. Traditions don’t have to be elaborate; small, meaningful moments often mean more than big gestures. Telling family stories is also a fun way to generate closeness. Kids enjoy hearing “remember when” memories about themselves and love to learn about you when you were younger and their grandparents’ lives as well. Establishing and growing relationships opens the ears of your kids to faith-forming conversations.
In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul notes the influence Timothy’s grandmother and mother had on his faith formation. As we saw in Deuteronomy, the instruction to talk about God’s faithfulness and His law is not simply directed to parents but also to grandparents. The older generation may have finished actively raising their kids, but their diligence is needed to instill what a Christian life looks like as an example to their grandchildren. Grandparents can share their testimonies and times they’ve seen God at work in their lives. They can demonstrate what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus and have faith conversations with the younger generation. Include grandparents in celebrating milestones like baby dedication, salvation, baptism, and other special occasions.
We know that the world we live in is broken by sin. Culture inundates our kids with so many ideas contrary to God’s truth. Parenting can be overwhelmingly difficult. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to pray for our kids when we’re in the thick of things – discipline, trying to teach and model Jesus to our kids, fighting against social norms that aren’t healthy, etc. This is where grandparents can stand in prayer for their children and grandchildren. With age, life experience, and a personal walk with the Lord, their prayers echo ours but from a unique perspective. How many times, when listening to others’ testimonies, do we hear about the faithful prayers of grandparents? Praying grandparents are a blessing and a gift.
In many practical ways, families need the help of grandparents. More than that, though, families need the relationships and faithfulness to God’s Word grandparents can offer. But sometimes grandparents aren’t Christians or are no longer living. That doesn’t mean you and your kids aren’t able to enjoy this special bond. If you know of an older person or couple who would benefit from becoming adopted grandparents, extend an invitation. You can also ask your church leaders for help finding those people. Whether formed through family relations or honorary family ties, grandparents are important members of the faith community surrounding you and your children