Question: How can grandparents help new parents without wearing out their welcome? I'm excited to play an active and positive role in my grandchild's life, but I want to be careful to respect appropriate boundaries with my son and daughter-in-law.
Jim: As a grandparent, you can have a profound impact on the lives and outlook of your children and grandchildren. The value of the perspective you've gained after raising your own kids can't be overstated. It's an incredible gift to help grown children see their offspring through the eyes of a hopelessly love-struck grandparent, rather than viewing them as a source of nonstop responsibility.
Perhaps the greatest gift you have to offer is the gift of your time. New parents need a break every once in a while. This is particularly important for single moms, but it applies in the case of married couples as well. You might suggest a specific time ("How about if I come over Wednesday night around 6 p.m., so you can get out for a couple of hours?"), rather than something vague ("Let me know if I can help"). Or you can extend an open invitation to them to call you whenever they feel they've reached the end of their rope.
By the way, here's an important piece of advice about giving advice: If you aren't in complete agreement with the way your grown children are raising your grandchildren, be very careful about the way you broach that subject, especially with a daughter-in-law or son-in-law.
Remember: As parents, they have the final say and responsibility for the way their children are brought up, and your duty in nearly every situation is to abide by their decisions. The exception, of course, is if an irresponsible parent's behavior or neglect is exposing a child to harm. Otherwise, offer advice only if asked, and work at building a relationship in which you can compare notes and share the benefits of your parenting experience.
Question: I'm dating a young lady and we're getting fairly serious. My issue is that my parents divorced when I was a teenager. I saw what they went through, and I'm still trying to get over my own hurt feelings regarding their divorce -- and my fear of marriage in general. I don't want to lose her, and neither of us can wait forever. What can I do to move on in my own relationship?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: I commend you for recognizing that you're carrying "baggage" from your parents' divorce, and especially for being proactive about dealing with it. Let's break this down into three key pieces.
First, deal with YOU. You need to realistically address your own "junk" and work on becoming a healthy person, regardless of whether you're in a relationship or not. That may well involve professional counseling to process your past hurts; you can start with our licensed staff counselors by calling 855-771-HELP (4357). I'd also recommend the resources available through Focus' faith-based online community for young single adults, Boundless.org.
Second, deal with HER. Let her know what's going on with you -- talk about the hesitation, fear and emotional walls you're working on overcoming (it's about your parents' divorce, not your present relationship). Tell her what she can do to support you. The more you include her and provide honest information, the stronger your connection can become.
Finally, deal with the RELATIONSHIP. When the time is right, get good premarital counseling. Eighty percent of couples who get at least 6 to 8 hours of quality premarital counseling stay together. That's how you work toward "divorce-proofing" your own marriage before it starts!
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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