Every child we meet is a divine encounter.
Researchers tell us that 43% of all marriages include at least one spouse who has been married before. We also know that 2/3 of these marriages include children from a previous marriage. As families unite through marriage, grandparents find that in a blink of an eye they suddenly have doubled or tripled the number of grandchildren.
Perhaps you find yourself as a step-grandparent. You may have married someone who already had grandchildren. Or, your son or daughter has married or re-married someone who has children.
People rarely address the need of the grandparents who are in an process of emotionally adopoting these new children into their lives. But, these loving and accepting grandparents are doing a remarkable job embracing and loving their new grandchildren.
There are a variety of issues addressed by step-grandparents. Here are a few ideas for making these step-children feel welcome in your home and will help work through some of those thorny issues.
1. Be patient. Don’t rush the relationship. It takes time to learn another person’s history, likes and dislikes and temperament. You will come to know this child over a period of time and begin to forge an affectionate relationship. Ron Deal, author of Smart Stepfamily, addresses the myth of “blended families.” He prefers using the term “integration” to describe the process of two families coming together to share their lives. And, he cautions families to take their time in the process because it can take up to seven years for this integration to take place.
2. Reject guilt. You absolutely will not instantly have the same degree of affection for a step-grand child as you do for a biological grandchild. It is normal. Give yourself plenty of time to get to know this child and allow your heart to attach.
3. Guard against favoritism. While it is perfectly normal to initially have a closer relationship with your biological grandchild, be certain to guard against blatant favoritism. This will make it difficult for your step-grandchild to make the transition to you as a grandparent.
4. Don’t expect to be called grandma. Many step-grandchildren call these grandparents by their first name or combine the name with grandma or grandpa. We know a couple that had both lost their first spouse through death. When they married, the wife’s grandchildren called the new grandpa by the name G-Bob. You might want to suggest what you would like to be called. Or, you could ask your new grandchild if they have any ideas of what to call you. They will probably be relieved to have your help on this issue.
5. Get to know each step-grandchild one on one. Find an activity you can do together. Make your first times together easy and fairly brief. Relax and just spend time talking and learning about one another. No pressure.
6. Do your biological grandchildren have a special place in your home? Perhaps, a drawer where they keep some favorite toys or a few belongings? Have you purchased some special toys for your biological grandchild? Do you buy certain cookies or plan a favorite meal when your biological grandchild visits? Make sure this child has the same opportunities. Let them know that your home is their home.
7. Be sure to have pictures of all the grandchildren - biological and step-grandchildren -in your home. This will make a huge statement to this child about your love, acceptance and will create a sense of family connection.
8. Send emails, notes or cards from time to time. Be careful to not overwhelm a child and make them feel pressured. But, a short note letting them know you are enjoying getting to know them might touch their hearts and relieve some of the tension that can exist.
9. Be careful of your own agenda. Sometimes these grandchildren have had some difficult experiences and we long to make things good for them. Be cautious about swooping in or intervening in difficult situations. Build your credibility and a strong connection so that you can be available at just the right moment.
10. Pray for this grandchild. There is a reason God has brought them in to your life. You can be influential in their spiritual and faith development by loving, caring and praying for them.
What do you do to make your step-grandchildren feel loved and cared for? We need your ideas. Be sure to come back and check out future articles on this topic.
Listen to Kay on WMBI Radio (90.1) on Monday, January 16th at 10:00 AM. Kay will have a short segment on the Nancy Turner program. If you are unable to hear Moody Radio (Chicago) in your area, you can listen to the streaming broadcast.