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Archive for the ‘Grand-Parenting’ Category

The Role of a Stepgrandparent

SOURCE:  Ron Deal/FamilyLife Ministry

You can be an important and influential role in the family with a little grace and wisdom.

It’s a question I’m hearing more these days. “Ron, just what exactly is my role as a grandparent to my stepgrandchildren? I’m used to being ‘Grandma,’ and love being so, but I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to do when it comes to my stepgrandchildren.”

Nearly 40 percent of families currently in the U.S. have a stepgrandparent, and by 2030 Americans will have one stepgrandchild for every 1.7 biological grandchildren. But despite this prevalence, very little has been done in society or the church to clarify the role of stepgrandparents.

Not all situations are the same. The challenges stepgrandparents experience will vary depending on how the person became a stepgrandparent. For example, if someone in later life made a clear and prayerful decision to marry into a family with adult children and grandchildren, their entrance into stepgrandparenting likely comes with a higher degree of motivation than someone whose adult child marries and becomes a stepparent, forcing them into the role of stepgrandparent.

No matter how you got to this place, however, there are going to be awkward situations. Knowing how to bond with stepgrandchildren can be challenging. You’re probably asking some difficult questions: What type of authority are you in their life and to what degree? How do you go about giving physical affection? And while you’re figuring one another out in the beginning, how do you not show favoritism toward biological grandchildren that already adore you?

Finding common ground

With stepgrandparenting, bonding is a process. It won’t come naturally like it does with biological grandchildren. In the beginning awkwardness might be high, but don’t let that keep you from taking initiative. Like all relationships, it will take time and intentional effort in order for your stepgrandparent connection to grow.

One easy step that stepgrandparents can do is to take notice of the child’s interests and find opportunities to share your talents and abilities that are interesting to the child. These natural connecting points are windows into the child’s heart and start the process of bonding.

In addition, let the child set the pace for terms of endearment, physical affection, and their degree of openness to hearing you speak into their lives. Respecting their level of openness communicates your willingness to meet them where they are and grow from there. That makes bonding less intimidating for both of you.

Certainly, don’t put pressure or standards on the amount of time it takes to form a bond or the way the children respond to you. Each child is different and will interact in various ways. It often takes a “two steps forward, one step back” pattern, in which it may appear that the child is growing closer and then suddenly pushes you away. But that’s a normal reaction. Just be patient and don’t overreact.

The loyalty conflict

Just as getting connected with a stepgrandchild can be awkward, so can staying connected with biological grandchildren who primarily live with the ex-spouse. This is especially true when the divorce was difficult, and the grandparent feels stuck between two people who don’t like each other. It creates an internal conflict for grandparents who want to support their adult child. This can tempt some grandparents to avoid spending time with their biological grandchildren in order to escape the awkward encounter with the ex-spouse.

But siding with an adult child comes at the expense of staying connected with your grandchildren, and this loss creates a hole in the grandparent’s heart. This can often cause guilt when you spend time with new stepgrandchildren.

Other grandparents experience an issue on the other side of the coin. Their strong desire to stay connected with all grandchildren (and stepgrandchildren) may move them to keep the door open to their ex-son/daughter-in-law to the dismay of their biological son/daughter.

No matter what, either disconnecting or staying connected comes at a price. So, what is a grandparent to do?

Grace-filled grandparenting

Develop and maintain the relationships in your life by applying a grace-filled heart to your one-on-one connections with each family member, new or old, even if others struggle to join you. A key principle to apply, whether trying to stay connected with grandchildren or get connected with stepgrandchildren, is this: possessiveness divides, but grace connects. Having an inclusive, grace-filled heart that is open to new relationships and keeping old ones fosters bonding and love.

On the other hand, trying to hold on to what you feel you’re entitled to or orchestrate relationships according to your needs only divides family members because it exudes animosity and encourages grudges.

Grace-filled grandparents refuse to be cornered or controlled by the standards and agendas of others, even if a son or daughter tries to manipulate the way you relate with children or an ex-spouse. You actually have the ability over time to connect the generations of a stepfamily through your efforts of love and acceptance. And that is a beautiful thing.

But let me offer this word of caution: Being a grace-filled grandparent can initially come at a cost. People might resent your openness to others or relationships they find threatening. Adult children and grandchildren, who are often wounded by the past and caught in their own loyalty conflicts, sometimes find it difficult to give permission to new and old relationships.

The stepgrandparent that can struggle through the initial storm of loyalty wars, however, can actually have a positive impact on family. When you demonstrate an open heart and find the ability to love each person, biological or step, in ways appropriate to their established or developing relationship, you have a unique ability to influence the entire family system toward grace. I have witnessed this dynamic with many families.

For example, grandparents who refuse to show favoritism to biological grandchildren and include stepgrandchildren help stepsiblings accept one another. And grandparents who gently refuse to withdraw from an ex-son/daughter-in-law despite the tension, quietly but powerfully remind family members to extend forgiveness and welcome the outsider in.

Being a stepgrandparent can be an important and influential role if you remain levelheaded and have patience. And thankfully, you are not alone in this task. God is a God of unity, and He longs for all members of your family—step, ex, biological, or adopted—to love and respect each other. So don’t forget that you have the power to pray. Pray for your own wisdom in the matter, but pray that others will see your grace and follow your lead.

The 9 Unwritten Rules of Grandparenting

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Kristen Sturt/

Abide by these handy guidelines, and your grandparenting experience will always be a breeze.

Rule #1: You’re responsible for staying in touch.

Whether they’re halfway through college or just starting kindergarten, one of the biggest complaints we hear about grandchildren is that they just don’t reach out. It’s a kid thing, not necessarily exclusive to the current generation. Either way, the onus is on you to stay in touch.

“The ticket to keeping ties with your grandchild strong is maintaining open lines of communication,” says writer Jodi M. Webb. To do that, you need to reach out to kids in ways they’ll respond to. Learn to text! Communicate on social media! Make the occasional phone call! Ask about their interests, and try to keep things light and loving.

Rule #2: The favorite grandparent is the one who is the most fun.

They might not admit it to your face, but secretly, grandkids have a favorite grandparent. (Admit it: You did, too.) The favorites are willing to try new things, suggest kid-friendly activities, and go with the flow. They’re the ones who laugh freely and hug closely, who—cliché as it is—have the most cookies on-hand.

Rule #3: Offended? You gotta move on.

At some point, when it comes to your grandkids, you’re gonna feel left out, guilty, confused, frustrated, or worse. Your son and DIL might not invite you for Thanksgiving. Your grandson might disrespect you. Your granddaughter might forget your birthday! (Oy. That kid.) In these inevitable instances, you can air your feelings and even expect an apology. But unless it’s something irreversibly hurtful, you can’t harp. Grudges damage relationships. Forgiveness and communication strengthens them. Go high and be the bigger person.

Rule #4: Pitch in up front.

Grandbabies are a blessing, not to mention a ton of work, and new parents may need help during those first hectic months. (You did, right?) If your kids are amenable, lend a hand any way you can:cleaning, cooking, babysitting, etc. It’s a great way to get off on the right foot with your family, and—bonus!—you’re sure to get quality time with your new favorite infant.

Rule #5: Share the grandkids with others.

When a grandchild is born, you want that baby all to yourself, and probably always will. But there are other grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and more to think about. Sharing can be hard. Head off problems by planning ahead and keeping lines of communication open. Try creating ground rules when appropriate (take turns visiting, switch holidays yearly, etc.), and be welcoming, flexible, and understanding. Oh, and wine helps, too.

Rule #6: Bite your tongue.

Disagree with your grandson’s sleep schedule? Think your daughter is too strict with sweets? Unless you’re asked directly or believe your grandbaby is in danger, keep your child-rearing opinions to yourself. Too often, a grandparent’s unsolicited advice comes off as veiled criticism, which can breed resentment and drive a wedge between family members. If you need to vent, your partner, friends, and coworkers are ready and waiting.

Rule #7: Act like your grandchildren are always watching (because they are).

“Saying we want good behavior from children can be vague for them, especially when they are young,” says children’s advocate Kathy Motlagh. In other words, if you want well-behaved grandkids with good values, talking isn’t enough; you have to practice what you preach. Model kindness and respect through your everyday actions. Resist impulses driven by anger and fear. Be the good in the world, and those babies will follow your example.

Rule #8: Get the gear.

To paraphrase a famed author, it is a truth universally acknowledged that grandparents in possession of good fortune must spend a little on stuff for visiting grandchildren. When the grandkids are young, a few books, toys, diapers, activities, bottles, and dishes are simple enough to acquire and store, and ensure parents don’t have to haul extra belongings. If overnight stays are in your future, you might consider a highchair, small stroller, or even a crib. Space and income will play a factor in your equipment list, but really, any effort will be appreciated.

Rule #9: There are no rules.

Grandparenting changes from generation to generation; you’re different from your grandparents, and your grandchildren will differ greatly from their own grandchildren. And while experience and history offer some guidance, all we can ultimately do is confront the challenges in front of us at any given time. Heed good advice, do your best, and love and enjoy your grandkids. It’s all anyone can ask for.

How to Repair a Distant Grandparent-Grandchild Relationship

SOURCE:  Kristen Sturt/

You wanted to be a hands-on grandparent, but things have worked out very differently. Here’s how to fix it.

You had every intention of jumping in with both feet. The minute that baby was born, you wanted to see her, hold her, and be around for every milestone, major and minor.

Instead, her parents—your child and his spouse—have relegated you to a sometime visitor. You get together on holidays and birthdays, but you’re not part of your grandchild’s everyday life. You receive an occasional update or maybe even a photo, and that’s about it.

Carol R. knows the deal. The New Jersey native is grandmother to a two-year-old girl she rarely sees. “They’re very good parents to her,” she says of her son and daughter-in-law. “There’s no problem there. I just wish I felt a little more warm, fuzzy feeling with all of them.” She cites the lack of communication as her biggest issue. “I would love to get pictures once in a while. I would love to have an email or voicemail returned to me. It could be days. It could never be responded to [at all].”

Carol’s situation isn’t uncommon. One of the biggest complaints we hear at is that the cozy expectations of grandparenthood frequently don’t match up to the distant reality. Some GPs complain bitterly about the perceived coldness and lack of contact. Others, like Carol, have learned to live. “I’m just accepting it for what it is, because I’ve beaten myself up over it,” she says. “It’s just different. It’s not wrong. It’s just not my way.”

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be a struggle. Whether you’re a new nana or a veteran grandpa, you can improve your state of mind and bridge the distance to your grandchildren by taking two important steps.

Step #1: Adjust Your Expectations

“A grandparent has all these fantasies about how they’re going to be as a grandmother,” says Deanna Brann, Ph.D. the author of Reluctantly Related—Secrets to Getting Along With Your Mother-In-Law or Daughter-In-Law. “They have their own concept and idea of how they’re going to be involved in the child’s lives.” When parents fail to indulge that vision, either because they can’t or don’t want to, tension inevitably occurs.

The key, then, is creating a grandparent-grandchild relationship that everyone can live with. Instead of grandparenting on your own terms, ask parents how they see your role. “Do it in the form of a question so it shows respect for the parents,” suggests Dr. Brann. “Say, ‘Would you ever consider having me babysit if you want to go out to dinner?'” An informal approach is important. “Do it over dinner when you’re chatting and you’re talking and it’s much more casual. You don’t want it to be intense.” Respecting parents’ wishes goes a long way towards creating trust and warmth.

For new grandparents, it’s especially important to keep expectations in check during the first few months of a grandbaby’s life. “The parents are going to be very overwhelmed and self-absorbed,” says Dr. Brann. “Give it a few weeks so they have the chance to adjust.” If you must be involved, do so in a strictly supportive manner. “Offer to come to the home and help. This isn’t about you coming to take care of the baby. This is about you doing the laundry, the housework, the grocery shopping, so [mom] can take care of the baby.” You’ll ingratiate yourself to the new parents, and most likely nab some time with the newborn, either way. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Step #2: Improve Your Relationship With Mom

While Dad plays a role, more often than not, the gatekeeper of the grandparent-grandchild relationship is Mom. “If you don’t get along with her, it does impact your ability to see your grandkids,” says Dr. Brann. Consequently, it pays to endear yourself, even if you think she’s in the wrong: “Sometimes, certain daughters-in-law are so off they’re not even willing to give you a chance, but it’s not that common, even though some mothers-in-law think it is. You need to try.”

The best way to warm your MIL-DIL relationship? Show interest in her as a person, and not just as the mother of your grandchild. “Call to find out what’s going on with her, and don’t talk about the baby. Be interested in her, and what her day is like,” recommends Dr. Brann. Even if you are tremendously different people, “find one thing and focus and build the relationship on that.” Writing a letter of appreciation is another helpful tactic. Express your admiration and tell her what she means to you, without asking for anything in return.

Don’t forget: Turnabout is fair play.

In addition to engaging your daughter or daughter-in-law more, you should examine your own behavior, “because there’s probably something you’re doing that she’s reacting to.” Perhaps she’s misinterpreting your baby advice as disapproval of her parenting, or thinks your cleaning offer means you believe she’s a poor housekeeper. When you pinpoint a possible trigger, quietly change your ways. “The reason is, when you change your behavior, they can’t respond the same way. It just doesn’t fit,” says Dr. Brann. It’s a confrontation-free way of improving relations. “It’s more subtle, it’s non-threatening, and it’s just easier for both people.”

What Not to Do

If you want to reduce emotional distance, it’s crucial to avoid certain negative behaviors, the biggest of which is playing victim. “It’s easy to be the victim, but you really have to get yourself out of that victim perspective, because it will not help you,” says Dr. Brann, who believes that empowerment is key. “Changing your behavior is about empowering yourself.”

Another classic error: raising a ruckus when you’re not getting the relationship you want. “The way we do it is usually wrong and we end up creating a bigger mess,” says Dr. Brann. Though it’s not suggested, if you feel you absolutely mustair your feelings to your daughter or daughter-in-law, do so calmly and non-judgmentally: “You have to be very careful, and you have to be willing to not get defensive, rationalize, or explain—just listen to her perspective.”

Finally, never, ever give up. “MILs give up too soon and throw up their hands in the air,” says Dr. Brann. “Always keep trying. You might just have to try different things.” Because when it comes to your grandchildren, communication is a lifelong effort.

When Grandparents Divorce

SOURCE:  Susan Newman, Ph.D./

Divorce may be common, but that doesn’t make it any easier to tell grandchildren about yours.

Since the 1960s, we’ve all watched divorce “morph,” as Newsweek put it in a 2008 cover story, “from something shocking, even shameful, into a routine fact of American life.”  Today, half of all American grandchildren have at least one set of divorced grandparents, reports Merril Silverstein, a University of Southern California sociologist who specializes in family and intergenerational relations.

If you and your spouse are getting divorced, and have already completed the wrenching task of telling your adult children, then it’s time to sit down for a talk with your grandchildren. You need to break the news that the grandparents they’ve always known as a twosome are splitting up. Since the odds are that your grandchildren probably already have friends with divorced parents or grandparents, the news might not be devastating to them. But it may still come as a shock. And as much as you may be tempted to pass the job of telling the kids to your son or daughter, your grandchildren deserve to hear the news directly from you — and ideally, from both you and your estranged spouse, if at all possible.

Do’s and Don’ts

* Choose a calm, unrushed time to talk with the children, preferably on a day when you have a few hours to spare with them.

* When you have your talk, don’t try to gloss over the situation or pretend there won’t be changes in their lives. Children can tell when something is not “right” — and when you’re not being entirely honest with them.

* It’s a good idea to have the children’s parents in the room with you to show family solidarity and to help you answer whatever questions the children might have.

* Be prepared for older grandchildren to ask questions about the possibility of grandma or grandpa having new relationships. Always give honest responses, without going into details you’re not comfortable discussing.

* Don’t bash your ex, or soon-to-be ex, no matter how furious you may be. That person is still your grandchild’s grandparent and your son or daughter’s parent, and you should want to preserve those relationships — as well as your own — by avoiding negativity.

* Try to keep your emotions in check. If a grandchild asks if you are unhappy, admit that you are, but avoid expressing bitterness or anger. Let your son or daughter take over the conversation if it becomes too difficult for you.

What to Say

Keep your explanations as brief and simple as possible, and put them in terms appropriate for your grandchildren’s ages:

Grandpa/grandma and I have decided to live apart. It’s no one’s fault. We both love you dearly, and we will always be your grandparents. You can call either one of us anytime if you need to, just like before.

Grandchildren may be worried that they are going to lose one or both of you because of the divorce. Address those concerns — whether or not they raise them — by reassuring them that, “You will see both of us as much as always,” if that’s the truth, “but we won’t visit you together.” Or if your former spouse is moving away, tell the children, “Grandpa/grandma is moving, so you will see him/her a little less. But you and I will continue to do all the fun things we have always done.”

Ask your grandchildren if they have questions for you, but be prepared in advance to answer some of the most likely ones, such as:

Why did you divorce?
What does it mean for me?
Will Mommy and Daddy get divorced too?

When you’re finished talking, remind the children that they can ask you other questions whenever they need to.

Moving On

Stay out of your ex’s relationship with the grandchildren. If you ever interfere at all, it should only be to encourage your ex to be more involved with his or her grandchildren. Similarly, you should always accept invitations to family gatherings even if your ex is going to be there. Drum up the fortitude to keep things as close to “normal,” at least for an afternoon, if that’s what your adult children request of you. It may be difficult initially to be at the same celebrations, but you’ll find ways to enjoy yourself with your grandchildren.

The bottom line is that your bond with your grandchildren remains unchanged. You will still be the doting relative and backup support system they’ve always known. You’ll continue to make the pancakes they love or work with them in the yard or complete puzzles together. And by remaining as present as ever in the lives of your children and grandchildren, you reinforce your love, encouragement, and enthusiasm for everything they do. Some things simply don’t change, no matter what.

Parenting: Dealing With Toddler Behaviors

SOURCE:  Julie Revelant/Fox News

Although the toddler years are some of the most exciting for both you and your child, as he continues to learn and develop, those trying behaviors can be tiring for any mom.

It’s not just the terrible two’s that are tough. If you’ve got a threenager on your hands, you know the behaviors can be even worse.

Take heed: This too shall pass. And in the meantime, experts say there are some simple solutions to help you deal with some of the most troubling toddler behaviors.

1. Whining
“Whining is an expression of frustration or anger,” said Dr. Tovah P. Klein, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development in New York City and author of “How Toddlers Thrive.”

Yet if you react with annoyance or tell your child to stop, the negative attention will only perpetuate the behavior. Plus, it can make your child feel ashamed.

“The child is trying to communicate something and the parent is essentially putting them down,” Klein said. Whining can also increase if you’re ignoring your child because your attention is elsewhere.

Instead, label and acknowledge your child’s feelings: “You’re angry because you can’t play with the toy,” and chances are, the whining will stop.

2. Meltdowns and tantrums.
It’s normal for toddlers to cry, kick, hold their breath and throw themselves on the floor—it’s a sign that they’re overwhelmed.

“They’ve been flooded by emotion so you can’t reason with them at all,” Klein said.

One way to avoid tantrums is to reduce the triggers you know will set your toddler off like bringing him to a crowded place when he’s missed a nap. Your toddler already feels out of control so instead of scolding him, label his feelings, bring him to a quiet place to calm down and give him a hug so he feels loved and supported.

3. Saying “no.”
When your toddler tells you “no,” she’s not trying to be mean or rude. It’s really her way of saying “I’m my own person,” Klein said.  Toddlers want to feel like they have a say in what happens. So acknowledge that she doesn’t want to get dressed, and then let her choose between her pink or purple shirt, for example.

Sometimes your child may just need space, so leaving the room and telling her you’re ready when she is, can help.
“Walking away says ‘I trust you to do the right thing,’” said Janet Lansbury, author of “No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame.”

4. Hitting, pushing, kicking and biting
Whether your child feels overwhelmed or wants a toy, aggressive behaviors happen because of some kind of discomfort, Lansbury said. And because toddlers are impulsive— when they get upset, they react.

If your child is angry, label it for him and then allow him to stomp his feet or hit a teddy bear instead.

Sometimes aggressive behavior may even be your child’s way of saying “Hi” to another child. So you can model how to wave or give a hug.

If the behaviors are persistent, your child might be doing it for attention, especially if he’s being scolded. Try to model the appropriate behavior and if you need to pull him away, use the same gentle hands you want him to use.

5. A lack of patience
Wanting everything now is normal behavior because toddlers’ brains are not yet capable of waiting.  Yet learning to do so will help your child handle frustration, cooperate in school and tackle a challenging situation later on in life.

“Learning how to handle emotions and control those impulses come from being able to delay gratification. But it’s a slow process,” Klein said.

So instead of reprimanding your child, if your child demands that you help him with a puzzle now, be empathic and delay even if for just a few seconds. Wait longer and longer each time, and eventually he’ll become more patient.

6. Bad manners
Having a hard time getting your child to use please and thank you? Keep trying.

“These behaviors come much later for children,” Klein said.

The best way to teach your child manners is to model them yourself. So if you’re polite to your child, your spouse and others, eventually he’ll pick it up too. Plus, having dinner together at home as a family will teach your child dinner etiquette when you’re in a restaurant or at someone else’s house.

7. Interrupting
Your child doesn’t need your attention 24/7 but if she interrupts your conversations, chances are she’s feeling rejected way too often. Experts say one of the most common reasons is technology.  So try to put limits on checking email and address what your child needs. Sometimes it may just be eye contact, a hug, or a quick story.


Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women’s issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at

40 Sweet Memories Mothers Long to Relive

SOURCE:  Tracey Eyster/Family Life

If you are a mom of little children, I know you are weary. But I wonder if you might, for just a moment, imagine what it will be like when your littles are big.

Oh, I know you long for that day and the freedom you imagine it will afford. And yes, there are new-found freedoms when our children are older, but you will also find that you yearn for the special moments of their early years.

For some strange reason, as I sit here, I have been swept up in a wave of longing … for the old familiar, for the sweet memories of days gone by.  Uncomplicated, sweet, daily, seemingly inconsequential and un-magnificent little wisps of wonder with little ones that can easily go unappreciated.

Memories like:

1. Sweet sleeping noises over an intercom.

2. Nightly baths and the “get ready for bed” togetherness routine.

3. Creating masterpieces with sidewalk chalk.

4. Reading the same book over and over and over and over and over.

5. That wee little face that lights up when I walk into a room.

6. “Can I have a glass of water?” (Really, I miss it!)

7. Waking up to someone crawling in bed with us.

8. Matchbox cars being driven up my legs and parked on my belly.

9. Having dozens of hair bows lovingly placed in my hair.

10. Joining in on a pots and pans band!

11. Making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

12. Washing their hair.

13. Blowing bubbles … lots and lots of bubbles.

14. Frequently-lavished butterfly kisses, accompanied by a very close up, soft, ear tickling whisper: “I love you so so much, Mama!”

15. Going on long walks while dodging a big wheel and a small bike.

16. Washing tiny dishes.

17. Having little forks and spoons in the cutlery drawer.

18. Sippy cups.

19. Working puzzles … lots of puzzles.

20. Coloring.

21. Playing hide and go seek.

22. Bringing home stacks of books from the library.

23. Being told how “adorable” my children are.

24. Washing and folding tiny little socks, shorts, shirts, blankies – all of it, really.

25. Hearing nightly “Now I lay me down to sleep…”

26. Cuddling on the couch and watching Tom and Jerry cartoons.

27. Building towers tall.

28. Little hands trying hard to tie little shoes.

29. Shrieks when Daddy pulls into the driveway.

30. Messy beds that can’t quite be made up just right.

31. “Mom, can we snuggle?”

32. Playing peek a boo, repeatedly!

33. Messy linen closets.

34. Arts and crafts.

35. After doing our errands, going to the toy store – just for fun!

36. Kissing boo boos.

37. Hearing, “I did it by my big self!”

38. Little hands folded in prayer.

39. Cherub lips that freely give kisses.

40. Belly laughs and endless giggles.

Heavy sigh.

Moms … enjoy every moment and be filled with gratitude for the gift of mom life.

We really do have the best ever fringe benefits!


The Dangers of Fighting Around Kids

SOURCE:  Andrea Atkins/

How you handle squabbles and manage disagreements has a direct effect on kids’ behavior.

Some families believe they should never fight “in front of the kids.” Others could care less, letting loose with stinging invectives whenever a disagreement erupts. It turns out that neither style of conflict resolution is very good for children’s emotional development.

“Conflict and anger are not bad,” says Patrick T. Davies, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, and co-author with E. Mark Cummings, of Martial Conflict and Children: An Emotional Security Perspective. “It’s OK to be angry, as long as it’s managed in a constructive way and the parents are making some progress toward resolution. In those cases, there’s value to anger, and there’s meaning in it. It’s good when kids see parents manage that and work together as a team to increase or maintain family harmony.”

But when families fight in an unpredictable way—when conflict arises out of seemingly innocent mistakes or small disagreements—kids suffer. Name-calling, door slamming, stony silence, one-upmanship, or aggressive physical actions threaten kids security, can have lasting and serious effects, and can color the whole family’s dynamic.

When parents fight that way, says Davies, kids spend so much time watching and worrying about their family members that their development may be affected. They can’t focus on the business of childhood: playing, learning, and exploring. In fact, those who grow up with constant fighting may develop lasting symptoms that include:

  • Clinginess
  • Belligerence
  • Sleeplessness (and tiredness during the day)
  • A habit of playing loudly to drown out the noise of yelling and screaming
  • Stomach aches
  • Headaches
  • Uptick in anxious behaviors: nail-biting, finger sucking, hair pulling and twirling

These same kids also spend less time with their parents because battling spouses don’t have the energy left to take care of their kids. And they often aren’t very nice to their children. “There’s something called anger spillover,” Davies explains. “When the parents fight, there’s a tendency for residual anger, stress, and preoccupation to spill over into their relationship with their kids. For many kids, conflict is a reliable precursor to their parents being in bad moods.”

Be sure that you are not exposing kids to toxic fighting by sticking to these guidelines:

Limit expressions of intense anger: “It may be difficult not to yell at times, but try to keep yelling to a minimum so it is rarely expressed in your conflicts,” Davies says. And when you have to yell, make an effort to make up with your partner, that way your kids will see harmony or affection in the face of disagreement.

Fight fair: Look at each other and, if possible, sit down, since standing fights seem more aggressive and threatening to children. Avoid the silent treatment, slamming doors, or walking out on your partner, since those actions are seen, especially by children, as signs of anger or disrespect, Davies says. Avoid name-calling and vicious language.

Stay in the moment: Don’t bring into each fight perceived wrongs from disagreements past.

Don’t try to be right: Try to reach a compromise or a solution. Doing that is much better than arguing about who is “right.” “Try to generate possible solutions that will work for both of you rather than going into the conflict with the mentality that you have to win the argument,” advises Davies. Demonstrate that you understand your partner’s perspective. You can nod your head, say, “I see,” or offer other non-verbal cues. If possible, repeat back to your partner your understanding of his or her viewpoint.

Avoid the Silent Treatment: “Kids pick up on nonverbal anger—even pre-schoolers do. And in some cases, that’s more distressing that mild verbal anger,” says Davies. “Kids can’t process it. They don’t know what is going on, but they know something is not right…it sets off a smoke alarm in their heads—they know something is wrong, and it becomes a bigger deal to them than maybe it really is.”

Sometimes agree to disagree: Sometimes there really is no resolution, but being able to acknowledge differences and move on sets a good example for kids, according to Davies. Instead of seeking to be right, seek to be heard in an argument, and let the other person know that you have also heard what he or she has said.

Talk to your grandchild: Sometimes big shouting matches do occur. Once they’ve passed, you can casually reassure your grandchild that the disagreement is over and all is back to normal. Warning: Don’t make that assurance if it’s not true.

“That’s critical,” Davies says. “You can say everything’s OK now as long as you’re not holding a grudge. If it’s not going back to normal the kids will see that and be confused by what you say.”

Kids who grow up around fighting tend to learn destructive tactics when it comes to resolving conflict in their own lives, Davies says. So before you explode at your spouse, realize that he or she is not the only one hearing it.

Parenting: “SOMEDAY . . . . . .”

SOURCE:  Dennis Rainey/Family Life Ministry

A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
Ecclesiastes 3:2

A number of years ago, while our house was still bursting with teenagers, I mused on what life would be like when they were gone. Here is part of what I wrote:

Someday when the teens are gone, our car insurance payments will once again be smaller than our house payments. There won’t be any more white-knuckled rides, arguing about how fast is too fast or how close is too close.

Certain sounds won’t echo in our home–sounds of hair spray, squeals of delight over a new boyfriend, the sound of doors being slammed in a fit of anger or our teen boys wrestling upstairs. Windows won’t reverberate and bulge with bass notes coming from CD songs that no one understands the words to.

Gone will be the dishes in the sink, the help for Saturday chores, discussions about whether a movie is acceptable or not, Bible studies on the book of Proverbs before school, late night knocks on our bedroom door letting us know that someone is home from a ball game. The telephone will occasionally ring for us for a change.

But there will be memories … memories of fireside chats, grilled burgers, Dad’s French toast, Mom’s eggs on toast, fishing and hunting trips, vacations, cats, dates with Mom, dates with Dad, more cats, breakfast in bed on birthdays, and prayers–yes, prayers by the thousands that have been offered up on their behalf.

So in the end, our home won’t be empty. Instead, in the words of Bob Benson, “Every room, every corner of the house, every nick in the coffee table will be crowded with memories.”

And Barbara and I will “sit quietly by the fire and listen to the laughter in the walls.”

Grand-parenting: The 10 Things You Don’t Say to Parents But Should

  • Here are ten things to say to your adult children that will support them as they grow into the role of parent, just as you adjust to being the grandparent

  • Take a positive spin

    The shift from being the parent to becoming a grandparent takes a major adjustment most of us never anticipate. It’s so easy to offer advice based on our years of experience raising children. It’s so easy to see what our adult children don’t. But we can get so focused on giving advice and telling them what they’re doing wrong, that we forget to tell them what they’re doing right. There’s nothing like positive reinforcement.

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    I respect how you’re raising your kids.

    You may not do things the way I did, but it’s a different world today, especially given the state of the economy and all the pressures on young families. (Now could you please stop making fun of me for not being able to buckle the kids into their car seats or collapse the stroller!)
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    Please, let me do the dishes!

    Or the laundry! Or change the baby’s diaper, then make dinner! I’m here to help!
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    Don’t worry; you’re wonderful parents.

    We all make mistakes sometimes—as I know only too well. So what if you let your daughter eat cupcakes for dinner every now and then? There were times when I let you run barefoot in the freezing cold and eat ice cream for breakfast—and you should have heard my mother! (And, true story, once I put fresh kibble in my son’s bowl in an attempt to cure his habit of eating out of the dog’s dish. It worked.)
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    Your children are wonderful.

    All kids go through difficult stages—you did, and look how fantastic you turned out!
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    I’m here if you need me.

    I realize that you’re up on all the latest information about childhood safety, diet, education, and health, which is different than back in my day. I trust that if you want my advice or opinion, you’ll ask for it.
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    All parents feel insecure sometimes …

    … especially with their first child. Parenting is an art that can only be learned on the job, no matter how many books you read or experts you consult. You know your child better than anyone. Just know that I’m here for you and if you ever want the benefit of my experience, say the word.
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    I promise to follow your rules …

    … as much as humanly possible. That means, I’ll feed the kids according to your instructions, limit the treats, make sure they do their homework, then get them to bed on time. And I absolutely swear I won’t start feeding the baby solids without your permission.
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    I support your decisions.

    You’re an intelligent, responsible adult with a good head on your shoulders, and I know that you think everything through carefully. If you want my opinion, I know you’ll ask for it. (You cannot repeat this often enough.)
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    It’s a privilege …

    … and an honor to be allowed to spend time with your children, because I know how much you love them and want to protect them. Thank you for putting your faith and trust in me.
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    I know I’m no longer the boss.

    It is strange, especially at first, to be the grandparent and not the parent. The truth is, becoming a grandparent takes almost as much on-the-job training as becoming a parent. Please forgive my mistakes and know that I’m doing my best to support you and love your children.————————————————————————————————————————————SOURCE:

    Barbara Graham, a columnist, is the editor of the anthology, Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother.

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