The Blessing (for Parents and Grandparents)
For years, whenever I heard someone refer to “the blessing,” I thought it might be some weird ritual. I know that Old Testament patriarchs on their deathbeds often offered a special blessing to their children and grandchildren. I don’t think we grandparents have to wait for the deathbed to do it. I think bringing security and honor to our grandkids by showering them with blessings is a natural part of what it means to be a grandparent and to keep the positive legacy alive by passing it from generation to generation. The Kimmels say that every child is born with three key needs:
- A secure love
- A significant purpose
- A sufficient hope 
Often the best thing for a child who is compromising their values and longing for acceptance is to have a grandparent believe in them and accept them with unconditional love. The biblical blessing is the greatest way to bring out the best in our grandkids. Children typically struggle in the absence of the blessing of love, affirmation, belief, and celebration. When this blessing is withheld, unmet needs for security and acceptance eat away at the core of their lives. It’s quite possible you might not have had a sense of blessing from your parents, but your kids and grandkids can know an incredible sense of security and honor. Here are four ways you can influence your grandchildren by offering blessings to them.
- Speak the Blessing
Your words have great power with your grandchildren. Your tongue can bless your grandkids with words of affirmation and strength. The writer of the book of Proverbs says, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Prov. 18:21). You can speak words of life to your grandkids that can transform them. Your words of blessing can heal wounds. At the end of her life, my mom’s last words to me were, “Jimmy, I love you, and I’m proud of you.” I will gratefully live with that blessing for the rest of my life. When you liberally praise your children and your children’s children, you give them a gift that is beyond measure.
- Believe the Blessing
The power of showing belief in your children and grandchildren may be more important than just using words. Don’t forget that the difference between kids who make it and kids who don’t is often just one caring adult. A young person’s identity and healthy self-image are wrapped up not only in what they believe about themselves but also in how others view them. Even when a child has strayed from your values and made poor choices, one of the major questions they are quietly asking is, “Do you still love me?”
A friend of mine who grew up with a speech impediment and learning challenges had a grandfather who was the constant in his life and kept believing in him. His grandfather would ask, “What are your dreams?” And then the grandfather would say, “I believe you can do that. You have the power within yourself, and you are a child of God.” Today that friend is a well-known psychologist who helps kids with learning issues thrive. Authorities tell us that the healthiest and most successful kids are the ones who have someone believing in them and cheering them on.
- Be the Blessing
You are a role model to your grandchildren. When they are young, they will imitate your behaviors, and as they grow older, they will take on some of your values. Life is messy, and sometimes, just like us, kids will wander from the path, but one of the most effective ways to bring them back is through your modeling integrity. There is great truth in this proverb: “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely.” If you walk with integrity, you will be more secure, and likewise your grandkids will experience more security as well. When you realize you are a role model, you are a step closer to understanding that a part of your job description as a grandparent is to find ways to mentor your grandchildren. It comes as a surprise to many grandparents that, after parents, grandparents have the most influence on kids’ lives, but it’s time to embrace that fact and be a mentor to your grandkids.
When you are being a mentor and a role model, you are leaving clear tracks for your grandkids to follow. When I was young, my parents and my grandma would take me to the beach to play in the sand and swim. As we walked along the edge of the ocean, I would put my feet inside my parents’ and grandma’s footprints. It was a fun game, but later I realized it was a strong metaphor for following the way of my parents and grandma. We don’t have to be perfect to be a blessing. Kids understand that we all miss the mark. What they want is someone to be a leader in their lives, an authentic leader they can follow. That sounds like a sacred and grand calling for any grandparent.
- Celebrate the Blessing
My mother had a wonderful philosophy: celebrate everything. And of course, with this kind of attitude she was the favorite grandma, the favorite mother-in-law, the favorite friend. Part of giving your grandkids a blessing is celebrating their milestones and rites of passage. Just show up and be ready to have fun. Many other cultures do a more effective job than ours at celebrating rites of passage and milestones. In our home, we make birthdays a big thing. We always celebrate with a terrific, fun meal, and then we play a game of “affirmation bombardment,” where each family member says three good and affirming things about the birthday person. It’s fun, meaningful, sometimes emotional, and always well received. It turns out to be a huge blessing.
My friend Jeremy Lee and I wrote a book called Pass It On,  in which we give parents and grandparents ideas to celebrate various rites of passage for kids from kindergarten through high school graduation. You can use it to cheer your grandchildren on and bless them by being present, either in person or digitally, for any milestone—graduating from a grade, getting a driver’s license, and even reaching puberty. Yes, I know a family who actually celebrated puberty with each of their kids. That might sound strange, but it’s not just about body changes but about entering a new phase of life. When our girls were eleven years old, Cathy took each one on an overnight trip, bought them an outfit, had a fun meal, and then read a short book with them about changes that were taking place in their bodies and in their relationships. When they turned sixteen, I was their first date, and we had a similar experience. These were markers in their lives that made lifelong positive memories. Grandparents can do the same types of things. James and I are planning our first trip to one of my speaking engagements. Charlotte and I have a date this summer for a day trip to an amusement park. These experiences make forever memories, and your grandkids will later look at them as blessings in their lives.
As you can see, a blessing for your grandkids can come in all types of forms. When you bless your grandchildren, you bring happiness to them by, in one way or another, invoking God’s favor on them. A blessing is a gift of your time, energy, wisdom, and resources to shower them with your love and the love of God. For me, the exercise of bestowing blessings on my grandchildren has a spiritual dynamic. It’s passing on the legacy of faith from generation to generation. This is my one of my major goals. How about you?
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.
 Kimmel and Kimmel, Extreme Grandparenting, 84.
 Jim Burns and Jeremy Lee, Pass It On: Building a Legacy of Faith for Your Children through Practical and Memorable Experiences (Colorado Springs: Cook, 2015).