Online Course

SESSION 6: The Other Relationships

Doing Life With Adult Children

We will take a look at some of the ways to have a vibrant relationship not just with your adult child, but with the people they bring into the picture.

We’re back with another session Of Doing Life With Your Adult Children. In session six, Jim will be discussing the other aspects of relationship when it comes to being a part of your adult child’s life. From in-laws to blended families and the exciting adventure of becoming grandparents, your role as a parent is broadening and deepening all at the same time. Let’s take a look at some of the ways to have a vibrant relationship, not just with your adult child, but with the people that they bring into the picture.

Well, the first principle that we’re going to deal with today always makes me smile for some reason. It’s a good rule to live by,, and it’s principle number eight and it says this. Wear beige and keep your mouth shut.

Now, here’s where I learned this. A woman who I know and love, she is the mother of a son who was getting married, and I have all daughters, so I said, “So, what do you do as the mother of the groom?” She just kind of smiled. She said, “Well, my job is to wear beige and keep my mouth shut.” I loved it, because actually if we could do that with in-laws, in a blended family situation, with the exes, with all the complications that so many of our families have, it would be much, much better.

What I want to do, and this is an oversimplification, but what I want to do is give you some definite do’s and some definite don’ts. Okay? Let’s start with some don’ts. Don’t criticize. It’s so easy to criticize, but don’t criticize. Don’t criticize the in-laws. Don’t criticize the girlfriend. Don’t criticize the boyfriend. Don’t criticize your kid’s parenting if they have children. Don’t criticize how they treat your son or daughter. Really just don’t criticize anything.

It’s again, keeping our mouth shut is better. Now, if you need to have a conversation, have a conversation with a safe person, but not necessarily with them. Your job is to honor your child by honoring those in-laws, by honoring the exes, by honoring them even if they’re not honorable. But at the same time, I’m not saying that’s an easy thing to do, but it really is the job.

Now, the truth is it’s not about you in this situation. It’s actually about your child, and so when you’re looking at the adult child, you don’t have to like the in-laws. You don’t have to agree with them. Your job again is to honor your child by honoring those in-laws. It’s what I said just a moment ago. You didn’t choose those in-laws, so you don’t really have much to say about a lot of those things, but you can still be caring and loving to them.

Here’s what you do. I think you do support big time. You offer support in so many ways. You offer a support for your child’s marriage. Maybe it wasn’t the person that you thought they should marry, but they did, and it’s too late now, so what you’re going to do is offer support for them. Be their greatest cheerleader. Support the grandkids. Support the in laws. And I’m not just talking about finances. I’m saying support.

I said to a woman one time, she was getting blocked by her daughter-in-law. She didn’t have the access that she wanted with her son or with the grandkids. I said, “Your access to your son, your access to your is through their spouse, and then maybe even through the rest of the family. Go after them. Spend time with them. Build relationship with them. You’ve had relationships that weren’t great and they became great, and it was because you put energy and interest in this.”

Well, speaking of grandchildren, let’s talk about this final principle. Being a grandparent may be your greatest legacy. I didn’t think much about that until now I’m a grandparent, and I love this, but I also am very aware that there is great legacy issues here. It’s exciting and there’s a responsibility, but there’s also an incredible joy. Taking this position that it may be your greatest legacy can be a powerful shift in your relationship with your kids, and with your family, and frankly with your own legacy.

As a parent, it’s different, but as a grandparent, you have the privilege of furthering God’s kingdom through a legacy with your grandchildren, that you leave with your grandchildren. I see that everyday with my James and my Charlotte, and who knows, there’ll be some more coming along the way sometime. Well, whether you are near or you are far, I mean you can be a fully engaged grandparent. I think that’s the goal.

What’s the best way to do it? Well, you do it their way. You still have to let go of control, and this is when you have to know when to keep your mouth shut. In many sense, you’re reinventing your relationship with your kids as you become a grandparent. That’s personalized. That’s happened for me. But stay connected. Attend every event you can. If your grandkids … We’re fortunate that our grandkids live by us, so we’ll be at every event we possibly can be. If not, we could be the digital friend. But I’m saying to grandparents, stay connected. Stay connected with the kids. Stay connected with your own children and kind of cheer them on.

Also if you’re near, be the chief babysitter. Make it easy. We said to our kids, they came back … We actually have some kids and grandkids living in our home right now. We said, “Okay, when’s your date night? If you are going to do a date night, we’ll babysit.” Well, they were like, “Oh, thank you so much.” Well, it’s actually a joy for us. Okay.

You can do that, and you can stay connected. Be that kind of a grandparent. Don’t be the grandparent that just gives socks and underwear at Christmas and says, “There you go.”

To close, let me give you a few ideas that I think you can really make it to become kind of more of the party time grandparent and your grandkids will appreciate it, and I think your kids will too. Here’s some fun grandparent ideas that I’ve just collected all these different ideas, and I’ve gotten these from things we do, I’ve gotten things from things that some of our friends do.

One is a Sunday morning breakfast, and actually this is us. We started early. We started doing these Sunday morning breakfast before church, because our kids kind of didn’t want to go to church all the time. We said, “Well, we’re going to go to breakfast first,” and my kids would get up. They loved it, so we’ve developed this. Well, even our grandkids now are like, “Wow, we have family time. This is great.” It’s cost me thousands of dollars. I mean I hadn’t planned on spending all this kind of money, but truly the Sunday morning breakfast is a great idea.

As a family, I copied this from other people, but we actually do a yearly trip now. Now, it doesn’t have to be an expensive trip. I know people who camp. It could be a weekend. It could be a week. We just got back from a week together with a family, and we have some expectations on finances and when we have a meal and when we don’t. To bring the whole family together once a year, that’s actually almost a miracle if you have grandkids who are teenagers involved in sports, and dance, and all those kinds of things, but it’s a great idea, and it really is a way of bringing them together.

I know another one family, a couple of families who do this. They have cousins camp. They actually give their children and the in-laws a chance to get away, and they bring all the cousins together. What a neat thing to do. They play, they eat junk food, they call it cousins camp, and they just have a blast. Even the older grandkids of this one family I know, they still want to be a part of it with even some younger ones because it’s so special to them. Plus, they’re getting spoiled like crazy for the weekend, or for the week, or whenever they do it. Typically it’s a weekend.

I think you also make birthdays a big deal. In our family, what we’ve really done is made that a bigger deal. I mentioned don’t be the grandparent who just gives socks and underwear, but celebrate. It doesn’t have to be fancy gifts, but make birthdays a big deal. We started kind of doing what we call affirmation bombardment with our family. At each birthday, we have a dinner, we kind of have a nicer meal, and then we affirm them. Well, now we’re beginning to do that. We just did it with James, our three year old grandson, and he was like so happy. It wasn’t like we were saying things that you would say to an adult. It was what you’d say to a three year old, but it’s a big deal. Birthdays are a big deal.

I know a family that does Sunday night, every Sunday night. I mean this is a task, and they love it. All of the family lives together, or not lives together, but they live near each other, and on Sunday nights they just sort of open up their home, the mom and the dad do. Somebody’s going to bring homemade pizza, and somebody else is going to bring a pie from a local store or something, and they just sort of eat whatever’s there, and they just enjoy each other’s company. The only request that they have is if more people are coming, call us and let us know. But they just leave it laid back. Wow. I mean, I want that in my life. I want my kids to be actually excited to come, and I want the grandkids to kind of be able to run around. Some families do taco Tuesday, but celebrate at any chance.

Then I have this one couple, Randy and Susan Bramel, and at age 12 they take each grandchild on a very special trip. I think this is the neatest thing. They talk about it. They plan it together. It has some funding that it’s going to cost them because it’s something kind of special. I just think that’s one of the greatest things. They have this amazing experience at age 12 with a grandchild where they go on a vacation together. I think that’s wonderful.

My grandma, her name was NeeNee because we couldn’t say grandma. She was about 4-foot-11 by 4-foot-11 and totally a character. I mean, she honestly cussed like a sailor, but she was the most loving, caring person. She was the party. She would show up and we had a party. My mom then began to imitate my grandma. I don’t think she cussed like my grandma, but she was what we really called the party time grandma. After my mom died, and as I started moving into this new area, I went, “I want to be the party time grandpa.”

Party time isn’t just always all fun and lights and whatnot, but sometimes what we need to understand is that we have such a profound influence on our kids, in their life, in their legacy, spiritually, in so many different ways. I am definitely aware now, looking back, that my greatest legacy may come through my grandchildren, and so the question I would have to anyone who has grandchildren or who is going to have grandchildren is, how about you? Are you leaning into this? Because if you are, you’re making a difference from generation to generation.


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If you have an adult child, you know that parenting doesn't stop when a child reaches the age of eighteen. In many ways, it gets more complicated. Both your heart and your head are as involved as ever, whether your child lives under your roof or rarely stays in contact.

In this online course, parenting expert Jim Burns helps you navigate the toughest and the most rewarding parts of parenting your grown kids.

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