Have you seen the bumper sticker that says, “We’re spending our children’s inheritance”? Parents committed to Scripture should change that slogan to: “Our children are our inheritance” (see Psalm 127:3 KJV). This applies equally to grandparenting. We receive grandchildren from the Lord as an inheritance, and we give them back to our family, church, and community to fulfill their calling—God’s plan for their lives. In both our receiving and our giving, our children and grandchildren are our inheritance.
Another popular cliché says, “Children don’t come with a user’s manual.” But this is not true for Christians. We have a manual for all of life. Scripture speaks clearly to the roles of parents and grandparents.
What grandparents do should be an outcome of who they are.
By God’s design, they are grandparents. But this is not just a role; it is a relationship. Ideally, the grandparents must be committed to Jesus Christ, first and foremost. This need not mean they must be pastors or other vocational ministry workers. Rather, it means they must be deeply committed to their grandchildren and seek to have a spiritual impact on their hearts and lives. Given that spiritual priority, what are some ways that grandparents can act on these commitments?
1. Start with the basics.
Raise your grandchild “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Some will object, saying that this is the work of parents alone. But that is the point. Your supportive role as a grandparent of a child with a disability largely entails supporting the work of the parents and encouraging both the parents and your grandchildren in the Lord.
2. Continue what you have begun.
Grandparenting a child with a disability began when you first formed relationships with the child’s parents (your child and his or her spouse) and set the tone for working together. That may have gone well. On the other hand, you may be starting out your grandparenting role with relational deficits.
If you are at odds with your child and his or her spouse, you will find it challenging to be an effective grandparent. God expects believers to take the necessary steps toward reconciliation and healing (Matthew 5:23–24; Romans 12:18). Just as your automobile needs a front-end alignment in order for you to be able to steer it properly, so you may need to focus first on biblical family alignment before your grandparenting role is well received. What better time than now to make these adjustments and corrections?
3. Improve at grandparenting.
Before you attempt to be a good grandparent of a child with a disability, first strive just to be a good grandparent. Individuals who are struggling with being a good grandparent in general will find it more difficult or confusing to grandparent a child with a disability. For this reason, the lessons drawn out in the first chapter will guide you toward becoming a better grandparent.
4. Prepare for the stresses that accompany disability.
Here moms and dads may respond differently. Moms often become so consumed with caring for a child with a disability that they find it more difficult to be a good spouse. Dads find intensive childcare confusing and daunting. Therefore, support both parents.
5. Provide for your children and grandchildren.
Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children.” Although your family will appreciate any financial gifts you give them, the greatest provision for your grandchildren will not be material wealth, but biblical wealth or instruction. Leaving your grandchild with a godly example to remember is a priceless gift. However, financial help still plays a significant role in making the lives of grandchildren better, particularly grandchildren with disabilities.
6. Bless your grandchildren.
A blessing is a wish in the form of a prayer. For example, Genesis 31:55 says of Laban: “Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.” Laban realized he might never see them again. That made this prayer extra special. Imagine praying for your children and grandchildren as they go off to the mission field, not knowing if you will ever see them again. This kind of prayer summons God to bless them based on his covenant-keeping faithfulness.
The following suggestions about how you can be a blessing to your grandchild with a disability may be worth considering:
- » With disability, always put the child first, not the disability. But do so without creating a child-centered family. The disability is what God has allowed; but the child is the inheritance that God has given.
- » Lead your family, friends, and acquaintances in how they should treat your grandchild. If they feel awkward at first, they won’t after getting to know your grandchild.
- » Redirect the sadness of disability toward the joy of heaven. This may be difficult at first. But those who thrive with a child with a disability are those who see God’s glass for their lives as being half-full. The alternative perspective (half-empty) is very harmful, even if no one intends to be gloomy.