Child #1: What I like about my grandparents is that grandma makes me Little House on the Prairie dresses and helps me with my embroidery.
Child #2: We had a lot of fun at the farm, and we had so many fun, like water gun fights.
Child #3: I like it when they become, because I got to eat lots of food that we usually don’t get to eat.
Child #4: I love my grandparents.
End of Preview
John Fuller: Oh, those are some precious statements from kids about their grandparents. And I really like that. We have so many fun comments that really, uh, does capture-
Jim Daly: [inaudible] and fights (laughs),
Jim: That’s good.
John: Those capture some of the best parts of grandparenting. And we’re gonna talk about that today on Focus on the Family with your host Focus, president Jim Daly, I’m John Fuller, and Jim, as those kids were speaking, I was thinking about, uh, going to my grandparent’s farm in South Dakota. And I- I remember, uh, all sorts of days exploring and playing scrabble with my grandma and-
John: … shooting a 22 with my grandfather out of the back of a pickup truck. Lot of rich memories that I’m gonna hold onto for life.
Jim: That sounds like fun, and you know, we had the same for Trent and Troy they’ll have the memory of being with Jean’s dad, their grandfather, and going to the donut shop there in Southern California. That was a routine. And they still talk about that today. One of the warm memories they have. You know, grandparenting can be really fun. Uh, that’s what grandparents do, but they do so much more than that, and today we’re going to discuss how you, as a grandparent can get closer to your grandkids for all kinds of good reasons, including spiritual and emotional development. We’ll also address how to manage that with your adult children as well.
John: Yeah, and as we do this, we’re returning to a conversation that we recorded a while back with Cheri Fuller and she is passionate about grandparenting. Uh, she’s a speaker, she’s written 45 books and is the executive director of the OK Messages Project, which helps the children of prisoners and so pretty much her whole life is about kids. One of the books that Cheri has written is called Connect with Your Grandkids: Fun Ways to Bridge the Miles. It includes hundreds of great ideas. Let’s go ahead and get into that conversation now.
Jim: Cheri, it’s great to have you back at Focus.
Cheri Fuller: Thank you, Jim and John, it’s great to be here. It’s really fun to be here.
Jim: Cheri, we gotta get to how many grandkids you have. I mean, that’s where it’s gotta start.
Cheri: Sure. Well, we had our first five grandchildren in five and a half years, um, with three families. And so we have six grandchildren, three boys and three girls all, but two have lived away at some time in their life for an extended period. And um, they call me Nandy that’s what Caitlin thought of, the oldest grandchild, the first grandchild. And so as I share and Connect with Your Grandkids when Josephine our fourth grandchild, um, she was born and three weeks later because our son was gonna serve his internship at Na- Bethesda Naval Hospital in D- in the DC area. And so as they got on that plane at the Oklahoma City airport, I prayed, oh, God, help me to stay connected with little Josephine and all my grandchildren, no matter where they live.
Jim: Yeah. Well, and that’s one of the big struggles for grandparents, um, that oftentimes the, with the mobility of our culture-
Jim: … the grandkids aren’t living nearby, how do you shorten that gap? I mean, if you’re living in Oklahoma and your grandkids are out there in Maryland?
Cheri: Or Hawaii, they also lived in Hawaii and- and in Chicago-
Jim: Oh, that’s a little more complexity.
Cheri: … in- in, uh, in Milwaukee and now they live in Southlake, Texas which is only three hours south.
Jim: So how as a grand, as a grandparent, how do you close that gap-
Jim: … when there’s that much distance?
Cheri: … I tell you, first of all, I didn’t have a grid for grandparenting. I started at ground zero. I started with a prayer. I was still working full time. I was still speaking about twice a month, somewhere in the country or in another country. And, but I really, I mean, I have a great desire to have a connection with my grandchildren. And so I had begun collecting ideas when Caitlin was born all the way, which I just packed this book with every idea ever heard or came up with my myself to do exactly that, whether they live close or what, you know, three miles away, whether they live down the street or whether they live across the world or country. And even if your grandkids live near you right now, which by the way, you’re very blessed and you’re very fortunate, you may have a time that because of jobs, they have to move away or they go to college and they grow up. So one of those is this will sound silly, but granny’s magic bag. When I was speaking in Thailand, one time a grandmother there had a granddaughter who was four and lived in Kansas City. And so at the night marketing I was speaking there, and I met her, and she was precious. And she said, “I wanna, well, I wanna give you an idea for something I’ve done with my granddaughter that she loves.” I said, “I’m all ears.” And she said, “It’s granny’s magic bag.” And so she found me one in the night market, and she explained that whenever she’s with her granddaughter, she always finds little things throughout the year, whether it’s at the dollar tree, whether it’s at target in the $1, you know, whether whatever it is, little things that would f- interest or fascinate her. And so when she was with her little granddaughter, she’d have that granny’s magic bag with her. And she’d say, “Audrey, would you like to pick something out of granny’s magic bag?” So it builds up this sense of surprise and expectation. She always knows, although grandmother lives across the world and she sees her maybe two times a year and it keeps her busy in restaurants, it’s a fun thing. So I had Nandy’s magic bag for years.
Jim: (laughs) And that worked?
Cheri: Until the kids weren’t interested. Um, and another thing is, um, I’ve always sent packages and letters to my grandchildren. Now I text them because they all have iPhones.
Jim: Let me ask you this though, the- the- the difficulty, again, that is the sweet spot for grandparenting is you’re able to do these fun things with the grandkids, that can create some friction with, uh, your adult kids who are the parents. Uh, a lot of parents, uh, with some grandparents, they might feel that when they show up, they do overindulge a bit and they have to work hard after grandma leaves to-
Jim: … kind of bring that child back into orbit. And it could be lots of different nouns can go in there. It can be a lot of sugar, it could be-
Jim: … a lot of stimulus, a lot of trips. So h- how do you, how do you manage that? Do you talk to your adult children and say, will this be okay? Do you ask permission? How do you, how do you decide how the grandparenting will work? You said you didn’t have a framework.
Cheri: Oh, I didn’t, my grandparents were very, very old and, um, they were precious. They were very old and they, I mean, they just couldn’t do that much with us. And two of ’em were in very poor health and, um, they all died by the time I was in high school. And then the last one died when I had just started college. But I would address that in saying, first of all, there’s a balance, and this is much more about relationship than it’s about things or sugar or trips. Now they also set boundaries. Um, this generation of parents are much better at setting boundaries. I mean, if they don’t want you to give ’em a lot of sugar, I’m not gonna do that and make those parents mad. ‘Cause that’s their child.
Jim: So you res- respect the boundaries.
Cheri: Is respect the boundaries. And then some of the thi- so many of the ideas in this book and that I did with my grandchildren are such doable down-home ideas.
Cheri: I mean, I don’t have a lot of money to take ’em to Paris and, you know, to do all these lavish things, but I took ’em, I had a grandparent pass to the zoo. So when they were, when they had time and, you know, I’d take ’em to the zoo for an outing and we’d have a picnic. When they’d come to my house, I would, or I went to their house, I would always have a treasure hunt. And I made up clues with little pieces of paper like this, and it would lead. And it was good for their reading skills, by the way, they had to decode the message. And I used some little pictures and words if they were three and they would look all over the house and outside for this treasure hunt to find the treasure.
Cheri: It might be a book I was giving ’em. It might be, um, some things for their hair. If they’re little girls, it might be a nerf football for the boys. Uh, it wasn’t anything big and expensive. I also always wanted to get the cousins together and in other the six grandchildren, so they’d have a relationship. So whenever I could, I would get all of them together within reason when they were around and when we could. And that’s why I said, I would take them all to the zoo and I’d take pictures. I have taken hundreds of pictures of my grandchildren. And most grandparents do.
Cheri: Now I can do it with my iPhone, every Christmas us, if they were gonna be there for Christmas, I’d buy two, I’m not the, you know, like best baker in the whole world. I tried it, but the f- walls fell apart. So I would buy two big gingerbread houses that were not decorated. And then I’d buy all the candy and all the icing and we’d the girls against the boys, they love competition, and they would decorate these. And that would be for Christmas. That was the centerpiece.
Jim: Did they get to eat them is the question? (laughs).
Cheri: Oh, they could eat a little candy if they wanted, they were more interested.
Jim: My boys would say, let’s eat it all.
John: That’s fun of it, forget putting it together.
Cheri: Yes, they were much more interested, and they’d sneak a little c- candy or two, but they were more interested in getting decorated and winning the prize. And then always for Easter, we had a big egg decorating night, the night before Easter. And we, again, we had a contest, all the parents, the grandparents, the aunts, every, the children, all decorated eggs. I just had to be creative, ’cause I wanted to connect with my grandchildren, and I’ve read to them so many books. I have a little book that I tell about in Connect with Your Grandkids on, in the whole building, helping to build their faith, just contributing to their spiritual development-
Cheri: … which I feel like is a wonderful role grandparents can have not by being overbearing, but by sharing Jesus.
John: You know, Jim, I love that idea of- of making a- a written connection with your grandchild through that book. Uh, just as you’re saying that Cheri I’m thinking, I still have a book from my grandmother-
Jim: Do you really?
John: … uh, uh, on my dad’s side. Yeah, my- my dad’s mom. She gave that to me when I was about five years old. I still have it. So that, there’s a real deep connection that can happen there.
Cheri: Yes, and a book always means more if it’s signed, if it’s autographed, not necessarily by the author, but by the giver.
John: This is Focus on the Family, and our guest today is Cheri Fuller, and she’s written the book Connect with Your Grandkids: Fun Ways to Bridge the Miles. You’ll find that book and ways to encourage your grandchildren when you stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and hear more from that conversation with Cheri Fuller.
Jim: Uh, Cheri, I wanna play an audio clip, but it was a funny little capture that we were able to get. It’s uh, a humor story from one grandmother who’s, uh, talking about sharing a special time with her granddaughter. Let’s play it and get your response.
A grandmother: When I arrived, I found her positioned in the living room, seated at her personal table and chair set, waiting for grandma. We sipped and laughed sipped and laughed sipped and laughed for about a half hour and finally the teapot was empty. Finally, I thought I thanked her and commented how much fun that was, and we should do it again sometime. She replied, “I’ll fill the pot now, grandma and we’ll do it all over again”. I swallowed hard and with a reluctant smile, agreed. She picked up the pot and headed out to fill it again. I said, “Michelina, how are you filling the pot? You’re not tall enough to reach the kitchen sink.” She said, “Out of the toilet bowl.” I promised myself never to attend another tea party with Michelina she’s in college now. And we’ve laughed many times about her famous tea party.
Cheri: Oh, that’s great, that’s great.
Jim: Yikes, that’s trouble right there.
John: Oh, that is one committed grandmother right there.
Cheri: And that is one resourceful granddaughter I would say.
Jim: (laughs) I think in that case you say run, right?
Cheri: Right. Well, and it reminds me that, um, I’ve always with my granddaughters and even the grandsons when they were young and enjoyed it, I would have what c- what’s called Muffy bear tea parties, and the Muffy bears with these little bears that Home’s mom, the grandma had given the kids and their little bears, but whatever stuffed animals or if they wanted to get Buzz Lightyear or whatever, and we’d make a circle and we’d put a table cloth on the floor and we would not use toilet bowl water. We would use apple juice or, you know, something, chamomile tea, and we’d have a tea party. And, oh, we have so many memories. And the boys actually, the boys kinda liked it too, but not as much as the girls and we still have tea parties, Lucy’s eight. She loves these tea parties, and she gets to invite all her stuffed animals.
Jim: And that is so sweet. I mean, I love that clip. That’s hilarious.
John: It really is.
Cheri: And we do kind of you know-
Jim: Yea, the dainty.
Cheri: … manners and the dainty.
Jim: Gotta do that. Cheri, let me ask you, it seems easier as a grandparent to connect with younger kids. I mean, probably after they’re about three or four or five, um, you start to, you know, see their little personalities develop and it’s a lot more fun than changing diapers and those things, but, uh, talk about the difference between those years and then the teen years. Because in the teen years, uh, like many parents, we know, uh, they get a little strange and as Dr. Kevin Leman would say, they just get weird and grandparents struggle, I think too, trying to connect with a 13, 14, 15-year-old, but talk about the different seasons of grandparenting with the different ages of your grandkids.
Cheri: Well, it is seasons. You know, our life, my life as a woman, my life as a mother and grandmother is about seasons. And so yes, we have to adjust and change in one way is if I really wanna connect with them and like say, good job on your track meet, or, you know, have- have a great time at your band concert. I text it.
Cheri: And I put little emoticons because they know Nandy likes those and-
Jim: You know, you think about that, what’s so good about it. And we try to do that with our kids just to-
Jim: … encourage them ’cause it’s rough. I mean, this world’s rough and a lot of people are-
Cheri: Very rough.
Jim: … are tearing you down.
Cheri: Well, and I think a grand, a grandparent’s role is to be an encourager. We Homes and I go to as many of our grandchildren’s, um, grandparent day, tennis matches, rock climbing competitions, whatever it is whenever we can, we even flew one time to St. Louis, Missouri to be there for grandparents’ day. And the teacher was shocked that we would come all that way for our little granddaughters.
Jim: Have you come back to the- the tough routine and maybe this-
Jim: … hasn’t happened in your case, but talk to the grandparent where you’ve got a little more attitude for whatever reason-
Cheri: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Jim: … and what can that grandparent do to connect when you’re getting a lot of whatever or however, they’re communicating or not communicating with-
Jim: … you as a grandparent, they don’t seem very excited to hang out with you anymore.
Cheri: That’s ex- that can actually happen. Yes, because they’re teenagers and they really love to be with their friends. That’s who the-
Jim: What can you do?
Cheri: So what I found is what I did with my sons and my daughter, when they were teenagers and preteens, I found a way to get on their turf and do what they enjoyed. If it’s throwing the football, I will go out there and I will throw the football and I throw a mean spiral.
Jim: Okay, I can even, you know the word that’s impressive.
Cheri: That’s right. And if it’s play tennis, I go out and play tennis with ’em. I love to be outdoors. So I- I say, get on their turf, connect with them of something they like to do. Not so much that you like to do. It could be going to a movie. It could be taking ’em to their very favorite restaurant. I mean, you can reach their hearts through their stomach. You still can, even when they’re teenagers.
Jim: So find something that they’re interested in, so you can connect.
Cheri: Yeah, so you can connect. And if you wanna talk to ’em well, like Noah was really, Noah was 13 and a half and one of our grandsons and he’s really into March madness and NCAA Basketball. And so when I could, I watched a game or two, some games with him, and then I knew if I ask him about statistics of the teams and who he thought was gonna win, he knows exactly-
Jim: Could you tell-
Cheri: … what he wants to talk about.
Jim: … could you tell that he liked that, that you were interested?
Cheri: Oh, yeah. Well, he’ll talk to me.
Cheri: I mean, there’s a lot of other things he wouldn’t wanna talk about. I mean, I’m not like the center of their universe. Let’s- let’s face it. We have to be realistic.
Jim: (laughs) Well you’re, you know, but whoa, that’s really powerful what you’re saying there, ’cause I think a lot of grandparents feel like you should be.
Cheri: Yeah. Well you feel you are a little more when they’re young, but then you’re kind of, you know, like there’s other things more important, but that’s okay. And I also think through prayer, we can continue to connect with their hearts. If my grandkids are sick, they know I am praying for them.
Cheri: Every day. And if they have something coming up, they know I’m praying for them. I don’t knock ’em on the head with it, but I might send them a note, or I might send them a text because prayer connects our hearts with the child, whether it’s a child or grandparent, I mean a grandchild and with God. And so God can build the relationship. And I just, as their teenagers, I mean, this is my Jim, this is my real prayer often last week, two days ago, God, please help me stay connected with these teenagers.
Cheri: Because they are so busy. It’s not just that they’re weird. I mean, ’cause I don’t think my grandchildren are weird. I think they’re awesome. But it’s because they’re so busy.
Cheri: They have so many, I mean Noah plays on a club soccer team and he’s on the track team for school. Uh, Caitlin takes da- I mean they take dance. They’re involved in so many things. They have school, they have parents. Well, first of all, I mean they, the parents don’t want us to step on their toes and take their time with their kids. But I will say this season wise, if as a grandparent, you can just remember those grandkids are gonna grow up so fast. In fact, probably faster than you experienced with your own children.
Cheri: Because life is going so fast now.
Cheri: And if you can remember it and savor the moments you get to be the together, be an encourager connect with them on their turf. Because see, my father died when he was 47 and I was 11. My kids never got to know my father, my mother, their be- that she loved those grandchildren, she died when I was 34 and they were young. And so I know this is just for a season. God says life is like a vapor. I just want to be with these, build a relationship with these precious people God’s put in my life while I can.
Jim: Yeah. And- and it’s a good thing to know that life is brief and take advantage of every moment. And that’s important. Uh, Cheri, we have talked about grand mothering quite a bit, of course there’s grandfathering as well. Uh, what are some things that grandfathers can do? And one thing is not to be grumpy, (laughs).
Cheri: Exactly. Kids just, uh, you know, kids do not like to be around grumpy grandparents. And I will also say, um, and they also don’t like to be around people who discourage them and are critical. Not that grandparents, not that grandfathers do that, but it’s an important principle that children move towards those who encourage them. They move away from those who discourage them.
Jim: Right. And that your ability to teach them-
Jim: … is gonna be directly related to how much they’re coming towards you.
Cheri: Yes, but-
Jim: If they’re running from you, they’re not gonna be talking very much.
Cheri: No, you can’t be an influence in their life and a blessing. But you know, I know so many grandpas who do great things like- like my husband does, goes and cheers for his grandkids at soccer games and goes to dance recitals and sits with us at Starbucks, if that’s what the 12-year-old da- granddaughter wants to do. He’s even gone on one of the double-digit trips with us. And may also do that again. Um, grandparents who like when the kids, when you have a sleepover for your grandkids, that the grandfather thinks of something he could do.
Jim: Yeah. Something fun, yeah.
Cheri: Like go out and play croquet with them, set up a little croquet thing, set up a, you know, some kind of sports thing, ride a bike with grandfathers can do things that grandmothers never thought of. Like Homes has helped Luke and Noah and Kayla build things-
Cheri: Because he’s- he’s good at woodworking and making things and doing mechanical things. That is not in my wheelhouse.
Cheri: So God bless all the grandfathers out there. They can too. They can also make a tremendous impact, be a tremendous bless to their grandchildren. It’s so hard growing up today and the kids need all the help they can get, all the prayer, all the encouragement.
Jim: Yeah. Uh, Cheri, let me ask you this as well, because in this day and age, unfortunately, and we get many letters and emails here at Focus where marriages are falling apart, Christian marriages are-
Jim: … falling apart and that’s a unique situation in grandparenting-
Jim: … where you either have a- a new step grandchild who’s coming into that relationship. You have a new perhaps daughter-in-law or son-in-law.
Jim: Um, any advice on how to manage that relationship in a way that brings wisdom and peace, ’cause there’s a lot of chaos that can happen in blended family.
Cheri: There can be and it’s, co- confusing and uncertain time for children for that step grandchild that you wanna welcome or adopted grandchild that you wanna welcome into your life and your family. And sometimes even if that situation is kind of dicey, you know, that got them together, but that’s still a precious child. And one of the things I’ve seen grandparents do that I actually share about is that the son was getting married again. And so all of a sudden, she had like this five-year-old granddaughter. And so at the wedding she presented, I mean she had only met with this little granddaughter a few times she’d only met her. And so at the wedding, she had typed a letter on pretty paper of just, I am so grateful that I’m gonna get to be your grandma. And I wanna welcome you into the family and anytime we can be together, I would love that. I mean, what an impact that made. And besides that- that reminds me that one of the things I’ve always done because I mean, I really feel this in my heart. It’s I- I say sometimes to my grandchildren, I’m so grateful to God that I get to be your grandma.
Cheri: He- he could have even you a lot of other grandmas and I get to be your grandma. And um, I think it’s important for us to let them know that. And I’ve said to them, you know, “Caleb, if all the 10-year-olds in the whole world were lined up, I’d pick you to be my grandson.” Because that’s a something they remember.
Cheri: And they realize, I mean, that’s not laying it on so thick, you know, blowing their ego up. It means I am so grateful.
Jim: Well, it’s an attitude of Thanksgiving rather than irritation.
Cheri: Yes, yes.
Jim: And so-
Jim: … you know, in a self-centered culture, all of us-
Jim: … um, having to give time to other people and do things other people wanna do can really grind against what it is we wanna do. And as we get older, we get really comfortable with our routine.
Cheri: That’s right and-
Jim: So you gotta come out of yourself a little bit.
Cheri: But talking about teenagers. I mean, I still say that to my teenagers. I said it recently to Caitlin and I would say too, I don’t wanna put any pressure on grandparents today. Many grandparents like my husband and I are still working and I, we’re not retired. We don’t have all the time and the money in the world to lavish on our grandkids. In some ways I wish, you know, and we had five and then s- six, but the point is if we can do what we can. I mean, if you can think of things as a grandparent that are out in the listening audience, if you can think of things that you enjoy doing, like reading, why not share it with your grandchildren? If it’s watching movies and you love old movies, you could share that with the grandchild.
Jim: Going fishing.
Cheri: Going fishing-
Cheri: … going roller skating. I’ve taken my grandkids bowling. I’m not great at it. But, um, it’s fun.
Jim: Roller skating could be a little dangerous, (laughs).
Cheri: Uh, yes, it could, it could.
Jim: And bold, (laughs).
Cheri: It landed me one time in the emergency room.
Jim: There you have it.
Cheri: But, but, uh-
Jim: But that made you a cool grandma,
Cheri: Maybe so. Riding bicycles. Uh, there’s so many things we could do with kids. We can’t do everything. I can’t do everything that the other grandkids in my, I mean that, other friends I know who have grandchildren, I can’t do everything they’re doing, but this isn’t a comparison thing-
Cheri: … this is about love. This is about relationship.
Jim: Well, that is, and you’re hitting on it. Now that’s the spiritual side of the whole thing. And again, we talked about kids needing encouragement. In so many families today it’s either just one parent and hopefully two parents, but to have four additional people, your grandparents telling you-
Jim: … you’re gonna be okay, you’re doing all right-
Jim: … that means the world to kids growing up today where there’s so much eating away at their confidence.
Jim: That somebody in your corner feels good.
Cheri: Yes. I love what Alex Haley said once about grandparents. He said, nobody can do for little children what grandparents can do. Grandparents sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children. And we can sprinkle blessing and encouragement of the lives of our little grandchildren and our bigger grandchildren and be their encouragers. Pray for ’em in whatever stage they go through and build a relationship that will last a lifetime.
Jim: That’s exactly the right thing.
Cheri: Because that’s really what matters.
Jim: Cheri Fuller author of the book, Connect with Your Grandkids, I think you wrapped it up beautifully right there.
Jim: The subtitle is Fun Ways to Bridge the Miles and the book is again, filled with great ideas to connect with your grandkids of all ages. And, uh, I, uh, I really have been blessed today, Cheri. Thank you.
Cheri: Thank you, Jim. Thank you, John.
John: You know, it’s always good to have Cheri Fuller here. She brings such a great heart and enthusiasm for families. And her book published by Focus on The Family and Tyndale has over 100 ideas about building relationships with your grandchildren. Ask for that when you get in touch. And we’ll send that book to you as our thank you when you make a generous donation of any amount to support the work of Focus on The Family today. Um, we appreciate your consideration of our needs for as Jim calls it fuel for the rocket ship as we help families around the world, and we rely on your donations. So thanks in advance for helping to lift up and strengthen families. Donate and get your copy of that book when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on The Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we, once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.