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Practical Advice for Grandparents (Part 2 of 2)

Original Air Date 07/24/2012

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Jerry and Judy Schreur discuss ideas from their book Creative Grandparenting to encourage grandparents to take an active role in the lives of their grandchildren and leave a generational legacy. (Part 2 of 2)

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Episode Transcript


Promotion: 40th Anniversary Cruise

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John Fuller: On our last "Focus on the Family" radio program, Jerry Schreur was our guest and he shared his perspective about what it means to him to be a grandfather.


Jerry Schreur: We have devoted our lives to our grandkids. I mean, if I was to define who I am, of course, the first part would be is, I am a Christian. That's the foundation, but from there, probably the next one would be, I'm a grandparent.

End of Recap

John: You'll hear more of that passion for his grandchildren and also practical ways that you can connect better with your grandkids, from Jerry and his wife, Judy. They're our guests again on today's "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: Well, if you missed last time, you need to either get that download through your smartphone. Now I know grandparents, that might be tough or call us. We'll get the CD to you, whatever. You can to our website, too, because it really did provide some practical advice for you as a grandparent and how you can connect with your children in this day and age of social media. And if you are having challenges, I think today's program will help you address those. And if you're on the cusp of becoming a grandparent, congratulations, first of all. I think this content will really help frame your future for how to be engaged with your grandkids.

John: And our guests have written a book that should be helpful for every grandparent, regardless of how new or seasoned you are in that role. It's called Creative Grandparenting: How to Love and Nurture a New Generation. Look for a copy and a CD of this conversation at Let's go ahead and get part two of this discussion under way on today's "Focus on the Family."


Jim: Last time we covered the wonder years, the zero to 5-years-old and the coaches and cheerleader years, 6 to 11. Now we get into the teen years. That's where a lot of grandparents can back up. And in fact, you have a story of your granddaughter, I think during that time, who made some decisions that a lot of grandparents would be concerned about. I think it had to do with body piercing. Tell us that story.

Jerry Schreur: Oh, yes, Judy, you might want to--

Judy Schreur: Well--

Jerry: --talk about that--

Judy: --this is--

Jerry: --a little more.

Judy: --this is the gal that's now the coauthor with the book. Again, you know, and Jerry always used to say, because Jerry's a counselor, one of the things, Jerry said, "Don't lose your kids over a haircut." Well, the same thing is true with your grandkids. You know, don't lose 'em over a haircut or body piercing. It's not what we would do, but if they do it, you know, they're going to be creative. Again, we have no control over this, because it's the parents who give the permission or whatever. But when they go to college or so forth, then even that, you know, the kids will do what they want.

And so, again, you don't always accept what they do, but you still accept them as a person. Well, I think one of the key things for us again, as parents, is how many times have we said, whether it's with our children or our grandchildren, "What will people think?"

Jim: Uh-hm.

Judy: You know, what will people think? So, we're more concerned of what other people think and we've gotta get back, okay, how can I be a supporter person to this grandchild?

Jim: You're not saying do not ever say something--

Judy: Right.

Jim: --that is against the grain.

Judy: Right.

Jim: I mean, as a grandparent, you have that privilege, but build the relationship, so--

Judy: Right.

Jim: --that there is relationship there, so when you say it, it'll carry weight.

Judy: Again, you do the positive stuff regularly. I hate to use the word "stuff," but it is, the--

Jim: Yeah.--

Judy: --positive things.

Jim: Oh, yeah.

Judy: And then when you do have the discipline time or the time that you would like to educate on something, they give you permission. I'll give you another illustration. With Erin again, we was watching her [sic] with some dating relationships. And Jerry of course, is a marriage therapist and does a lot of premarital counseling. And I said to her one day, I said, "Erin, if we see a flag in a relationship that you're having, do we have permission to say something to you?"

John: Hm.

Judy: And she paused and she thought a second and she said, "You have permission, but that doesn't mean I'm going to take it," you know. (Laughter)

Jim: Yeah, she thought that through.

Judy: But we did ask permission if we would. And so, if we do see a flag, we have the permission.

Jim: You talk in the book, Creative Grandparenting, about a heritage trunk. What is that?

Jerry: I had an assignment in grad school and it was such an interesting assignment, because we normally leave things in a legacy, you know, but we think about the tangible items. You know, like you can have my car or you can have my gun. You can have my fishing pole.

Jim: Huh.

Jerry: But they challenged us in grad school to look further than that, you know, it was an actual project we had to do with our children. They said, look to the intangibles. Write a list of intangibles that you would like to leave to your children and now to our grandchildren.

Jim: Do you have examples of that?

Jerry: Well, like honesty, integrity, consistency, those kinds of things. And even things like a spirit of adventure, faith, you know all of those kinds of things. And several of those things I just mentioned are very important to me and my kids and my grandkids know all of that.

And so, we had to write that list and then we have to go to our children and/or grandchildren--it was mostly children for us at that time--and say, "Which of these have we already given you?"

John: Hm.

Jerry: And which of these would you like to receive?

Jim: Hm, how old were the kids when you did that?

Jerry: They were teenagers, were they not?

Judy: Probably.

Jerry: They were teenagers and they got actively involved with us in giving and receiving these things.

Jim: So, very intentional. How about with your grandkids? When would you start that conversation to say, "These are the attributes as your grandparents, that we would like you to see?"

Jerry: Yeah, I think certainly early adolescence or pre-adolescence even better--

Jim: Yeah.

Jerry: --because of the pace at which our grandchildren are growing up today.

Jim: I think it's--

Jerry: So--

Jim: --beautiful. That's a good way to go.

Judy: And we don't know how long we're gonna be on this earth. And I worked for 20 years in long-term care, so I spent a lot of time with older people dying. And one of the things I really do point out to my grandkids is, "You know, we aren't gonna be here forever." So, yes, we're not gonna leave you a lot of money, but we are leaving you memories, because instead of getting them to have an inheritance, we actually are spending our money on them now, and so, we can enjoy it, too. I mean, that's a win-win.

But also, even as we get older, what are we going to teach them? I want to say to people, the last lessons--now this is for older grandparents--but the last lesson you are going to teach your children and your grandchildren, your nieces and your nephews is how to age and how to die. And so, let's be a good example.

You know, as I get older, is it going to be fretful and fearful? Or am I gonna be a person of faith? Am I gonna be grumpy? Or am I gonna be grateful and appreciate the help that I need and get and so forth, but let people know that I'm a grateful person.

Am I gonna be pitiful? Or am I gonna be positive? And look at what's good, even though there's some negative things happening? Am I gonna be sour and crabby again? Or am I gonna have that sweet spirit?

Jim: Hm.

Judy: And we talk about this in the book on the legacy, 'cause this is so important. I always say to people (Chuckling), what are they gonna say about you when you die? Whew! She's gone! (Laughter) You know, or (Laughing) what memories are you going to leave?

I also suggest that you write a letter. You write a letter, tellin' them once again your faith, giving your grandchild what you see as them, as their positive potential and what you look for them and how you pray for them. But in this letter, telling them how much you love them, but one more time, sharing them. And then saying to them, "And I want to see you in heaven with me."

Jim: Judy, it reminds me of that Scripture, "Gold and silver, I do not have, but what I have, I'll freely give to you." And that's of course--

Judy: Uh-hm.

Jim: --the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Judy: Uh-hm.

Jim: That's a beautiful thing. You're saying, write a letter that would be opened after your death.

Judy: Uh-hm.

Jim: Powerful.

Judy: This came to me when I was teachin' a Bible study with older people. And we were actually talking about the parable of the sower, when you have the ground in the different, you know, levels. And several people came to me and said, "You know, my grandkids, they're not walking with the Lord." Or "My son isn't walking with the Lord and I don't even know if they know the Lord." And I said to them, you know ... and they said, "I'm doing everything I can."

And it hit me, the Lord just gave me the idea. I said, "Write a letter. Tell them again how you came to Christ. Tell them what your faith means to you. And remember this; when they open this after your death, that's when the ground is going to be soft--

Jim: Hm.

Judy: --because they're gonna think about this."

Jim: Judy, you said so many things that I'd like to just touch on. One is our attitude. Why do we pursue the things of life, as 50-, 60-year-old people, not knowing that our pursuit, our lack of time for our grandkids is actually robbing us of the opportunity to build into their lives in that way? So, at the end, they sit with the attorney and they get read the letter that they received $150,000. Put three more zeroes behind it; it doesn't matter. And somehow, as older people, we're assuming that, that will make them happy, when the grandkids, maybe what they wanted was more time.

Judy: And you know, in Scripture, one of the greatest illustrations are David and Solomon. Solomon leaves this big wealth. And what happens? The kingdom split. You know, all of this stuff meant nothing. Everything is gone in a generation. And I think what is intangible is really what is more important. And remember this. Grandparents can start as early as 39. And then we can go and not only become, you know, grandparents, but "great-grands" and all the way through. And so, this is a huge span of time that we can be involved and do what we can. And maybe it's not gonna be all the time anymore.

What's going to happen to me as we get older and we are aging grandparents now. I always (Chuckling) say to people, I had a lady come into my facility one day. She was 90 or 99 when she came in. And I said, "Why are you coming into this home for the aged assisted living?" And she said, "Well, my kids are getting sick." (Laughter) She said, "I thought I was gonna die 20 years ago when my husband died, but now my kids are getting sick."

Jim: She's outliving her kids.

Judy: She's well, and her kids are getting sick. You know, if you're 100, how old will your oldest child be?

Jim: Yeah.

Judy: Mine's gonna be 82. Lesson No. 1, be nice to the grandkids, 'cause you want them to stop by you first [sic].

Jim: Uh.

Judy: You know, and as you look (Chuckling) at this, but this lady had such a positive attitude in life.

Jim: Hm.

Judy: And I watched her with her kids and her grandkids and I learned so much from her and her involvement. But it could be that my grandkids are going to be the ones that are going to be taking care of me, as well.

Jim: Well, and that's the other thing I wanted to tap in, was our attitude, because we're in such a materialistic culture. Death and dying for the Christian should be a joyous experience. It should be something that we have great confidence in, that we are looking forward to in many ways, not in a morbid sense, but in a spiritual sense. Yet, so often, there is that sourness that you referred to earlier, Judy, the dour kind of attitude. It doesn't bring hope and your grandkids are watching all this, as you said. When you look at all that, what kind of lessons do you want to teach in that moment?

Jerry: My mother did a good job and I think we share this in the book. When she died, she was about 90 years of age. In the last year of her life, she spent flat on her back in bed, unable to do very much. And (Emotion) my grandkids visited her. Well, actually my kids visited her.

Judy: Yeah and grands.

Jerry: And so, they were her grandkids. And they watched her with such a sweet spirit, even though she had to be helped with feeding herself and "toileting" and all of this.

John: Hm.

Jerry: She had such a sweet spirit through that whole last year of her life and she was a woman of faith, too. And our kids remarked on that, about that, because they watched her.

Jim: Right.

Jerry: And so, she was a great example of what you can be in that last year of your life.

John: You know, I'm listening to you all and I'm thinking how wonderful it is that you're so intentionally involved. Talk to the listener who is longing for his or her parents to be engaged like you are as grandparents, but they're not. Either distance geographically or emotionally keeps grandparents away from the grandkids. Talk to that parent who just wants what you're talking about. How can they possibly help their parents understand the leverages that they have and the power that they have?

Judy: Every time I speak on this, people do come up and say, you know, "We don't have the involved parents." And some days you gotta look at why. If it's distance, look at creative ways. And they'll look at buying the book and they'll say, "Well, you know, I don't know if I can give this to my parent." And I would say to them, "Well, give it to them and say, 'You know, I know you love me and you love your grandchildren. And I think you would really like this book.'" So, you don't have to say, "Well, you're a bad grandparent; I'm gonna give you the book."

But (Laughter) the advantages of being a grandparent are in there, as well, 'cause nobody wants to be miserable, right? Everybody wants to be happy. And so, we have the positive parts of doing that. So, if you even just share pieces of it. But start in small pieces and then just move along.

Jim: You know, one of the things here at Focus on the Family, we receive often a lot of mail and e-mails from grandparents who, they have an estranged relationship with their daughter or son, who are raising their grandkids. I want to talk directly to them. I'm not thinking of anyone specifically, just an amalgamation of the contact that we receive here. They're not raisin' the kids right. Now they've shut down. The daughter-in-law is not happy with grandma, because she overreaches when it comes to the advice. That's the reality of many relationships out there. Speak to that family. What do you do as the next step to say, "Okay, we're gonna break this down and begin the communication?"

Jerry: We challenge the grandparents because they are older, supposedly more mature (Laughing), not always, but supposedly.

John: Uh-hm.

Jerry: And we challenge them to go to their son or daughter and make things right and that's a biblical thing. When you have something against someone, you go to them and especially as Christian grandparents. You say, "Look, if you want to be true to Scripture, go to your son, go to your daughter and make it right." Be the first one to acknowledge that I have done something wrong. If you don't know what you've done wrong, actually ask your kids what you've done wrong. Have I stepped over the line? Where did I step over the line? And then don't argue. Say, "I am so sorry." Apologize. Those are such biblical things.

Jim: And in that context, what it is as a grandparent, you're bringing shalom; you're bringing peace to the family. You're the patriarch or the matriarch. This is your role as a grandparent, to bury those old arguments with your kids and to address 'em and move on. That's wisdom, isn't it?

Jerry: That's wisdom. And as you grow older and you begin to think of a day that you're going to pass from this earth, because you're retired and you see your friends dying and you're closer to that day, part of your unfinished business should be to complete that business of reconciliation.

John: Hm.

Jerry: And to say, "My son, I'm so sorry I offended you. I'm so sorry." And we know a pastor that's actually done this. He's dying. He's going through some difficult things in his life. And he's gone around and he's actually made a list of people, not just his own family. He's made a list of people who he thought he offended. And he's contacted each one of them to ...

Jim: That's pretty awesome.

Judy: And you know, the Scripture again, is so clear. And again, I'm only responsible for me. I cannot be responsible for how my children or my grandchildren are gonna respond to me. I'm only responsible for myself, but I think of Scripture, you know. As much as it depends on you, you know, live at peace.

Jerry: Romans, chapter 12, verse 18, great verse.

Judy: See, he always knows the numbers. I know the verses. (Laughter) But it is true. But the other verse that we hear so often is, you know, whatever comes out of our mouth, you know, let it to be instruction. Let it to be kindness, gratefulness, you know; and all of these things should come out of our lips.

Jim: Judy, as you look at the Christian life, sanctification is a process. And you would think generally then that, as a grandparent, that person should be wiser. They should be able to apply Scripture in their lives with greater ease than perhaps when you're 20 or 40 or even 50. And that's what you're saying, is be the role model. Embrace the Scripture. Know the Word. Apply the Word in your life.

Judy: That's perfect. You know, the role model, we are the historian. When they walk through some issues, we've already been there. Now we can't say, "Well, I've done that a long time ago," but what we can say is, "This is how I dealt with it and this Scripture was good to me." And maybe even write it out and just give it to them.

Sometimes I'll write a Scripture or I'll just send an e-mail on a Monday. And I'll say to my grandchild, "It's Monday. I'm retired. You're going to work. You need to know I'm praying for you today."

Jim: Speaking directly to grandparents right now, with the variety of situations they find themselves in, as John said, distance, whatever it might be, whatever the difficulty is in their grandparenting, what would you say to them.

Jerry: To people going through difficulties, I would say, you can overcome the difficulties. Look for places to overcome those difficulties. Don't look at the problem; look at a solution. Talk to other people about it. Talk to your pastor. Talk to your kids. Talk to friends. Talk to a counselor, especially a Christian counselor and find ways that you can work through those difficulties. They may be family difficulties. They may be personal difficulties. There may even be difficulties with your grandchildren themselves that they are going through. If you don't have solutions, today there are more people around us that can help us.

Jim: Hm, now that's one reason here at Focus on the Family, we have counselors that people can call and for those of you that support the ministry, I want to say thank you for providing that service to families to help strengthen them. Can I ask a question here? One of the phenomena in the culture is divorce.

Judy: Hm.

Jim: And as a grandparent, even within the Christian community, there's something over 30 percent of the couples will experience divorce. These are your kids as that grandparent. What unique situation is that for grandparenting, when you have your son or daughter divorce their spouse and then you have their kids in the balance? What do you need to do as a grandparent in that time?

Jerry: Well, we can speak in theory or we can speak in practice, 'cause we've actually been there.

Jim: Hm.

Jerry: And so, that makes it a little more personal. And I think when you're there, and so many grandparents are there like you say.

Jim: Uh-hm.

Jerry: You know, 30, 40, 50 percent, depend[ing on] what figures you look at.

Jim: Right.

Jerry: And so, we had to think through all of that ourselves. And it was a very difficult time in our lives period, because we love our children (Laughing), you know. We love their spouses. And so, we're going through loss at the same time. So, it makes it hard for us.

But we determined not to jump into blaming one or the other. There's usually enough blame to go around anyway. And so, we refused to blame. And my son even said, "Dad, don't blame my partner." He said, "I've done enough, too." And she was the one who walked out of the marriage. But he said, "Dad, don't just blame her." And so, we became very available to our kids.

Jim: To both of them.

Jerry: To both of them. And sometimes they were both out of town or I remember one time when my son's wife was sick, or ex-wife at that time. And she had the relationship with us. She actually called us and said, "Can you help with child care? I have to go into work. I can't afford child care for my kids right now." We took a whole week. We changed our whole schedule and we alternated days to be there.

John: Hm.

Jim: And what a gift that is for your grandkids, to have that stability.

Judy: See, that's the key thing. You know, you can sit there and you can look at the parents, but our role was to, yes, support our son and ex-daughter-in-law as much as we could, but it was really to uphold those grandkids, 'cause their life has just been torn apart.

Jim: Right.

Judy: And we again, can be the city of refuge. We can be the people they can come to. They would ask us questions sometimes, and along with this, you know, we made ourselves available. We made our resources available. We could help out when there's mom's house, dad's house. You know, can we buy the extra bicycle? You know, 'cause you don't want these minor things--

Jim: Sure.

Judy: --which can turn out to be major things in these kids' lives. So, make yourself available. Make your resources available. We did have to set boundaries as we looked at our role, 'cause we still are the grandparent. And then also we tried to maintain contact with both parents.

I'm going to give you one quote that happened right during the time when everything flew up [sic] and everything was happening. And our 9-year-old granddaughter called us and we knew this was the night that the kids were being told that--

John: Hm.

Jim: Yeah.

Judy: --the marriage had ended and that mother was moving out. And my granddaughter called me and she said to me, "Grandma, do you know what happened tonight?" I say, "Yes, Honey, we know." And she said, "Grandma, do (Emotion) you hate my mom?"

John and Jim: Hm.

Judy: And the Lord gave me the answer and I said, "Honey, I can never hate the woman that gave me you."

Jim: Hm.

Judy: "God loves her. I don't love what's happening, but I will not hate her, because she gave me you." And that was enough for her to hang onto. But that was the first question.

Jim: Right. So--

Judy: That was the first--

Jim: --desperate.

Judy: --question. Yeah.

Jim: I mean, in that moment, they're so desperate.

Judy: Yeah.

Jim: And they want to hear confidence (Emotion). They want to hear something concrete and that's where grandparents can be the rock at the moment.

Judy: And remember, when they have the two houses and you have two sets of morals. You're gonna have two sets of how they discipline. You're going to have two beds. You['ve] got to move the clothes. You've got all of this stuff happening. We can be the constant. We would say to our kids, you know, and sometimes they'd feel guilty, 'cause if they see mom do something they don't want dad to know. If dad did something, they don't want mom to know, you know, so they're livin' this divided loyalty.

Jim: Yeah.

Judy: And we would say to them, "Call us, because we'll be neutral.

John: Hm.

Jim: Right.

Judy: 'Cause you've gotta talk to somebody. And so, call us and we'll be neutral.

Jim: Judy, it's interesting what you're saying there. We have a saying here at Focus on the Family, "Be there," because it's the adults, the parents or the grandparents saying to the child or the grandchild, "I want you in heaven." And so, it's the Be There slogan. We talked about that. Dr. Dobson talked about that. What I'm hearing you say today to the grandparents is, "Be there." Be there for your grandkids, 'cause they're gonna need you.

Jerry: That's very much true. I was at my kids' house, oh, this was years ago when my grandson was about 10 and he'd gone through the divorce when he was about 6 or 7. And Jay really needed somebody right then. He had some questions and so, his stepmom said, "Why don't you go with Jay? I think he needs you right now." And Jay just had a couple key questions. We spent about a half hour together, but he probably only talked to me about those questions for about five minutes.

Jim: Right.

Jerry: And he had the answers he needed.

Jim: Yeah. These are beautiful stories and great applications. You sound like the role model for grandparents (Laughter). And it's been such a delight to have you here at Focus on the Family, your book, Creative Grandparenting: How to Love and Nurture a New Generation. Jerry and Judy Schreur, thank you so much for being here at Focus on the Family.

Jerry: You're so welcome. We love to talk about grandkids (Laughter).

Judy: And what a wonderful ministry to do it, because you do have so many of the answers right here in this organization.

John: Hm.

Judy: So, it's a joy for us to be a part of Focus.

Jim: Well, we have those answers because of friends like you. So, thank you very much.

Jerry: You're welcome.


John: What an inspiring conversation and what passion our guests have for this subject of grandchildren, theirs and yours. And Jim, you wanted to thank our listeners, as well, for the remarkable work that together we're doing for the kingdom.

Jim: I do, John and today Jerry and Judy talked about how you can be there for your kids and your grandkids in the midst of challenging situations, even divorce, which I know happens.

And here at Focus on the Family, I want to let you know that when you financially support Focus on the Family, you are helping us help marriages before they fall apart. And this is one of the great travesties of our era, that marriages are ending, that we're not fighting through our difficulties and maintaining those families. Last year alone together we were able to help save over 130,000 marriages and that always puts a smile on my face.

In fact, one woman recently shared this with us and she says, "I fully believe that without the daily 'Focus on the Family'" broadcast, my husband and I would not be married. We would've chosen the easy way out. But instead, we have learned what a godly marriage should look like through your daily program and we strive to make God the center of our lives now. Staying together and growing together in Christ is so worth it." I love that, John. "We've been listening for about 14 years. Our family is better and stronger because of you."

That is it. Together we have hit that, folks. For those of you that support us financially, you share in that harvest. We helped save that marriage and I'm grateful to you for helping us do that.

John: Well, please join our support team and know that your donations make an eternal impact. You can donate at or when you call 800-A-FAMILY. And when you get in touch, ask for a copy of Creative Grandparenting, which is full of fun and meaningful ways for you to connect with your grandkids at every age and stage. In fact, we'll send that book to you as our way of saying thanks for your generous donation today of any amount.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time. We'll have Pastor Alistair Begg sharing some valuable advice for singles of any age.


Pastor Alistair Begg: We need to recognize that there is no good thing that the Lord will withhold from those whose walk is blameless. If we are not involved in a dating relationship, if we do not have a special other person, there's no need to panic. God makes everything beautiful in His time.

End of Excerpt

John: Pastor Alistair Begg on the next "Focus on the Family, as we once again, help you thrive.

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Jerry and Judy Schreur

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Jerry and Judy Schreur are the proud grandparents of five grandchildren and joint authors of several books, including Creative Grandparenting: How to Love and Nurture a New Generation. Jerry is a marriage and family counselor, and an educator and researcher with a Ph.D. in Family Studies and Marriage and Family Therapy. Judy is a retired professional manager, humorist and featured speaker at the "Time Out for Women" National Conference.