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Practical Advice for Grandparents (Part 1 of 2)

Original Air Date 07/23/2012

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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 1 of 2)

Episode Transcript


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Jerry Schreur: Grandkids nowadays want to text. And so, we actually had a grandson go with us to help her pick out the phone. And he said, "Grandma, this would be a good phone for you. This one is too complicated. You'll be calling me every day to ask for instructions on it." And so, with texting and Skyping and there are so many ways we can stay connected to our grandkids.

End of Teaser

John Fuller: That's Jerry Schreur and he's reflecting on just some of the ways that you can stay more in touch with your grandchildren. This is "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, today we're gonna be giving some practical tips for you, the grandparents on how you can connect with your grandkids, just like it mentioned there, at every age and stage and how to develop a closer relationship when there are miles between you. And you know what, here at Focus on the Family, we are (Chuckling) a family ministry. We are dedicated to help you every step of the way, from Adventures in Odyssey Club, Club Junior, those magazines [FYI: Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr], all the way down to marriage and parenting help.

And so, it's a full family experience here at Focus. And we want to do more for you, the grandparents, so you can be that guiding light to your extended family. So, we hope you'll enjoy this conversation today and hopefully, be a little more informed about how to extend your relationship with your grandkids.

John: Well, we do have resources beyond today's conversation to help you. Stop by to find those. Now this is a conversation we enjoyed a few years back with Jerry and Judy Schreur and they are the proud grandparents of five grandkids and since we last talked with them, they've welcomed their first great-granddaughter--

Jim: Good for them.

John: --into the world. And let's go ahead and head how that discussion got underway on today's "Focus on the Family."


Jim: In your book, Creative Grandparenting, how to love and nurture a new generation, which I think is outstanding, let's just start here. Describe what a creative grandparent is and what does he or she look like?

Judy Schreur: Well, he or she looks a lot of different ways, but when I think about creative grandparenting, I would say they actively look for ways to really be involved in the lives of their grandchildren. And so, we actively get involved. We enter in their life wherever we can and we make a difference. And it's more than, you know, flipping out the pictures. But it actually is accepting them where they are and that's really key, as well. We cannot pick favorites. You know, you take each child where they are and you work with them and you look at their strengths and their weaknesses and you just are there for them to support them.

John: Hm.

Jerry Schreur: And it's knowing them so well and letting them know you. So, for instance, in the last 24 hours, three of our grandkids have already gotten in touch with us. One of 'em this morning, one last night and said, "Have a great day tomorrow on your interview."

Jim: Uh.

Jerry: "I hope you have a great interview." They know us; we know them. We know what's going on in their lives. One of 'em is currently sailing on a 65-foot sailboat from Port Huron, all the way around through Mackinaw, down to Grand Haven on ... in Lake Michigan.

Jim: Wow.

Jerry: And he calls us on the way to let us know what he's doing and where he's at. And he's been fighting 30-mile-an-hour winds and he's been traveling at 11 to 12 knots, which is fantastic for sailing.

Judy: Which brings me to prayer again.

Jim: But grandma's been prayin' a lot for this family. Let me ask you this though. It sounds like you have to sacrifice as a grandparent. You have to make decisions. You have to make choices.

Jim: Let me ask you this though. It sounds like you have to sacrifice as a grandparent. You have to make decisions. You have to make choices. Typically we're talking to parents in that regard. It might be a dad who won't take a job. But your story is very similar in that, you were offered a really good promotion and you made a decision not to go there so you could be close to the grandkids. Is that healthy? Or is that a good thing to do so your grandkids have a grandfather and a grandmother?

Jerry: I think it's a great thing to do and I don't think it's just for the grandkids. I think we get at least as much out of it as they do. We have devoted our lives to our grandkids. I mean, if I was to define who I am, 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.

John: Hm.

Jerry: I'm a grandfather. And so, for me, it's been just so much joy. So, whenever I think of something to do, whether it's go down the Grand Canyon or go on a ski trip, and if Judy's not the one to go with me, 'cause she doesn't do all those things, then some of them at least.

John: She stays at home and prays.

Jerry: Exactly, (Laughter) that's true. So, I'm always asking which one of my grandkids would like to be there with me. And that included a trip to Southeast Asia--

Jim: Oh.

Jerry: --after the tsunami--

John: Hm.

Jerry: --three weeks with my Erin girl.

Jim: Wow.

John: Hm.

Jim: Judy, it's easy to meddle into the lives of our kids raisin' our grandkids. Where is that line? And is it easily defined? Or is there a time when grandparents can really overreach?

Judy: You know, we have a chapter entitled "Involvement Versus Interference." And I'm the poster child on this. And this is why the question always goes to me. And there is a fine line, because we need to remember, we are still the grandparents. And yes, our grandchildren are a big part of our life, but they're not the only part. But we need to remember as we watch our children, whether it's going to be how they parent, how often they feed the newborn, what they use, you know, when they change their diapers. I mean, it could be the littlest things--

Jim: All the details.

Judy: --like that. You know, I let my child cry in the crib, you know and whatever it is. And it's their baby. It's your child's baby, not yours. So you are there to support them. Help them out. Oftentimes, babysit if possible. Give advice when asked.

Jim: Okay, now you're saying some things that are really difficult for some people.

Judy: Uh-hm.

Jim: It's just hard, because--

Judy: Yep.

Jim: --you know better. You've--

Judy: Yep.

Jim: --already done it.

Judy: Yep.

Jim: You're the grandparent.

Judy: And I was busy. Now our grandkids. of course, are older, but when we were writing the book, my grandson had an issue. And my son disciplined a certain way and I proceeded to say to him, "Well, when you were his age, you were like this," da, da, da, da, da. And my son looked at me and said, "I think you need to read "Involvement Versus Interference" again," because (Laughter) you stepped over the line." And so, it is really easy to do that.

Jim: What about the passive grandparent, the one that just gives in to anything their grandchild would want. What about that end of the continuum? Is there danger in that, as well?

Judy: Well, we have a story about that, too, because sometimes it doesn't take a child long to know who they can get things from. (Laughter) And we even had a story where our son had said no to his daughter, to Lauren. So, then Lauren proceeded to go to Grandpa and said, "I really need roller blades." And thank goodness Jerry practiced his book and actually called John and said, you know, "Can I buy Lauren rollerblades?" And he goes, "Dad, I'm so glad you called me, 'cause no. We told her she had to earn part of it, so she realizes what it is involved." So, you need to constantly communicate with your child on these things.

But there also is that special time that we as grandparents can do special things, because we are the grandparent. And oftentimes where the parent doesn't have the time or the money, where we can come in, but you always work the kids on this, your children on this to make sure that they're in on the same playing field as you are.

Jim: Are there times where that communication just becomes so difficult for whatever reason? Maybe give us some of the reasons why that communication breaks down.

Jerry: I think one of the main things is, that we need to be in good relationship with our kids. And the communication is gonna break down much more often when we are actually in a strained relationship with our own children. And so, we really need to guard that so that we can talk to our children freely. They can talk to us freely.

And when they talk to us about their concerns, we need to listen, you know, especially when it involves, you know, our grandkids, their children. Our tendency might be to argue with them.

Jim: Are you saying the weaknesses in the relationship before a grandchild arrives may be accentuated once they arrive?

Jerry: Very much, because grandparents might be a little more giving, you know, might say yes more often. And we actually tell people that. We tell grandparents to say yes as often as you can. Don't say no immediately.

Jim: And that irritates the kids.

Jerry: Well, it can irritate your kids. But if you're really in tune with your kids and stay in touch with them, then they have a good attitude toward you. Our children love the way we grandparent for the most part.

Jim: Right.

Jerry: Now we're not perfect grandparents, but they love the way we are available to our grandkids. One of our grandkids, our Alana girl. They're all my girls. (Laughter)

Jim: I noticed, yes. (Laughter)

Jerry: But my Alana girl was really struggling, just about two or three months ago. And they had a person living in their house and he did some dumb stupid things and her dog died as a result of it. And she was so angry, she could not stay in the house with him.

Jim: Hm.

Jerry: And so, our kids knew immediately that the best thing they could do was to get her out of that situation, because she was so angry she couldn't even think straight. So, at 12 o'clock at night they call us and say, "Dad, Mom, can Alana come over for a night or a day or two?" And they explained what the situation was. And of course, I welcomed her with open arms (Emotional)

Jim: Hm.

Jerry: And this was 1 o'clock in the morning.

Jim: Hm.

Jerry: And she was so upset when she came through the door. I didn't say a lot. I just said, "Hi, Alana" and put my arms around her and held her. Well, we stood there for about five minutes.

Jim: Jerry, grandparents have an amazing opportunity to be that love person, the person that regardless of what you've done as a grandchild, I will love you. Grandparents have that unique role. They don't have to parent.

Jerry: That's so true and that's what makes it so good. We don't have the ultimate responsibility of parenting. Parents have more of that responsibility. We can just love them.

Jim: Kind of that unconditional love.

Jerry: Oh, it's very, very much. Erin, the coauthor of the book told us one day, she came in one day and she told her grandma this, too. She said, "Grandpa and Grandma, I know you will always love me no matter what I do." And this was just spontaneous on her part.

Jim: Jerry, going back to that big decision to not pursue the career, but to stay close to the grandkids, some people haven't made that choice. Some grandparents for whatever reason, maybe even the grandkids have moved away because their kids had to make different decisions, how do you accomplish this with distance between you, where maybe you live on one coast and your grandkids are living on the other?

Jerry: What really helps is if you have established an intimate relationship and a bond between your grandchildren and your kids, of course, too, but we're talking about grandchildren here, before they move. Now not all grandparents have that opportunity, which makes it even harder.

But there are so many ways we can connect with them. We just bought Grandma, that's Judy, my wife here (Laughter), a new cell phone, because she does more texting than I do. I'm still kinda old school. I want to get on the phone and talk to 'em.

John: Uh-hm.

Jerry: But grandkids nowadays want to text. And so, we actually had a grandson go with us to help her pick out the phone. And he said, "Grandma, this would be a good phone for you. This one is too complicated. You'll be calling me every day to ask for instructions on it. And so, with texting and Skyping and there are so many ways we can stay connected to our grandkids.

And of course, we can also have them visit us for lengthy periods of time, oh, three days, six days, a week, a month, depending on how it works out with the kids and everybody else. And then we can also visit them. And we should have some rules for that. When we visit, remember we are the guest in their home or in their parents' home. But we want some time, undivided time with our grandkids. When they visit us, a good idea is to say, "Can I take a day or two off from work?" Or can I take a whole week off from work, depending on how long they're there.

Can I stay with my golf league or my bowling league? Because right now your grandkids are your priority. And so, those can be meaningful times.

Jim: You talk in the book about the wonder years. Let's touch on that, because it seems that grandparenting would change as the grandchild ages.

Judy: Uh-hm.

Jim: And you're gonna have different challenges at different times. So, let's talk about the younger kids, maybe zero to 5, zero to 6. How do you grandparent--

Judy: And I have to throw--

Jim: --at that point?

Judy: --one thing in here if I could please and that is, when you're talking about the wonder years, even a young child, I just had lunch with a friend the other day, who lives in Michigan and her grandbaby, her first grandbaby lives in California, but she's already Skyping with this grandchild.

Jim: And how old's the grandchild?

Judy: And the grandchild now is probably a year. (Laughter)

Jim: But she can see an image--

Judy: But she sees the image.

Jim: --and hear a voice.

Judy: And the child is starting to talk and they just spent some time babysitting. She recognizes her now on Skype and it's just interesting as you watch this interaction. So, today it is so much more fun, because you can see all these things, even watching her first step. They can videotape 'em. So, you can really be involved as the child grows up, but the wonder years are so much fun, because those are when all the questions come.

Jim: And that's zero to 5 basically.

Judy: Yeah and that's when they're learning all this stuff, you know, learning how to ride a bike, learning why does this happen? How does this happen, looking at a beautiful stone or a bug moving.

Jim: Ah.

Jerry: Or a snake in the grass or something (Chuckling). And to even take hikes with the little children, not infants, but we used to do that along a river just north of where we live. And we would see a deer and we would see other animals and bald eagles and these little kids are just filled with amazement and wonder and to experience that with them is such a privilege.

Jim: It would be. It's hard to connect for some grandparents at zero to 5, because maybe there's a bit of distance. They don't have a good memory of the parent at that point, either they were very busy, etc.

John: I paid my dues; I'm not into that age anymore.

Jim: Right.

John: I've heard grandparents actually say that.

Jim: Yeah, you know, I think I can understand that. That's the diaper-changing era and I'm through with that and I don't want to do that anymore. What about that attitude? What should a grandparent--

Jerry: Well, see--

Jim: --do?

Jerry: --we challenge grandparents, 'cause I said to my Kendall girl just not too long ago. I said, Kendy, I remember when I held you in the palm of my hand. You were two hours old. And I said to another granddaughter (Emotion) and these are grown granddaughters now, I said, "I remember changing your diapers many times." (Laughter)

Jim: Yeah, I know.

Jerry: And it's a little embarrassing (Laughter) sometimes you know, 'cause they're young adults now. But we dive right in with childcare. We dive right in and Grandpa, as well as Grandma. This is not just Grandma's job. You know, I've changed all of my grandkids diapers. And I don't mean one time, just many, many times. I've stayed with them when their dad and mom had things going on where they had to be out of state of something.

Jim: Judy, you talk in the next phase, that 6 to 11 is kind of the coaches and cheerleaders season of grandparenting. What do you mean by that?

Judy: This is when you go to the games. This is when they're learning things. Maybe you're gonna help to teach 'em to cook. Maybe you're gonna go to their game and you're gonna be the coach. And by the way, remember coaches teach. Coaches "cheerlead". And even when you see something going wrong, instead of saying, "You're out," you know, you're gonna be the umpire and you're going to say, "Do you realize you're out of bounds here a little bit, that you might be going too far."

And so, you're going to be that person that's going to be there, cheering them on. They have to have somebody that will be cheering for them. In today's world, this is not easy. This is not an easy world to live in. So they need someone there who will cheer them on and who will be there for them even as they get older. But this is really important in this time. So, we are the coach. We are the cheerleader.

We are going to be there as much as we can. If you can't go to the games, then text them. How did your game go? I've been thinking of you. You know, there's so many different ways again, nowadays to do this. But it is really important during this time. But I have a friend who actually wrote a cookbook. And she has her granddaughters and she taught her granddaughters and grandsons how to cook.

Jim: Huh.

Judy: There's so many things that you can do like that.

Jim: Hey, you know, I'm thinking of that sporting event, if you're looking at 6 to 11. It might be the soccer game or whatever it might be and so often at Focus, we'll hear a letter from somebody, typically a boy who's become a man. My dad never showed up for my Little League game, my soccer game. A grandfather can really play a critical role there, can't he? Where he can step in and be there and what a unique opportunity it is and I would think, Jerry, to be able to say, "I know Dad couldn't make it today and I'm here in his place, 'cause Dad had a business trip. But he asked me to come and watch you." That's a good way to say it, isn't it?

Jerry: Yeah, because that's being supportive of their father.

Jim: Hm.

Jerry; And we want to support them, not say, "Well, it's too bad your dad can't ever get to your games."

Judy: "But I'll be here."

Jerry: "But I'll be here for ya."

Jim: Yeah, it's setting up friction between--

Judy: Right.

Jim: --the two of them.

Jerry: Exactly and we could even say like you mentioned, you know, your dad asked me to come because he really wanted to be here.

Jim: Right.

Jerry: And he got called out of town last minute. He was actually planning on being here, but he couldn't make it.

Jim: But it's a good support position--

Jerry: Oh--

Jim: --to be in.

Jerry: --it's great support. But in order to do that, we need some priorities straight. Well--

Jim: Well, talk to me. What do you mean by that?

Jerry: --our priorities can't be all about us, which--

Jim: That's hard.

Jerry: --yeah, I'm all about me sometimes, too, you know (Laughing). All of us struggle with that a little bit. But it has to be more about them and so, sometimes we need to be able to change our plans. We've canceled dates with other people because our grandkids come into town or something. And so, our grandkids are always a priority. That's just the way it is. There's absolutely no negotiation.

Jim: Huh.

Jerry: They are a priority in our lives. We understand of course, that God is first.

Jim: Right.

Jerry: You know, biblical priorities, but family priorities are biblical.

Jim: Yeah.

Judy: And you know, I need to add here as well. We as parents, what do we really want? We want our children's marriages to go well, correct? We want their marriages to go well. So, how can we help them? How about letting them get away for a "getaway weekend" as a couple? Or do a date night and we say, "We will watch the kids, because you need time out as a couple, as well. And we will gladly watch the children and the kids," so we can help save the marriage even that way.

Jim: Judy, you're sayin' something really important there and that's to have a plan as grandparents.

Judy: Uh-hm.

Jim: What is it you want to achieve as grandparents? I mean, as parents, it's pretty obvious. We want to raise our kids to be healthy, to be emotionally stable, to be spiritual engaged with the Lord. You kinda go in with that game plan and you try to find ways to do it. Maybe grandparenting seems a little more haphazard and you don't think it through. Is that fair?

Judy: Well, for one thing, you really don't know what you're gonna get into until you're in it. (Laughter) And then you have, you know, how many grandchildren do you have, you know? We have five, so it's quite manageable. But some people have 10--

Jim: And 20.

Judy: --you know, and 20. So, then you've gotta start dividing things. You really do have to be organized. But I do think we need to look at our children, as well. How can we help them? How can we come alongside of our children in the raising of their children? Not being the parent, but being there to help them out.

Jerry: But I would jump in, too and say, how can we be an integral part of our grandchild's life? How can we influence them for now and for eternity.

Jim: You're choked up, Jerry. When you're a grandparent, I would think your major concern, 'cause it's mine as a father, I can only imagine as a grandfather, you want to see your kids walkin' with the Lord.

Jerry: Oh, very much.

Jim: That's job one.

Jerry: And even as parents, we know that our kids, they're not always gonna be there. And as grandparents we know the same thing. We have to accept that and still be there, but be alert to opportunities. You know, Jay and I were in the mountains of Idaho at 8,000 feet on horseback. And our guide had all the matches. He had the flashlights. He had everything in his backpack.

We got separated from our guide to make a long story short. And we were separated from the horses. And it was getting very dark, like very pitch dark before the moon comes up. And so, Jay was really getting concerned. He was 12-years-old.

Jim: Huh.

Jerry: And he [says], "Grandpa, what are we gonna do?" And I said, "Well, first of all, let's pray and let's ask God to bring the guide to us or protect us overnight." Overnight it got down to 20 degrees. During the day it was 50 to 60, so we did not have warm clothing with us. We had no horses. And so, we prayed and we asked God to do that. And shortly afterwards, we hear this guide coming over the top of the ridge--

Jim: Hm.

Jerry: --at 8,000 feet (Laughing), miles away from camp. And he's yelling for us and he's got a flashlight. And Jay will never forget that. I mean, for God to answer that prayer. And that was just a natural thing. I mean, I felt, too, I need to pray (Laughing), you know.

Jim: Oh, yeah. What a beautiful illustration that is--

Jerry: Jay still--

Jim: --of showing your--

Jerry: --brings it up--

Jim: --son--

Jerry: --once in a while.

Jim: --yeah, your grandson what it means to trust.

Jerry: Yeah.

John: I've heard you mention prayer a couple of times here, Judy, in the conversation. And I'm struck by my wife's mom, who prays a lot for my kids and I'm so grateful for that. What's an example of how you pray for your grandkids? And I wonder if maybe we could close, Jim, the program here with kind of a template prayer for grandparents out there.

Judy: Every day before I get out of bed, I pray for my grandkids. And I just pray that the Lord would be with them that day, that the Lord will draw them close to His side. And that, by the way, I think that the Lord's prayer, you know, "lead us not into temptation, but delivery us from evil," I'll say, Lord, when there's opportunity, may there not be desire. And if there's desire, may there not be opportunity--

John: Uh-hm.

Judy: -- for them to even sin. During the day, oftentimes when I'm cleaning or I'm dusting their pictures, I'll just lay my hand on the picture and pray for them. And I let them also know that I am praying for them. I also think Paul, when he prayed for the churches, go to the Scripture and read Paul's prayer for the churches, at Colossae and he tells them and the other churches, as well. And I can take these Scriptures and then just say, Lord, this is what I pray for my grandchild and just read Paul's prayer for your grandchildren.

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: That's beautiful.

John: Why don't you go ahead and just close our time here together today with a prayer that other grandparents can follow along with?

Judy: I would say, Lord, You know each heart of each of my grandchildren better than I do. So, Lord, I just pray even now that You will touch their heart, that You will convict them of their sin, give them the encouragement where they need to be encouraged. May they seek Your face. May You bring people into their lives that will draw them closer to You.

And Lord, may we be an example. May I be an example today to my grandchild of You and Your love, in Jesus' name.

John: Hm.

Jim: Amen. Jerry and Judy, we still have so much to cover and I do want to discuss those teenage years and also address some of the other challenges that grandparents can face, such as what happens when a divorce impacts a family. Can you stick with us and come back next time?

Judy: We would love to.

Jerry: Thank you so much and we'll be glad to come back. We always love to talk about our grandkids.

Jim: (Chuckling)


John: Jerry was saying something that I think is true for most grandparents. If you just give 'em a little window to talk about their grandkids (Laughter), they're happy to do so.

Jim: The pictures come out.

John: Yeah and it's been a really, really informative conversation with our guests today on "Focus on the Family."

Jim: It has been, John and as a grandparent, you play a pivotal role in the lives of your grandkids and you know it. It may be different. You can't parent them, 'cause your kids won't like that very much. But one thing that Jerry mentioned today was the joy and the bonding that occurs when you take trips with your grandkids. I do that as a parent. I enjoy that.

And I want to invite you to join Focus on the Family on a four-night cruise. We're goin' to the Bahamas in 2017 to celebrate our 40th anniversary. And we want you and your grandkids and your kids to come along as an intergenerational experience. So, mark it in your calendar, November 13 through 17 in 2017 and get ahold of us now to reserve those rooms.

John: Well, it should be a terrific time and of course, Jim, we need to let our friends know that ministry monies aren't going to make this cruise happen. It's paid for by the people that are participating and going on it.

Jim: Yeah, those coming take care of the cost and we're grateful for that, but we want to pack that boat out and it's about 1,000 rooms that we need to see and we're gonna have a great time.

Let me read you a little bit of the impact of the ministry, too. I want to end on a high note. One listener all the way from Denmark, this woman said, "I don't know any words that can express enough the thankfulness I have in my heart for your radio broadcast. I am 33-years-old and just came out of a depression due to stresses experienced through marriage, parenting and career challenges. During my depression, your broadcasts were a ray of light in my life. It's amazing how God would use your message again and again at exactly the right moment. THANK YOU," in caps.

And you know, John, I hope everyone feels a bit of the ownership of that. We together have reached through the airways and [have] spoken to a broken heart there in Denmark and that happens around the world each and every day and I want to say thank you for helping us achieve that in Christ's name. And if you can support the ministry, I would really appreciate it. We're a little soft toward our budget in the springtime here and it would be important for us to hear from you now. So, if you've enjoyed the broadcast, maybe just a gift of 10, 15, $20, if many of you do it, it will help close that gap and maybe overcome it altogether. So, if we can hear from you today, that would be a real blessing to us.

John: And you can make that donation online and sign up for the cruise, as well and learn more about our guests' book, Creative Grandparenting , all of that at or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And today with your donation of any amount, we'll send a copy of Creative Grandparenting to you as our way of saying thank you and allowing us to put that great resource into your hands.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. We'll hear more from Jerry and Judy Schreur about the significance of your role as a grandparent and once again, help your family 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.