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How grandparents can help children of divorce honor their moms on Mother’s Day

 
 

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With Mother’s Day on the horizon, many churches are planning how to celebrate the mothers in their congregation. In children’s classes around the globe, little kids will be making things to take to their mothers on this special day.

There is one group of kids, though, who are conflicted about how to proceed with celebrating their mothers, and that is children of divorce. Like my son said when he was in elementary school, “How am I supposed to get you a present? I don’t drive and I don’t have any money! And I don’t have Dad here to help me.” This is where grandparents can step in and help. Here are a few ways they can assist.

Helping children of divorce honor their mothers

Grandparents can:

  • Help the children pick out a special gift that is particular to the former daughter-in-law’s likes or hobbies.
  • Take the grandkids to a florist and help them choose an arrangement they’d like to have sent to their mother for Mother’s Day. Make sure the kids sign the card.
  • Send an edible fruit arrangement to the ex-daughter-in-law’s home and on the card say something like, “Kids, help Mom celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday by sharing this fruit with her.” (This is for the grandparents whose grandchildren live in another city or state.)
  • Invite the grandkids to their home and bake cookies for them to share with their mother on Mother’s Day.
  • Invite their grandchildren and former daughter-in-law to attend church with them on Mother’s Day.

No one said this would be easy

It’s important for us as church leaders and children’s pastors to understand the many issues grandparents might face in helping grandchildren celebrate the ex-daughter-in-law. From the article Staying Connected to Your Ex-Daughter-in-Law After Divorce we read, “Divorce isn’t easy on anyone in the family, and grandparents are no exception. The hurt feelings, sadness and anger that erupt can threaten—and potentially destroy—even the most harmonious and loving family relationships.”

So what are Christian grandparents supposed to do? How are they supposed to act when it comes to the ex-in-laws? How are they supposed to try and maintain those loving family relationships when the parents of their grandkids are at odds with each other? I don’t know about other grandparents, but I suspect most, like me, want to pass on family traditions and teach their grandchildren to love the Lord and to be kind and respectful. I want my grandkids to learn biblical principles. Helping a child honor his or her mother is one of those principles. That means many Christian grandparents will desire to bless their ex-daughters-in-law on Mother’s Day, but they’re not sure how to move forward.

When you relate to their situations you can better help them understand their role as Christian grandparents—a concept that can be quickly forgotten in the midst of the divorce war. And you can give them practical tips to avoid doing more harm than good.

Understanding the issues grandparents face

Not on speaking terms

When a former daughter-in-law won’t speak to the grandparents, the grandparents might feel awkward or even be nursing their own hurt feelings. Some grandparents will shy away from even praying for their former daughter-in-law.

Ask the grandparents to think in terms of praying for the mother of their grandchildren. Ask them to set aside their own hurt feelings in order to minister to the grandchildren. Their primary concern should be for the grandchildren and for the tradition of honoring mothers.

A bitter son

Another complication Christian grandparents have when it comes to celebrating special days like Mother’s Day is when their own son is against or doesn’t want them to celebrate “that woman.”

A hesitant ex-daughter-in-law

Sometimes the ex-daughter-in-law wants to reach out, but she’s not sure how she’ll be received. Facing yet another possible hurtful rejection, many times she will pull back and wait to be approached. Make the grandparents aware of this possibility.

Help the grandparents understand that if the ex-daughter-in-law has rejected them and cuts ties with them, the Lord calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. While this might be a strange verse for ex-mothers-in-law, it is still a commandment. It doesn’t say to love only those who love you. Realizing it might be very difficult for them to love the ex-daughter-in-law, through prayer and giving her to the Lord they can ease their own burden.

When acts of kindness are rejected

If the attempt to help the grandkids celebrate their mom is rejected, encourage the grandparents to give it time. Healing takes time, and repairing a perceived rift between the grandparents and the ex-daughter-in-law doesn’t happen quickly.

Don’t let them give up

Encourage Grandma and Grandpa to keep reaching out. Tell them not to expect anything in return for helping the grandkids. Remind them they are doing this as an example of God’s love to the grandchildren. They will be modeling and teaching the grandchildren to honor their mother. Let them know this is one small way they can pour into the grandchildren spiritually.

Encourage them to bless other moms

If there is no way the grandparents can reach out to the grandchildren to help them celebrate their mother, then encourage the grandparents to make the day about others. Find some single moms in your church and pair them up with grandparents who can assist those kids to honor their mother.

One year I took a young man under my “mothering wing,” so to speak. His mother had passed away when he was just a kid. He was now married with children of his own. I asked him a few weeks before Mother’s Day how he was going to help his children honor their mother. He had no idea because he could not remember that much about celebrating his own mother. I gave him ideas and then followed up a few days before Mother’s Day. Even though those weren’t my grandkids, his young wife was very appreciative of the suggestions.

Explain to the grandparents that they will feel better about themselves when they are perpetuating God’s love to someone else’s family. This trumps sitting around feeling sorry for their family’s situation.

A difficult situation, a wonderful opportunity

I realize this is a sticky subject for many families. I acknowledge that there are mothers who do not act like they are worthy of being honored. These might be mothers who are incapable of being a parent to their children due to such things as having abandoned the family, being addicted to a substance, being abusive, or having mental health issues.

In situations like these, grandparents can be the ones to explain in a loving manner why mothers in general should be honored. They can acknowledge to the children that for the time being their mother is not able to provide care for them. Grandparents can empathize with the children. They can teach them to go to the heavenly Father and pray for their mother. Grandparents can be the catalyst that draws the children close to the Lord in troubling times.

 

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