Overcoming Barriers to Grandfathering

by Arthur Kornhaber, M.D.

I hope you enjoy a special kinship with your grandchildren. It’s one of life’s most precious opportunities. In my work among grandfathers, I have noticed that some granddads aren’t fully engaged with their grandkids because they’re held back by two life-stage barriers. I want to make you aware of those barriers, so you can hurdle them and move forward with your grandkids.

First, you may have a limited view of your remaining years. Even if you have potentially thirty or forty years of life left, you may be living as though the best years are in the past. Maybe you think that forty years in the workforce have earned you the right to take it easy.

Well, that‘s hogwash. The world may say, “Slow down.” But, if you listen to your heart, you’ll hear it saying, “What’s next? I’m eager and willing.” You can still have ever-expanding horizons and a passion for life that will never die. Don’t miss out on that.

The second potential barrier involves the relationship with your children. Your son or daughter is like a gate-keeper between you and your grandchildren, so tension or unresolved pain in that relationship can cause hindrances with your grandchildren. Healing those wounds is an important part of being a grandfather.

It may mean that you need to ask your adult child, “Are there promises I made to you that were never delivered on?” I know it’s a risky move; it’s tough to hear about your own struggles as a father, but what a great first step toward reconciliation. You may want to make excuses or defend yourself, but instead, be open to your child’s perspective, and seek his forgiveness if you need to. Show that your relationship is more important than your own pride.

I know this is tough, but the rewards are far greater than any losses. If you can heal those wounds, your relationship will move into a new, better territory—and a great by-product will be that your adult child will enthusiastically support you being a part of your grandchildren’s lives.

And that can open the door to a season in life that makes the others dull by comparison.

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There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.