By Tricia Scribner

Jen and Mark have seven grandchildren.  As Christian grandparents, they wish they could talk to their grandkids about Jesus, but for one set of grandkids, that’s forbidden because their son’s wife, the grandkids’ mom, is an atheist. If Jen or Mark even mentions the word “church,” the conversation shuts down. Their son has warned them not to bring up that “Christian stuff” around the grandchildren or they won’t be allowed to see the kids at all.

What I’m about to say requires us as grandparents to lay down our pride, our desires, and our disappointment and take up self-sacrificial humility and confidence in the God who loves our adult kids and grandchildren more than we do. While these actions may be tough, they aren’t nearly as tough as dealing with the consequences of allowing disappointment, fear, and anger to drive our actions.

Instead of thinking in terms of what we can’t do, let’s think of five things we can do!

We can show love and respect for our adult child and spouse/partner as parents.

We as grandparents have already been parents; that time has passed. (Wouldn’t we love a do-over for our failures?) Our role now is to provide support, not to control. Even when we don’t agree with parental rules, we can:

  • use our words to build the relationship between our grandchildren and their parents, not to tear it down. While grandparents must sometimes confront parents’ dangerous behaviors (whether the parents are Christians or non-Christians), our goal is to foster a healthy relationship between our grandchildren and their parents.


  • honor boundaries and family rules. Nothing damages a relationship with an adult child and his/her partner more than undermining parental rules and telling our grandkids to keep it a secret. “I know mom told you no sweets, but a couple of cookies won’t hurt. It will be our secret.”


  • take opportunities to speak well of our adult child, our grandchild’s parent. For instance, we can share with our grandkids sweet memories of their parent’s growing up years. “When your daddy was in second grade, he loved fishing, just like you. . . .”

We can act in faith, rather than in fear.

Maybe you’re thinking, But what if our grandkids’ parents have threatened to stop us seeing our grandkids? Yes. Even then. Especially then.

In Psalm 56, David described a situation that struck that kind of fear in him. Saul hunted David like an animal, refusing to rest until David was dead. Having escaped to Philistine territory, David didn’t know whom to fear more, Saul or the Philistines. That’s why he said in verse 3, “when I am afraid” (emphasis mine). Fear is not an “if” but a “when.”

While David confessed his fear, he didn’t camp out there. Instead, he drove a metaphorical stake in the ground, declaring his life as God’s territory by affirming his trust in God. Then, he pronounced his enemies’ attacks impotent against the God whose power (v. 9), protection (v. 13) and tender love for him (v. 8) had proven His trustworthiness.

But here’s a point worth noting. Even after David prayed the words of Psalm 56, his crisis didn’t evaporate. But God gave him power to live faithfully and righteously within the interminable crisis. He will do the same for us, when we practice trusting Him.

We can take the long view.

Right now, things may look bleak. We pray for circumstances to change. As we intercede, they may. But if they don’t, we can determine to act in a Christ-honoring way, waiting patiently before Him, without fretting (Psalms 37:7).

We can remember to wait before the Lord, not merely for a change in circumstances. Rather, our waiting provides opportunity to affirm His faithfulness, goodness, and power, and to renew our strength. While there is no guarantee our grandkids or their parents will trust Christ as Savior, neither of these painful possibilities changes God’s character or His enabling us to live faithfully. Click To Tweet

Further, one day our grandchildren will be grown. If we are still alive, they will be free to choose the kind of relationship they want with us. Invest now for that future.

We can teach our grandkids critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Critical thinking is a way of reasoning to understand and solve problems. If grandkids’ parents ban God-talk but are okay with our teaching our grandchildren other things, we can train them to reason well so they can analyze and evaluate truth claims (whether religious or not) for themselves.

Here are a few examples of useful thinking and reasoning skills to teach:

How to identify assumptions underlying truth claims

Claim: “You should do what you feel is right for you.”

This truth claim comes with various assumptions such as “Whatever you feel is true,” and “You have a moral obligation to be fulfill your desires.”

How to recognize fallacies in arguments

  1. All fish swim in water.
  2. That creature is swimming in water.
  3. Therefore, that creature is a fish.

The conclusion doesn’t follow logically from the premises. This is an example of the non-sequitur fallacy.

How to recognize when a claim is self-defeating

A truth claim is self-defeating when it doesn’t meet its own stated standards. “I can’t type a word of English.” (“Wait a minute. Didn’t you just type those words in English?”)

To learn more about reasoning and critical thinking skills, here are good resources:

  • For 13 and under: The Thinking Toolbox by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn
  • For teens: The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel Bluedorn

We can explore the natural world with our grandchildren.

If God is persona non grata in conversations with our grandchildren, we can explore the wonders of the universe with them, focusing on its beauty, order, design, complexity, and purposefulness.  When we do, we know as Christians that the effects (evidences) bear witness to the cause (God), as Romans 1:19-20 describes. These characteristics of nature reveal a personal, all-powerful, creative, purposeful, and infinitely intelligent Mind behind it all. Nature speaks even when we cannot (Psalm 19:1, Psalm 139:15).

So that we don’t undermine parental rules, we need to prepare to respond when questions about origins and evolution come up. This challenge is not so different from my Christian friend’s experience as a biology teacher in a public school.

When students ask how the universe began, for example, she explains that the current prevailing view among scientists is that everything came into being from nothing, by chance. Students often look at her incredulously when she pushes home this point. Why? Because, regardless of religious convictions, to say everything came into existence from nothing by chance is illogical. And they know it. She doesn’t have to say, “God created.”

So, take heart.You are not alone. Like you, thousands of Christian grandparents walk this road. Christ Himself knows what it’s like to live with family members who reject the truth (John 7:1-5). Click To Tweet He has placed you in this family—your family—for His purposes. Seek to love and respect the parents of your grandchildren, acting in faith rather than fear, and taking the long view. Focus on what you can teach them, such as critical thinking and reasoning skills and the wonders of the natural world. And breathe.

*For more help, take a look at Overcoming Grandparenting Barriers by Larry Fowler of the Legacy Coalition for help in biblically navigating difficult grandparenting situations.

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