Great tips for grandparents from Rob Parsons
Author and speaker Rob Parsons admits resisting the urge to interfere has been one of his biggest challenges as a grandparent ...
In his latest Sixty Minute book, Rob Parsons aims to help all grandparents to be the best they can be. The Care for the Family founder (and grandfather of three) talks to Sharon Barnard
Resisting the urge to interfere has been one of the biggest challenges for Rob Parsons since becoming a grandparent, he admits in his most recent addition to the bestselling Sixty Minute family.
“Occasionally I will catch myself thinking: ‘I wouldn’t have handled it that way’ when I see my kids dealing with their own children. But I have to say, my children are way better parents than I ever was.”
It’s clear he’s enjoying being a grandfather and relishing the chance to play again. He’s also having fun watching his son Lloyd’s children driving him mad.
“It just feels like payback time for all those times when he, as a child, caused Dianne [his wife] and me to climb the walls!
“But seriously, the greatest joy is watching our kids as parents and realising that although there have been plenty of tears, God got us – and them – through.”
This kind of honesty and down-to-earth approach, suffused with laugh-out-loud humour, have been key features of all Rob’s books on marriage, parenting and family life.
They are written for everyone – not just Christians – in need of support, encouragement and wise counsel. And who doesn’t need that.
Many of the insights Rob shares on the subject, ranging from grandparenting when families fall apart to finding your place in a blended family, have come from people he’s talked to.
“When researching the book and talking to other grandparents about my own fears and concerns, I was not surprised to find people being honest with me about their own experiences.”
The fact that Rob writes partly as a fellow traveller on the journey rather than an expert may be one of the reasons why his books have been so successful. Would he agree?
“Definitely. I remember meeting the Executive Director of CARE, Lyndon Bowring, 25 years ago to discuss starting a new ministry – Care for the Family.
“Lyndon said: ‘You and Dianne will be able to tour the country telling people how to build strong marriages.’
“‘Ah,’ I replied. ‘There’s a bit of a problem with that. We’ve been married for over 15 years, but we’ve been through some very tough times – times when we didn’t feel much in love.’
“‘All right,’ Lyndon said. ‘Then tell people about that.’
“And so one of the foundation blocks of Care for the Family was laid: vulnerability. It remains one of our core values 25 years later.”
He adds: “A lot of the time people don’t want to hear from ‘experts’; as much as anything they need someone else to simply listen to them – to say ‘me too’.”
Grandparents, Rob writes, are an enormous force for good. They can offer unconditional love, build confidence and self-worth in their grandchildren and be their “emotional safety net”.
They also come in all shapes and sizes, with some loving every minute of their new role and “some scared to death of it”. But what really matters to a grandchild, he says, is knowing their grandparents love them and are always there for them.
And as churches continue to help support the changing needs of families in the community, Rob points out that there are growing opportunities to encourage grandparents and be encouraged by them too.
“One of Care for the Family’s special projects is Playtime which provides resources and support for church parent and toddler group leaders. More and more we hear of grandparents being involved both in leading and attending groups with their grandchildren.
“I have long thought that church parent and toddler groups are one of the Church’s best-kept secrets. Not only do they provide a source of activities, fun and fellowship for both carers and children, they are often a beacon of light to some very vulnerable families.
“What a wonderful service grandparents provide by supporting and attending such groups. So many young parents don’t have their own parents living near them and are often very isolated.
“That friendly listening ear, or an arm around the shoulder at just the right time, are the things that make a real difference.”