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Lifesavers for Grand Parents

  In the rapidly evolving arena of family dynamics, grandparents are often called to provide a stable foundation for children. Author Jean Smith, a grandmother of nine, speaks from the field and provides guidelines for success that have been tried and tested.

Personal testimonials and stories of a family’s journey will inspire you to succeed as a grandparent. This is a “how to do it” book for mature adults who aspire to invest in the future through the lives of their grandchildren

Sample Chapter with table of contents

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 By Jean Smith – senior author

Recognize Your Options


Each year brings new beginnings for many. A new resolution, another diet, new adventures, or a new approach to an old problem. As I reflect on family, I am reminded over and over again how critical it is for my approach to extended family to be intentional. Not accidental, but deliberate, bathed in prayer. Waiting for the next encounter or opportunity to be with family forces me into the role of problem solver and robs me of the opportunity to make the choices I earnestly desire. Pause and think out of that old box for a minute, and try to visualize how we can better communicate our love and concern for family. Try methods never before tried, experiment with new plans and spend much time in prayer before presenting these ideas to our loved ones. We know that family draws near at times of crisis and how grateful we are.  Do not allow the gaps between family times to become so wide, weary travelers may despair before they make the journey.

Making Memories 


A seasoned observer of parties and celebrations with and for children will note the essential part of the event. Children long remember what they did at the party, not what they ate.   Yet we spend hours and money choosing the food, trimmings and neglect the essential part, leave it to professional entertainers or often leave it unplanned.  

The same principal applies to family events. With Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon, consider spending time planning fun events to keep your family returning home for the holidays. Traditional foods go a long way but soon disappear. What do family members do before and after the meal time? 

Some families share blessings, remember years gone by or watch videos of good family times together. We enjoy games together, when the football games have been reviewed by all the sports fans of the family. This year I am planning an event before the meal, giving family members a list of major products of our society they are to arrange by the year they were invented. The list is fun and age appropriate for my “double digit” grandchildren and family members. A prize goes to the winner. 

Following the meal, we have two events for anyone wishing to participate. First, we have quilt squares ready to assemble. Strips and middle pieces have been planned and they all assemble two blocks, adding their name to box. The quilt will be finished by Christmas and we draw for a winner from the box. For our additional event, materials are gathered to assemble fun Santas, using Clorox Wipes for a base, adding fabric, beards, glasses, hats, etc.  Our final event is asking everyone to gather outside after dark and we turn on all the Christmas lights.    Obviously all these events require planning and advance preparation. Everything works best if carefully prepared and participation is optional.  The point is – it is more important than the food.



Many words of wisdom have been penned extolling the unique relationships within families, and the unique component always seems to be the extent of time spent together. Many of us feel the tugs of familiar times and ways pulling us back toward what we knew as home, with the people we know so well.  Grandparents rely upon this precious tool for keeping families close.   

I recently experienced an unusual opportunity which occurred because of this same principal of relationships built over extended time. I began leading a Girl Scout troop when the girls were in 2nd grade, and the group of  20 girls remained together until they graduated from high school. All the girls were in the same grade and same school. We met every week and camped each month for eight years. The close ties formed were unusual and lasting. Twenty years later, the group decided to meet to celebrate with me the publishing of my first book. Eighteen of the twenty members came from near and far, bringing families with them. The time together was loving, funny and warm and reminded us of time travel. It seemed as if we had never been apart. 

Relationships established over time are like strong steel cable, not easily broken. Praise God for the joy of family and friends found in such secure bindings.



It’s a nice fence, good wood, pleasing color and the fence provides a perfect background for our roses.  The problem is, we can’t see over it.  For years, we enjoyed standing at our chain link fence and visiting with our neighbors.  We shared family news, traded recipes and shared plants and garden tomatoes, until they built a fence.  All communication has stopped because the fence is eight feet tall  Everything changed because of that fence. 

Family fences occur in multiple ways and some may be tall, very, very tall.. Divorce, drugs, transfers, affairs, sexual preferences, religious issues, morality disputes, or various disagreements or disappointments construct bridges which block views and hinder family communication.  It seems everything has changed, because of that fence. 

The neighbors still live there on the other side of that fence. They have not changed, not really.  They just wanted a fence. They did not tell us or ask our permission.  We know our consent was not required, but they didn’t even ask. We never seem to make the effort to climb over the fence, build a gate, or even walk around it. Communication was so easy before, and now it seems much too difficult.  Why even try? 

Find a way to get around the fences in your family.  The family is still there, the children may not have noticed the changes the fence caused, and they wonder why they don’t see you. The better defense may be to forget what it was like before the fence and concentrate on what is, and how to best maintain contact.

Here’s to grandparents, who are as different as their grandchildren…


  • Those who work at home, those who are retired.

  • Those who cook or quilt or drive or ride or play or create.

  • Those who play golf or practice free throws or new cheers.

  • Those who cheer honor students or those who accept green hair.

  • Those who tutor slow students and those who go back to college.

  • Those who sit in the rocking chair and those who travel by jet.

  • Those who communicate electronically or write letters.

  • Those who grandparent alone.

  • Those who teach and accept diversity.

  • Those who spend time with grandchildren when in personal pain.

  • Those who become both parent and grandparent.

  • Those who speak a different language, or have different skin tone.

  • Those who courageously blend families together and those who choose to live alone.

  • Those who accept criticism as well as compliments.

  • Those who never, never give up.



What is the difference between making decisions and giving advice when relating to grandchildren and their families? The decision occurs when, and if, we are to express an opinion. Many grandparents overlook this step and move right into expressing opinions and advice without slowing enough to decide if the door is open for this or any input. It is easy to understand the need to abstain from giving unsolicited advice, but how about recommendations for major decisions? Is it ever acceptable to give advice to our children about parenting? When can we put our wonderful treasure of information to use to guide our young family?

Sometimes, the best way to approach decisions affecting more people than you is to ask a few questions and listen and listen quietly. If you have paved this communication road with good will, and they see and feel your genuine interest, they may ask for your opinion. And remember—an opinion is not necessarily binding, but only an opinion; one opinion among many, and one opinion which may not be chosen.   Thank God for the opportunity to be heard, then back away quietly and watch your grown children parent.  You could be very pleased.

January Reflections


Amidst the January hustle of storing decorations, returning gifts, resting up and enjoying photos of the holidays, I have listened as friends reflect on their season highlights. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Lots of quiet family time, eating, laughing, working puzzles.
  • The family returned to reading Luke 2 and children dressing for their parts of the nativity story, animals and all.
  • Our adult children units each gave us a song, all older hymns. Recorded on U Tube
  • The new baby performed with her parents to “Must Be Santa”
  • Grown children each wrote a letter to their parents. Accented with photos of them with parents through years of development, the pages made a treasured scrapbook.
  • Young teens used their own money to surprise their mother with a chair big enough for all three to snuggle.
  • Snow globes for my grandchildren, with their photos as children and now.

The best stories show values found when loved ones spend time together and invest in gifts from the heart.  January is a good time to reflect and plan for the year ahead and next year’s holiday season basted in love and appreciation for family.




Seniors are walking, breathing history books.  Even if the cover is not glamorous, the contents can move readers emotionally if the senior finds the courage to share the story. You know how to spin a yarn, to tell a story, especially if it is one you shared in.   Try recording these stories in some form and you will find the task refreshing and delightful. Life brings to each of us experiences which take residence, content to remain unheard unless we call them out.  When these tales guided by emotion emerge, stories from the heart flow freely.  Mature friends, speak from your heart – find your voice and let it be heard.  Readers will rejoice when they read a story which floods their mind with memories of a time dimmed by age. Your vast library of information, wisdom, humor and experiences will be gone when you are.  Leave a living legacy – write it down.

Recent Releases
Launch date for the book: Lifesavers For Grandparents has been set for October 2