A few years ago I heard John Sandford teach that once a child leaves home into adulthood,  ‘Parents do not have a right to enter their adult child’s life. Instead, being involved in their life is a privilege given by invitation.’

I think this is supported by the biblical idea that, especially once married, an adult child leaves the parents and is joined to their spouse. Thus, forming a completely new and separate family unit before God.  I personally find this concept very healthy and helpful – thus my few thoughts on a topic that has more diversity than codependency has letters.

This morning I posted some questions to grandparents regarding their interaction and connection with their grandchildren. As I expected, the responses varied as every situation is unique. I also received some comments from mothers of children regarding their parent’s involvement with the grandchildren.

I know this is a touchy topic but I have had so many disappointed women with adult children who have approached me after ministering somewhere who tell me about an estranged relationship with their adult child that is painful and messy to them. Sometimes this means limited or no access to grandchildren as well. At times it’s a son or daughter-in-law who has put a strong boundary of sorts up. Those boundaries can take many forms.

I personally think it’s good for us to remember that:

[1] We all need others in our lives. As the saying goes, it takes a village (community) to raise a child. That community can, but doesn’t have to be, in-laws or out-laws. Remember parents, you are under no obligation to open your home and life to your own parents. This is, and needs to be, a free will mutual choice. It has to be something you GET to do, not something you feel you HAVE to do (and do so reluctantly).

[2] Parents of adult children need to move into a healthy mutual adult-to-adult relationship for life to work well.  This means some of you 50+-year-old ladies who still refer to your 25+-year-old married son as ‘your boy’ need to mature past this and cut those apron strings. Yes, it’ll hurt to release him but it’s necessary. You probably should have done it a long time ago.  Your son’s heart does not belong to you. It belongs to his wife and as long as you have a piece of it, there will remain a part that his wife longs for. (And men, your heart needs to rest with the woman you married and not your mum. see Prov 31:11)  The same can be said of women and their fathers, although it’s not as common.

[3] Parents of young children need to also respect the free will of grandparents who don’t want to, or cannot co-care for the children you decided to have.  It’s you who are ultimately responsible for raising them. This may mean you have to make some lifestyle and budgetary adjustments for your children’s sake and in respect of your ageing parents.

In the landscape of today’s fractured family life, I think efforts towards exercising love, patience, honour and forgiveness are needed more than ever.

Feel free to share your thoughts, experiences or questions.

David Tensen

P.S.  By no means have I been a perfect son, brother, dad, husband or friend. (Many will attest to that.)  Nor have my parents, wife, children or friends. I’m sharing these FEW thoughts as a white, Aussie 38yr old father of 3 based on what I see in my vocation on a regular basis is problematic.   I’m aware that what I have written above may leave some saying ‘That’s me! I’m in pain. How do I fix that?’  Can I recommend you consider booking a session with my amazing wife Natalie? She may be able to help you unpack some areas to work on. You can do that here: BOOK NATALIE