Question: As a first-time grandma, I'm excited to play an active and positive role in my grandchild's life. But I also want to be careful to respect appropriate boundaries with my son and daughter-in-law. Do you have any suggestions?
Jim: Congratulations! Grandparents can have a significant impact on the lives of your children and your grandchildren, and you've gained valuable perspective after raising your own kids. As first-time parents, your son and his wife may soon feel overwhelmed by the nonstop responsibility -- so you can help them see this little one through the eyes of a love-struck grandmother.
The best gift you have to offer is the gift of your time. You'll well remember that new parents need a break occasionally. Instead of a vague "let me know if I can help," you might suggest a specific time -- for example, "How about if I come over Tuesday evening at five so you two can get out for a couple of hours?" You can also extend an open invitation to call you whenever they feel they're reaching the end of their rope.
Incidentally, here's an important piece of advice about giving advice. You may not totally agree with the way your grown children are raising your grandchildren. But be very careful about the way you broach that subject, especially with your daughter-in-law.
Why do I say that? Remember: As parents, they have the final say and responsibility for the way their children are raised. Your duty in almost every situation is to abide by their decisions. The one exception is if an irresponsible parent's behavior or neglect is exposing a child to harm. Otherwise, offer advice only if asked, and work at building a relationship through which you can share the benefits of your parenting experience.
Question: My husband was a smoker for most of his life. He quit a few years ago, but I just discovered that he's smoking again -- and has been hiding it for months. I'm very upset over this but want to support my husband. What should I do?
Dr. Greg Smalley, vice president, Marriage & Family Formation: I would guess that you're feeling a range of different emotions -- so before doing anything else, I encourage you to sort those out. You're probably frustrated that he's back at square one with his struggle. You'd naturally be upset that he's hidden this from you for so long. You have a right to expect honesty in your relationship, but instead there's been a lack of transparency. The foundation of trust may not have collapsed, but it has suffered some erosion. Repairing that should be your focus.
I suggest you sit down with your husband for an honest conversation. Begin by expressing your disappointment FOR -- not in -- him. Assure him of your love, respect and confidence that he'll win this battle. Emphasizing this may help alleviate some of the shame that may have contributed to his concealment of the relapse.
With those things said, ask him to tell you his story. Has stress at work or home triggered the urge to smoke? Why did he feel he couldn't share his struggles and be honest with you?
Once you understand those things, move into why his actions hurt you. Don't make smoking the issue; he's likely more upset about that than you are. Instead, highlight that this is a matter of trust -- and for that to exist, you need to feel he can confide in you. Ask him if there are obstacles to that, and what might be done to remove those.
If the obstacles seem too big or you need guidance working through this challenge together, please give our counselors a call at 855-771-HELP (4357).
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.