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A blended family happens when parents remarry partners with an already existing family. In this situation, roles can be confusing, especially for a grandparent to step into the role of step-grandparent for new grandchildren. Even our Holy Father, Pope Francis, recognizing its importance, took time in a general audience while focusing on the catechesis of the family to reflect on the role of grandparents:

“…Simeon and Anna are models of a spirituality for the elderly. They point to the centrality of prayer; indeed, the prayer of grandparents is a great grace for families and for the Church. In prayer, they thank the Lord for his blessings…intercede for the hopes and needs of the young; and lift up to God the memory and sacrifices of past generations. The purifying power of faith and prayer also helps us to find the wisest way to teach the young that the true meaning of life is found in self-sacrificing love and concern for others…” – Pope Francis

But as roles are confusing, it is simple to remember to love unconditionally those who have been put into our lives and to firmly cling to this as you learn how to love your family members and how to lead them closer to Christ.

It is important, especially in the situation of a blended family, to make clear your role from the beginning. This is especially important if another parent of the child is involved in their life and they may not feel 100% comfortable with the situation or if they want to raise their children in a specific way. Respecting the other parent and their wishes from the get-go can create a positive relationship with them and this can help them to know that you only want the best for their children as well. Consistency in this way can be important for not only the parents and grandparents and their relationship, but especially for the children so that they know the rules and behavior limits to follow. Continuing communication from all involved parties can help to develop the consistency needed for a positive relationship between all adults raising the children. Along these same lines, it is important to discuss with all parents involved what the consequences will be for a child’s misbehavior. This ensures consistency for the children and provides a “united front” for the adult caregivers.

Prayer is so crucial for a developing faith life. There are some children who may not be blessed with an example of prayer and they might not even know how to pray or what it is. When we pray, we develop a relationship with God and you can be the teacher they need to first learn how to pray. In addition to this, you can teach the importance of prayer not only during times of hardship, but in times of joy and peace as well. One practical way of doing all this is to pray daily with your family, or at least as often as you can or whenever you see them. You can also pray for them. By asking their prayer intentions and what they are struggling, you can not only deepen your relationship with them, but you can offer their struggles and petitions to God and be an intercessor for them, especially if they do not have a habit of praying.

As individuals, we are called to evangelize. In the world, we try to do our best to evangelize to each person we encounter. Within the church, we evangelize to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Within our families, the domestic church, we are called to evangelize to our family members. We can evangelize to our families by the witness of our own lives. One practical way of achieving this is through hospitality, by inviting your blended family into your home, welcoming them, cooking for them, and serving them.

It can be frustrating and discouraging for grandparents if their children are not passing on the faith to their grandchildren. The grandparents’ role then is to pray for them and to not compromise their own values and faith. By being a loving presence and constant witness of Christ, they can be a reminder of God’s love. Arguments and unwanted pressure may push the children further away from the faith and be counterproductive. It is important to keep a positive relationship with the children in hopes that this can lead them to an encounter with grace and a conversion to Christ.

Grandparents are also blessed to have wisdom through experiences, both good and bad. These are experiences that the children and grandchildren may not have. As grandparents, you have the vision and wisdom to do your best to help your children and grandchildren not make these same mistakes. Perhaps when you were younger you didn’t have a model or someone who was leading you back to the church, or maybe you simply didn’t have someone to lead you to make good decisions and you had to figure things out on your own. Now you are given the opportunity to be that for your family and loved ones, especially your children and grandchildren. As a grandparent, you are also the family historian and through this role, you can add a deep sense of family tradition to a child’s life, especially if perhaps they haven’t experienced this sense of tradition before in another family.

Another practical tip is to keep in contact with your grandchildren and step-grandchildren. This is important for keeping the relationship alive and for knowing how they are doing. Through this communication you can know what they are both struggling with and enjoying in life and you can know what they need prayers for. This is especially important when they eventually move away to college. During this time you can keep in contact using FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, and even letters and cards!

Step-grandparents, through their unique role, have been invited and called to love their step-grandchildren in a deeper and more meaningful way. By being an example and constant reminder of God’s unfailing love, you can bring the presence and light of Christ to others who may not otherwise be able to experience it. You can go to weekly mass and encourage your children and grandchildren to join you, pray the rosary daily and be eager to answer questions your children or grandchildren may ask. You can be willing to serve, be open, and model the unconditional love of the Father. As our Holy Father reminds us, as a grandparent and step-grandparent, you can point to the centrality of prayer and “teach the young that the true meaning of life is found in self-sacrificing love.”