Over the past year, I’ve heard from many of you that a healthy relationship with your children and your grandchildren isn’t part of your current story. I realize that some hurts and situations make it difficult to move forward, but moving forward is all you can do. Meeting needs and loving well will improve your family’s health.
Sometimes getting to a healthier place in relationships means tackling things from many different angles to find something that might work. Doing this is like removing a piece of tape–you pick all around the edges until you can work a little piece loose. Then you can get a better hold and remove the entire piece of tape.
Focus on What You Can Do to Meet Needs
First, Assess where you are, both the good, the bad, and the neutral. Look for the positives. Even in dire situations, there is at least something positive to say. My nephew is homeless, has addiction issues, and is the father to a daughter whom he has given to his parents to raise. Almost everything about his situation is negative, but there are some positives, too.
Her grandparents take good care of her and she is thriving with the stability they provide. When the two of them are together, he is attentive and engaged with her. Although he is currently unable to meet most of her needs, he communicates love to her by letting her know that she is connected to him biologically and through the story they share and the activities they enjoy.
Those may be the only positives, but they count.
Second, Decide what you can do. This may involve figuring out what you want to do, what you have the capability and resources to do, and what estranged family members will allow you to do. The next step is to make a list with these headings and brainstorm the ideas that come to mind:
Want To Do Capability and Resources To Do Allowed To Do
Circle the things that show up in all three columns. Prioritize anything that meets the most basic needs first. (Review Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). Then choose the one thing that will give you the most bang for the buck. Work on that first. Meeting basic needs will improve your family’s health.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Start by meeting Basic Needs. The most foundational of those needs are the Physiological Needs for food and water, sufficient rest, clothing and shelter, overall health, and reproduction.
The next level of needs is safety—protection from violence and theft, emotional stability and well-being, health security, and financial security.
Love and belonging are the third tier of needs and revolve around humans’ social needs. These include friendships and family bonds with a biological family (parents, siblings, children) and with the chosen family (spouses and partners). Physical and emotional intimacy form the bonds that create love and belonging. Social units and teams can also contribute to meeting this need.
The fourth level is Esteem Needs. These are the higher needs for self-respect (that you are valuable and deserving of dignity) and self-esteem (confidence in your potential for personal growth and accomplishments.) Self-esteem comes from both one’s self-assessment as well as from respect and acknowledgment from others.
The final need is for Self-actualization, which refers to fulfilling your full potential as a human being. The areas encompassed here include education, skill development, refining of talents, caring for others, and other broader goals.
As people, we need to see where we are on Maslow’s Hierarchy. Parents need to evaluate where our children are, and grandparents need to assess our grandchildren’s needs. Meeting needs will improve your family’s health.
Balance Responsibility and Authority
You are not responsible for the things you have no authority over. But you are responsible for the things that are within your sphere of influence. You are not helpless to act. You can only do what you can do. I believe in the power of prayer and God who cares even more than we do about our grandchildren. Bring your family prayerfully to God, and then do all that you can do.
Families are all dysfunctional to some degree or another. That doesn’t matter. Broken families are tragic, but it doesn’t help to focus on what is broken. Focus on what can be done today to improve the situation . . . even if all that can be done is to cling to the idea that there is hope.
Make a Plan to Meet Your Family’s Needs
I’m a big proponent of planning and goal setting. If you can connect with your grandchild once a month, then connect with them consistently. Don’t miss a single opportunity. Make the most of every opportunity. If you only get access on holidays or birthdays, make the most of that event.
The goal of life is to love well. Once basic needs are met for food, shelter, and safety, we need to meet the need of feeling loved and belonging. Gary Chapman identified Five Love Languages:
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
- Words of Encouragement
- Gift Giving
When you figure out which expressions of love you can do (or are allowed to do), experiment and find the methods that work best. When you are blocked from loving in the ways you prefer, you need to take a step back and figure out what avenues for love are available to you. Then do more of what you can do. Meeting needs and loving well will improve your family’s health.
- Consider the positives and be thankful for them
- Decide what you want to do
- Review what you have the capability and the resources to do
- Determine what you are allowed to do
- Circle what shows up in all three areas
- Prioritize Maslow’s Needs and Erikson’s Stages of Development
- Consider the various ways you can express your love to your family
- Set a goal and make a routine for doing what you can do
- Consistently do what you decided to do
The goal of life is to love well. When you find yourself blocked from loving in the ways you prefer, take a step back and figure out what avenues you can pursue. Do what you can and trust that your family has the potential to get healthier.