Becoming a grandparent or an elder is one of the most important rites of passage in your life. However, many elders in our contemporary society are still embodying the archetype of the powerless wounded child, even in the transition to grandparent.
Wounded children often cannot welcome their own experiences or accept what they find within themselves because they are holding on to behavioral or emotional patterns and beliefs from childhood. Wounded children often continue to blame their parents and others for how life has turned out well into adulthood (into their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond).
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If that sounds like you, you’re not alone. Since our society lacks traditional rites of passage, this is now the norm. Now that you know you are acting out the wounded child script, you can shift: Wounded children must take responsibility for their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being in order to become what I call a “spiritual adult.”
Your relationship with yourself and with your kids can make your experience as a grandparent. And since it’s your life, you are responsible for how you show up in those relationships.
Here are four ways that you can prepare for your rite of passage into being a grandparent, cleanse and clear your energetics so that you are prepared to be a good elder:
Work on yourself
Make sure that you are taking responsibility for your experience—no blaming or shaming others. If you did not ever learn to be a spiritual adult who can reveal her experience honestly, hold your boundaries, and clear resentments, learn how to do those things. Take a communication course and practice your skills. Learn to take care of your own emotional wellbeing.
Get a therapist
Uncover the ways that you may be co-dependent with your kid or that you may have unhealthy or dysfunctional ways of relating with your kids. Hopefully your kids have individuated from you before they have become parents, and if not, you can help. When you uncover the unhealthy ways that you may relate with your kids, it will most likely be a huge relief to them.
Create shared reality about where you may have slipped up as a parent yourself. Have an open dialogue with your kids so that you both can avoid passing on these dysfunctions to your grandchildren.
Gather family stories
One of your important duties as a grandparent is to gather and tell the stories of your family so that they can be passed on. You can gather these stories by writing, making a recording on your phone, or finding the photos of your family. These are stories that will be treasured by the whole family at holidays and throughout the year.
Get clear on who you are becoming as a grandparent
How do you want to be with your kids? How do you want to be with your grandchildren? Envision who that grandparent is, and decide what kind of support and resources you will need to become that person.
Do you need to take a class? Read a book? Ask for support from friends or professionals? You have spent your whole life becoming the person you are today. Is there anything you want to include before your grandchildren arrive?
Show true curiosity and support
Your kids are also going through a major rite of passage into parenthood. In other words, they are becoming new people. It can be scary, overwhelming, and exciting, or something else. Don’t assume you know what they are experiencing just because you also became a parent.
As they move through this major rite of passage, they may simply need space and/or they may need people who are truly willing to listen; truly curious about their emotional experience—not just about the baby. Don’t miss the opportunity to get to know them better.
Develop a willingness to trust and defer to your kids
Your kids are grown adults and parents who can make their own decisions. New parents receive an unprecedented amount of unsolicited advice, and fending it off can be exhausting. Don’t be that person!
They will certainly ask for your advice when they want it and they certainly know about your extensive experience as a parent.
There are two parts to this willingness to trust and defer:
1) Instead of focusing on your desires and needs in becoming a grandparent, ask how you can support your kids, especially early on in their journey of parenthood. Once you have provided support, you can ask if it would be ok for you to share your visions for being a grandparent. Make sure they are open to hearing it before you offer your perspectives.
2) As you age into elder hood and your kids have become accustomed to their roles as parents, clearly request the support that you desire or need from them and be open to receiving it in a different way than you expected.
Of course, if there is a glaring issue in which you feel that you have a duty to speak up, do so with skill.
Be a good elder
The path to healing and becoming is unknown and never-ending. You will never “get there.” But your efforts will exponentially improve your life and relationships. It is never too late to become a spiritual adult and step into your responsibility to your community, your family, and the world, as a good elder.