Observation is one of the best ways to learn a new skill. The fifth commandment admonishes us to honor our parents so that we can live a long life. One of the best ways to train your children to honor you is for them to observe you honoring your parents.
Adult children may not be called to obey their parents, but we are called to honor and care for them always. Here are some quick tips on tangible ways your family can honor the grandparents in your lives.
Hug them when you see them. Reach over and squeeze their hand during a meal, conversation, or movie. When your children see your affection for your parents it will be natural for them to show you affection as well.
Talk about your parent's lives to your children when they aren't there. My parents live out of state, so often on the trip to visit I would tell the kids amazing stories about their grandparents on the way to their home creating a general awe in them before we arrived. Sometimes the stories would be funny stories, or sometimes inspiring. During the visit the kids would often ask them about these stories on their own. As we approach our golden years, it is comforting to know that the stories of our lives won't be forgotten.
Plan things that will cater to their wishes and needs. For instance, my mother loves Tolkien movies. My family still tries to plan a trip to Grandma's when a new episode comes to the theater so that we can watch it with her. My mother also doesn't like to drive on the expressway or long distances so I find out if there is anywhere she needs to go when I am with her that she has delayed because she didn't care to drive there.
Depending on what your financial status is, find a way to honor your parents through finances. If they are on a tight budget and you can afford it, send them money every month. Or perhaps they are financially secure, then try to be the one who pays for meals and allow them to choose where you might go.
This is such a simple gesture, but it creates such an atmosphere of deference and respect. If you think about it, a good parent spends their life ensuring that their children have as many doors of opportunity available to their children as possible. Opening physical doors for them is a symbol of gratitude and kindness that exhibits respect.
Pray for your parents as a family. This serves as a dual lesson: one on respect and care for parents and one for the power of agreement in prayer. Taking time to pray for someone is the greatest labor of love that there is.
For Christmas and birthdays, make their present a family project. Recently, my kids and I planned a "This is Your Life" present for my mother. We compiled pictures and went on a tour of significant places. We took pictures and had family friends write letters to put in a scrapbook. So. Fun.
My parents are early to bed and early to rise. As much as possible our family has respected this lifestyle by being careful to make phone calls at an appropriate hour. Perhaps your parent's are vegetarians or have a special diet due to disease or illness. Try to offer things within the lifestyle they have chosen. My parents also have very godly and high standards for the media that they watch. Our family is extra careful to screen not only what we show to them, but also what is on in the house when they are there.
We cannot expect our children to exhibit honor and respect for us when we have not amply modeled honor and respect for the lives of our own parents. The bottom line is that honoring our elders is a way to fear God and an incredible way to pay it forward.
Leviticus 19:32 ESV “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord."
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra