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How to Talk With Adult Children and Grandchildren About Issues When You Disagree

Written by Dr. Joannie DeBrito, Family Support Specialist

Oh boy! Here we go. It’s an election year and you might have noticed that we are being bombarded with opinions about every issue that is considered important in the minds of voters in the US. The same goes for other countries during an election year.

As grandparents, how do we remain calm, friendly, and connected when we disagree?

Well, it starts with boundaries and knowing who is likely to engage in a civil conversation with you and who isn’t. As grandparents, our first priority should be maintaining trusting relationships with our adult children and grandchildren. Then we can gently refrain from engaging with family members or others who seem more interested in picking a fight than engaging in meaningful dialogue.

If you feel as if a debate with an adult child or grandchild may harm your relationship or if a family member wants to pull you into a mean-spirited debate, you can remind yourself that you are called as a Christian to be at peace with others and simply state that you aren’t interested in debating.

Romans 12:18 says: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (ESV)

On the other hand, if you’ve experienced an adult child or grandchild being genuinely interested in discussing issues of concern in a respectful way, remember to exercise some self-control, one of the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22.

  1. Listen to what your adult child or grandchild has to say.
  2. Be willing to consider his or her points of view.
  3. Respond either by reflecting back what he or she has said or by asking questions.
  4. Point out the places where you agree.

Then:

  1. Present your perspective calmly, kindly, and respectfully.
  2. Clarify that your beliefs about a certain topic are related to your values as a Christian- the sanctity of human life, for instance- rather than tied to a current cultural practice or political movement.

Emphasize Facts and Be Careful of Confirmation Bias

So many people these days are listening to voices on social media and in other places where people are spouting their opinions rather than discussing facts. When you discuss your opinions, try to ground them in facts.

Also, there is a concept known as confirmation bias which means that people tend to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports their prior beliefs. So, be careful not to present information that may represent your own confirmation bias. Additionally, recognize confirmation bias in adult children or grandchildren with whom you disagree.

We Witness Via Our Actions

It’s important to remember that we witness more via our actions than our words, so responding calmly and kindly and connecting to your own integrity is most likely to encourage your adult children and grandchildren to have respect for you and your beliefs. Also, be aware of some of their areas of vulnerability when talking about certain topics. For instance, it may not be a good idea to debate various political policies regarding wars in foreign lands with an adult child who has a child serving abroad in the military.

Being a witness for Christ starts with building relationships with others, and we aren’t likely to build relationships if we come across as insensitive, indignant, arrogant, or self-righteous. We may win a debate with an adult child or grandchild but lose a relationship over a disagreement. Remember that it’s a lot easier to agree to disagree than to try to heal a broken relationship.

We need to care enough about our children and grandchildren to take the time to get to know them, listen to them, and consider their perspectives based on their ages and life experiences. This is what Jesus did. He saw every human being as valuable and walked among all people.

Conclusion

Grandparents who can first show the love and compassion of Christ to their family members and then speak the truth in love are much more likely to be heard than those who seek to convince family members that they are wrong.

Recently, I listened to one of my daughters and considered some factual information she presented that slightly changed my opinion. At that moment, I found that conceding a point helped her to experience me as having some humility, which made her more open to hearing my perspective. That wasn’t a trick or an agenda on my part. The softening of my daughter’s heart toward me was just a natural outflow of my genuine softness toward her.

Ask yourself, “Are you more interested in convincing a family member you are right or having the opportunity to continue to witness to your adult children and grandchildren for Jesus Christ?”

More to explore

The Truth Will Set You Free

The weight of a grandparent’s role can be felt immensely. We hold the stories of the past, the wisdom of experience, and a fierce love for the next generation.

Grandparent, Teach Me to Pray (Part 2)

Part 1 of this blog shared four things to keep in mind as you seek to pass prayer on to your grandkids. Here in Part 2, we’ll look at some specific techniques for helping grandchildren learn what to pray for.

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