Could you be a more courageous grandparent? Here’s 5 ways.

Let’s face it, grandparenting is not an inexact science. If you are one, it’s something you know only too well. No grandchild conforms to a stereotype. Each is a unique and precious individual.

So where can we find help on how we can bless our grandchildren with our lives, our resources and our time?

Enter stage right Cavin Harper with his helpful book ‘Courageous Grandparenting’. It’s overflowing with wisdom to help us make the best of our role – especially from a Christian perspective.

To give you a taster and encourage you to dig deeper, let me walk you through 5 of Cavin’s key subject areas. If you are a grandparent he wants you to have the courage to –

1. Wake up to your responsibility

You may well identify with Cavin’s realisation that ‘My life was changed the day my first grandchild arrived’. In that context he speaks about realising being a grandparent is both a privilege and a responsibility.

He writes, ‘That day I determined to make sure my grandchildren knew the (Bible) story. Even more I wanted to do all I could to make sure my generation of emerging grandparents understood what was at stake if we did not wake up to our responsibility’.

He believes grandparents have a duty to do everything they can to help their grandchildren find faith. As he puts it, ‘we talk, we pray and we act in any way which points our grandchildren to faith in Christ.’

2. Don’t be a maybe boomer

Cavin points out that today’s active grandparents are the Boomer generation – born in the years after the last world war and growing up as teens in the 60s. This makes them the youngest grandparents in western civilisation.

That means we are likely to be active ourselves – with part time or even full time work that is either paid or voluntary, energy and health equipping us for ‘adventures’ of our own. All of which can distract us from seeing grandparenting as we should.

Cavin challenges us about our willingness to be less involved with ‘doing our own thing, protecting our own portfolios and pursuing personal comfort rather than being a conduit of blessing for the next generation’.

3. Be an ally and not adversary

Cavin is convinced ‘successful grandparents know it is not just about their grandkids and them’. Rather, it’s about parents and grandparents being on the same team – ‘as allies, not adversaries’.

Read his book and you will find helpful guidance about how we develop good relationships across the three – maybe even four – generations. This includes his assertion that ‘Effective grand parenting is a more achievable goal if you can maintain, as much as is in your power to do so, a strong and healthy relationship with your grandchildren’s parents’.

4. Take time to understand

Cavin notes that as grandkids move from being kids to teens they have a culture very different from their grandparents. And that this extends well beyond the way they dress, the music they listen to and the way they spend their time.

He suggests we can be negative to their culture because it doesn’t fit our own norms. Even critiquing youth culture with our mature wisdom may not cut much ice. Rather, we should try to understand so as to know better what to do or say to our grandchildren.

The child’s main concern is not if it’s true but does it work for me, the writer points out and argues, ‘I am convinced no amount of reason or carefully crafted persuasion will engage the world and cause it to change. It is the incarnation of truth by people of unshakable faith that will open the door for the Holy Spirit to convict the world’.

5. Untangle the technology web

Perhaps like me you’ve seen a 12-year-old send a text at the speed of light with their eyes closed. This, and everything online, is their natural habitat. With some seeming to spend more time in front of a screen than they do sleeping.

As Cavin points out, for many of those who are two generations above them this is all in great contrast to ‘the way we did things’. But whether you are ‘tech-savvy’ or not, your grandchildren are. If all they experience from us is a negative attitude to the world they live in then the opportunity for effective dialogue will shut down’.

Cavin’s book has many helpful suggestions about engaging technology to our advantage. Step by step he works through ‘God is the creator of technology, ‘Technology is not inherently evil, and Technology can be used for good’.

As a grandparent of 7, this book opened my eyes to some of my own mistakes – leaving me wishing I’d read it 20 years ago. It also encouraged me to keep going and to try some things I haven’t yet tried.

Furthermore, Cavin Harper’s book made me realise I am not the only one who could do a little better in the grandparenting stakes. Which is why I hope many others will read this very engaging and helpful book ‘Courageous Grandparenting: Building a legacy worth outliving you’.

Think this might be helpful to others? Then please share using the simple links below. Thank you.

Dave Fenton:

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

In sickness and in health –keep this in mind should you become your partner’s carer.

Life in later years can have its shocks. With one being to realise your partner’s declining health is moving you into the role of carer.

That’s not the plan but it can become the reality – whether all of a sudden or gradually.

Is there wisdom that might help us now or in the future? I’ve spoken to a few who have their own story to tell and able to share what they’ve learned. And hope their wisdom might help others – even you if that moment comes.

Understanding the issues

For example, I can tell you about Janet and Ray – not their real names of course – who had always worked harmoniously together. They’d been like ‘two wheels’ – raising their kids, running the family business and taking on various roles at church. Everyone agreed they complemented each other perfectly.

‘At first I didn’t notice,’ Janet told me, ‘but bit by bit Ray was losing ground and no longer the strong man he’d always been. Little things I had to do because he no longer could, his mind slowing down, me feeling anxiety I never had before.’

A year later came the blow of a Parkinson’s diagnosis. With Ray becoming increasingly dependent on Janet. How did she adjust and what helped?

She told me, ‘My emotions were hard to cope with. Part of me was – unreasonably – angry with him. I felt bereaved. I sometimes resented it all and then felt guilty.

‘My doctor was supportive, and I managed not to fall into depression as some do. Sometimes being allowed to escape for a while made a difference, to do something just for me. And the understanding of others was a huge help. Sometimes we could laugh about it all, which was a relief actually.’

Janet found having a daily routine essential but hard to achieve. On difficult days they just got through the jobs one by one and ate their meals until thankfully it came to bedtime and hopping the next day would be easier. Which, sometimes, it was.

She also found they needed things to look forward to. To break the monotony and trial of living with pain and disability – which, in their different ways, they both were. As Janet explained, ‘Ray loved Sundays; to go to church and enjoy the singing, hear the message, see his friends. And my weekly Zumba session saved my sanity sometimes.’

Practical action

From someone else I gathered this list of ‘Random notes to a friend whose spouse is terminally ill’. They are in not in order of importance and include both practical and personal thoughts. Only some will apply in any given situation and you may want to add your own.

  • Learn how the boiler works and find out about the many other tasks they have always done
  • Get copies off all their online passwords.
  • If you have separate bank accounts transfer any cash at the bank from the one who is soon to ‘be promoted to heaven’. Otherwise that money will be frozen until after probate.
  • Check they are content with their Will – any legacies to add? Talk about any personal items they would like to go to family members, friends, godchildren. Specified items mean so much to the recipient – ‘She wanted you specially to have this.’
  • Children and grandchildren. Are there things to be said, or letters to write while health permits? Say or write deep things, thanks, and reminiscences while you can.
  • Go through significant papers together, check you understand what is needed for the future.
  • Think ahead and avoid ‘if onlys’
  • Share your fears, sorrow and grief if given the time
  • In the later stages get the extra help you need – try to take breaks from being the carer.
  • Enjoy what you can together while you can. Spend time
  • ‘Just being there’ is a great comfort to the one who is coming to the end of their life. Give ‘permission’ to your loved one to let go, if need be.

Use the available help

The temptation is to soldier on – sometimes out of pride and sometimes because it seems easier than involving others. But that can be a recipe for disaster. It is vital that you look after your own health and wellbeing while being a carer for someone else.

That means, when offers of help come, take them – and don’t feel guilty.

Also, see what support is available through your church and your local care service. And grab it with both hands.

What experience of being your partner’s carer do you have that could help others? Please tell us here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook Group. Thank you.

Celia Bowring
Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

The epidemic of loneliness needs a Doctor’s prescription. And here it is.

As I’m a doctor, you’d probably expect me to use the word ‘epidemic’ in the context of a raging disease. But not so this time.

There’s an epidemic spoiling lives and even reducing their length with not a virus or a germ in sight. It’s the epidemic of loneliness.

More than that, there’s something we can all do to put this epidemic to flight because it doesn’t need special training or skill. In addition, those in their after-work years are the most able to respond.

The loneliness epidemic can be summed up with three simple statistics. In the UK–

  • Over 9 million people – that’s almost one in five of the population – say they are always or often lonely
  • There are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people
  • Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone

Of course, there’s a massive difference between being alone and being lonely. Also, it’s not just an issue for those too old to get out and about.

This came home to me in my surgery a while back when faced with a teenager asking for help with her low mood.

I discovered she had over 1,000 Facebook ‘friends’ yet nearly all her ‘home time’ was spent in her bedroom, on a tablet, keeping up with ‘friends’. When asked if she ever saw any face to face the answer was ‘hardly ever’.

My patient’s problem was loneliness. She was constantly ‘without company’ and felt ‘cut off from others’. My ‘prescription? That she should re-discover her dormant hobby of dancing – which would return her to a supportive community, with a shared interest.

This simple ‘prescription’ set her on the road to recovery – all without the need for counselling or medication.

This one incident throws up lessons important for all of us –

Loneliness does harm.

Recent research shows loneliness has health implications that go far beyond depression. There good evidence loneliness –

  • Contributes to the development of dementia
  • Increases the risk of physical illness to a greater extent than does raised blood pressure
  • Is a risk factor for heart disease and strokes – having the same impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • Increases the likelihood of someone dying by more than a quarter

In addition, lonely people visit their GPs more, take more medication, have a higher incidence of falls, and attend A+ E more. For those who are younger the impact on their health tells a similar story.

It is not just an ‘old person’s’ issue

Understandably, loneliness has come to be associated with those towards the end of their days, having lost a life-long spouse and peers, and now being house bound. Of course, this is mostly true.

However, loneliness is increasingly becoming a feature of our society and seen in all seasons of life, from school age, through to old age, and everything in between.

This ought to lead us to keeping our eyes open for loneliness where we would not expect it. As well as seeing the needs among those who are most at risk.

Something can be done

In the case of my young patient, the remedy was to get out there and engage socially. However, for those in later years that’s seldom an option – with the only solution being for caring people to visit.

This leads me to think of the huge benefits in store if more of us took time to seek out those who are lonely and visit from time to time.

This seems to be something that should be right up their street for those who are retired and still active. Be it a regular visit, to a car ride, to a lift to a social setting – including to one of the increasing number of activities being run by churches.

It is something individuals and couples can do. It is something every church should have in its radar and be responding to in a proactive and intentional way.

To explore this further, including for advice on how to become a visitor and befriender, see the AfterWorkNet web pages on The Lonely.

Take the medicine yourself

It seems unlikely that, at this moment, you fit the ‘lonely’ category. But make sure you keep it that way as it is easy to drift into it.

Whatever may happen to you over the coming years, be proactive and engage with others though an old hobby or interest, or by trying a new one. And keep linked, or make links, with a vibrant church and its supportive and loving community.

Richard Roope

Dr Richard Roope has been a GP for almost 30 years at the same Hampshire practice. He’s also the Lead for Cancer for the Royal College of GPs and Cancer Research UK. Married with three daughters – two also doctors – he’s a member of a lively C of E church in Winchester. Enjoying long distance cycling, Richard has just completed a 12-day 760 charity cycle through the length of Italy.

Ever wondered who may be hiding in the branches of your family tree? Here’s 8 top tips to find out.

I’ve found out that Formula One driver and former world champion Jenson Button is my second-cousin on my mother’s side. Of course, he doesn’t know it. And may not be very excited if he did.

However, the discovery made my day – as have many other others – when searching the depths of my family history. It’s an activity I enthusiastically recommend – especially for those no longer working full time and, supposedly, with time for new interests.

You may be surprised as to how easy it is to learn more about your roots and, in doing so, leave a legacy for those following on. And what a way to have conversations with grandchildren about where they have come from.

Fancy giving it a go? Then, based on my experience, here come my top 8 tips.

Perhaps you’ll find past relatives to match another of my own – Sir Philip Randle, internationally honoured for advancing scientific understanding of the causes of diabetes and who founded departments of biochemistry at Oxford and Bristol Universities.

Want to find your own ‘Sir Philip’? Then here we go –

  1. Get clued up on the subject
  2. To get you going, read a book or two on researching your genecology. Or have a good Google. Just put ‘all you need to know about researching ancestors’ into a search engine and you are on your way.

  3. First dip into the memories of older relatives
  4. This is the ideal way to get things rolling and establish a launch pad. You may be amazed at what they know about their own forebears.

    I discovered my mother was the one who knew everyone, had facts at her fingertips, and could recall things with great clarity – making it an ideal way to start.

  5. Use the internet
  6. The internet has pushed this type of research to new levels – delivering you from endless visits to trawl through parish records and survey gravestones.

    Specialist genealogy services like Ancestry, Find My Past, and The Genealogist now offer access to billions of records – and not just in the UK. They will absorb your time and are not cheap.

    However, all include a free trial. So you could work flat out for a short period of time. Or try your local library which may have one or more of them to access without charge.

  7. Use a genealogy programme on your computer
  8. This is a way to save hours of work. It completes all the links for you, draws a tree, and include pictures if you wish.

    The most widely used is Free Family Tree Builder from MyHeritage. Also recommended by the experts, and also free, is Legacy Family Tree Genealogy Standard.

  9. Access the census records
  10. Census forms list everyone in a house on a particular day, their ages, relationships, and their work. With there having been a census every ten years since 1801, other than 1941, you have access to great insight into the past.

    It was a special experience for me when examining the 1911 census – the first in which residents had to fill in the form themselves and the last released for public consumption. I was moved to see to see my grandfather’s writing, knowing he had actually penned the entry.

    However, it has not all been joy. I’ve discovered some of my relatives ended up in the poor house, and many worked down the mines in the Midland’s coal field.

    One of these, Albert Wilkinson, was a Main Checkweighman at Elsecar Main Colliery – chosen by workmates for his integrity because he checked the weight of the coal brought to the surface and, thus, the amount their earned.

  11. See what churches have to offer
  12. Churches have lists of their weddings and baptisms going back many years. Lancashire, for example, has many of the churches’ listings, including even including burials, at the Online Parish Clerks site – http://www.lan-opc.org.uk Other regions may have the same.

    This has made it possible for me follow my Hall tree back to 1808, when my great-great-great grandfather was born.

  13. Check and double check everything
  14. I’ve discovered it’s wise never to assume dates and places as being accurate. Wherever possible cross reference and check again to save you barking up the wrong tree (see what I did there!)

  15. Find others on the same quest
  16. Most areas have a group dedicated to family history and provide a meeting point to learn new tricks or make friends who can help guide your research. Often a local library runs sessions to introduce newcomers to such research.

There you go and who knows who or what you will find to delight you in the way that I have been delighted to discover –

  • My grandfather, Elijah Hall, was a local preacher in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, – and a miner under contract to deliver an agreed tonnage of coal to the pithead, hiring and paying his own labour.
  • An uncle who lost a leg in a mining accident when quite young and became a cobbler.
  • An uncle who became a county councillor on the West Riding of Yorkshire and was made an Alderman.

It is an enthralling and rewarding hobby which uncovers the past and opens up many avenues to discover your roots, skeletons in the cupboard, famous relatives, or even those who have emigrated and made it overseas.

So go get hunting. You won’t regret it.

For other ways to discover new challenges and activities in your after-work years see the AfterWorkNet pages on New Opportunities.

Have you made discoveries about your ancestors? Or have insights on how to find them? Please comment here or on our Facebook Group. 

David Hall

Dave Hall working life was as a journalist on local newspapers, Christian magazines, and as a press officer. Married with two adult children – one in Spain and the other close to his home near Burnley. Dave preaches and helps at Little Stars, the mums’ and toddlers’ group, and Messy Church at his village church.

Are teenagers any of our business? Oh yes, says the Psalmist – and here’s 5 practical insights to do your best.

Trying to understand the behaviour and culture of today’s teens can be as challenging as attempting to eat jelly with chopsticks.

For that reason, it’s not surprising those of us who no longer have teenagers can feel we’ve done our bit and survived. So let’s leave it at that. But should it be how it is?

After all, what about the powerful words of the Psalmist – a promise and a command – that ‘We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them’. Psalm 78.4-6.

And there’s more here. Read on and we hear the positive and the negative consequences of our actions. If we do it right then they will ‘trust in God’ (v7) and ‘keep his commands’ (v7). While verse 8 gives us the negatives. Failure to engage produces a ‘stubborn and rebellious generation whose hearts are not loyal to God’.

Sorry, there’s no dodging it. But here’s some good news to encourage you. The findings of a new report about teens, The State of the Nation, from five Christian agencies, includes a significant finding.

Asked what made them feel good about themselves, more than 9 out of 10 said ‘my family’. They may not breeze up to you and ask for your opinion or help – but relationships need to be cultivated.

That means if you have teens within your family circle you are already ahead of the game. But our call to follow the instructions of the Psalmist doesn’t stop there and has huge implications in the context of church life. But how do we do it?

I’m not saying it is easy. We will not always get a listening ear or an acceptance of our perspective. However, that’s not a reason to chicken out.

With that in mind, here are 5 simple principles to help you give it your best shot.

  1. Listen, listen and listen. To put it bluntly, if we want to be heard we first have to listen – and listen hard.

    It can be a tough and confusing world for today’s teens. They need to know we at least want to understand what it’s like for them to live in an increasingly baffling world where ‘truth’ is a matter of opinion, peer pressure is huge, the environment charging towards it sell by date, and huge debt from a student loan beckons.
  2. Beware of the word ‘tell’. There’s a danger wrapped up in word ‘tell’; a danger which springs from today’s culture. In our day we were used to being ‘told’. Because that’s how education worked. But things have changed – dramatically. 

    Today, teens who need to hear have experienced an education based on investigation and questioning. This means we need to find ways to help them explore rather than poking them in the eye with ‘truth’. So don’t dismiss the value of floating questions in their direction for them to explore. But there is a telling that should be done which is to . . . .
  3. Speak of God in action. Note where the Psalmist says we are to start It’s not with hard facts or doctrinal statements. Rather, we are to tell them of ‘the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done’. 

    The implication is to be sure the next generation know what God has done for us. It is about our story and we need to have one.

    Forgive me for asking, but what exactly is it you are seeing God do for you today that causes you to praise his power and actions on your behalf? What is your own story; the story made possible because you are out to live your afterwork life to the full? That living story of a living God is where the communication begins.
  4. Don’t fudge what God expects. God’s statutes – what he expects of his people in the way they are to live, is also on the Psalmist’s agenda. But note, when God delivered his Commandments, he’d already giving the people good reason to praise his deeds and power – delivering them from slavery, parting the Red Sea, meeting their needs in the wilderness and more.

    If teens are to understand God’s Commandments they need to see they come from a God who wants the best for his people and has shown this in the way he acts. To use an old phrase – ‘it’s talking the talk and walking the walk’.

    More than that, it can be surprising to discover teens can welcome the clarity that comes from God’s instructions for living in contrast to the anything goes assumptions inflicted on them by the world around them.
  5. Buck the system. Churches don’t make it easy for us to share what God has done, and is doing, with other generations. That’s because in most churches there are groups for children, young people, men women and seniors. Often these groups are isolated. As a result, church operates as MULTI-generational with groups for all individual ages rather than INTER-generational which allows generations to mix together).

As a result, most of us in our later years rarely come across teenagers, let alone have the opportunity to talk with them about God and his wonders. What a loss that represents.

Which is why, if we are to fulfil the aspirations of the Psalmist, we need to work smart. Perhaps it’s something you could get your church leaders to face up to? Possible ways forward include.

  • Talk to a teenager in a church meeting – ask about their exams or where they’re heading, current issues or whatever
  • In your family, take a genuine interest in your teenagers Do you know what they are learning what floats their boat, what troubles them, and more? And be aware that statements such as ‘in my day ….’ are killers.
  • Pray regularly for a leader or group in your church and ask for prayer information.
  • Invite teens round for a meal and give them a belter. It may take a few goes at this but pray for interesting things to talk about and ask them what they think about the big issues.
  • Don’t assume all teenagers and culture ridden grunters.
  • If you have teenagers in church do what you can to see them fully integrated. A wise vicar used to ask ‘What CAN’T teenagers do in our church’ – the answer is ‘not a lot’. So rope them in.
  • Love them for who they are – even when they mess up. Because they will, just as we did.

It’s very easy to be critical of teenagers but the ones in our church or family come under the Psalm 78 command to pass on what’s true about God and his loving relationship with us.

I have worked with teenagers for over 50 years and sometimes they drive me crazy. But the overwhelming desire is to see them make sense of their world in a Biblical context. Let’s listen and love and help in any way we can.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

What has your church done to make its teens more integrated into its life? Please share here or with our Facebook group.

Revealed: Why teens behave that way – and what you can do.

Beautiful granny and her granddaughter are doing selfie using a smart phone and smiling while sitting on couch at home

With teenagers often being a mystery to their parents, is it any wonder they can seem even stranger to grandparents.

But there’s something all three generations should know that could transform understanding and relationships. And afterwork grandparents have a vital role to play.

At the heart of the teenage problem is the way they can so often behave. Moody, depressed, rude, impulsive and distant. Taking unwise risks, having intense friendships. And staying hidden under the bed covers until well past lunchtime.

For years it’s been assumed that such behaviour was all down to puberty and hormones. But new and ground-breaking research tells a very different story.

The cause is all down to how teenage brains develop – or don’t’.

What’s been discovered is that a teenage brain is not a fully formed adult brain. And because the prefrontal cortex is still developing, teenagers are more likely than adults to rely on a part of the brain called the amygdala to make decisions and solve problems.

Why that’s an issue is because the amygdala is associated with emotions, impulses, aggression and instinctive behaviour. Get it?!

To put is simply, at their stage of life, teens are wired to behave in the ways that can seem so antisocial and destructive to those of us with ‘grown up brains’.

This vital discovery comes from the award-winning neuroscientist, Prof Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. And is set out in her ‘must read’ book Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain by Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore.

This book is far more than a piece of academic research. It’s also a plea for parents, grandparents and society as a whole for teenagers to be better understood and not simply treated as difficult, selfish or rebellious.

In a recent media interview, Prof Blakemore explained, ‘Brain scans and psychological experiments have now found that adolescence is a critical period of neurological change, much of which is responsible for the unique characteristics of adolescent behaviour.’

She added, ‘Far from being a defective or inferior version of an adult brain, the adolescent mind is both unique and beautiful. Teenagers are brilliant.’

Which is why, she argues, that while adolescence is a period of vulnerability, it is also a time of enormous creativity – one to be acknowledged, nurtured and celebrated.

In her book, Prof Blakemore also comes to the defence of the ‘lazy teenager’. She wants us to understand they are likely to stay in bed because they need more rest to cope with developmental stresses.

In addition, she stresses that, a teen’s body clock is different to an adults. To put it technically, our sleep/wake cycle is controlled by a part of the brain that regulates the synthesis of melatonin. And after puberty, melatonin is produced later at night, which is why adolescents buzz until late in the evening and struggle to get up in the morning

This means we should stop worrying about teenagers wanting to sleep in all morning. As the Prof puts it, ‘To regard them as lazy is as illogical and unfair as it would be to consider a two-year-old workshy for needing a midday nap.’

That sounds like a wakeup call (see what I did there?!) Parents and grandparents alike understand a toddlers’ sleep patterns, yet the particular needs of teenagers’ are largely ignored.

What can all this mean for those with teenage grandkids? For a start it points to making sure their parents are on the ball on this significant issue. And then playing whatever part they can in supporting parents as they –

Let teens take healthy risks. This is a way to help a child develop their own identity, explore grown-up behaviour, and move towards standing on their own feet.

Help teens find creative and expressive outlets for their feelings. Watching or playing sport or listening to or creating music, writing, drama and other art forms are good ways.

Talk with teens about their decisions. Cover the choices of action they may chose and what the consequences might me. Help them weigh up the positives and negatives.

Offer praise for good behaviour and reward it. Consistent affirmation is a key to these troubled years. As has been said, ‘look for opportunities to catch them out doing the right thing’.

Talk with your the teen about their developing brain. Do the best you can to help them understanding what is going on and why – and how special and remarkable they are.

Above all, don’t underestimate the significant role a grandparent can play in helping a teen navigate their difficult and challenging years. Or in supporting their parents while it is all happening.

Dave Fenton:

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Warning. Three things not to miss this Christmas.

 

Never mind the Twelve Days of Christmas, beware of the Twelve Daze of Christmas. Because that’s what it can all too easily become.

A blur of advertising messages, busyness, and meeting the expectations of others can swamp us. And ‘it’s all over before you know it.

This can be especially true for those of us who’ve been around long enough to now be active and retired. Automatic pilot kicks in. Been there. Done that. Bought the Christmas jumper.

So here’s a little check list of three things we ought not to miss. Or, to put it another way, here’s some opportunities to grab with both hands.

1.Don’t miss those who are lonely

You’ll be hearing it on the radio and in the shops –that big past Christmas hit –‘Do they know its Christmas time at all?’

One of the most evocative lines of any Christmas number one reminds us that far too many will be adrift from the joy and friendship that’s wrapped up in the Christmas season.

Indeed, Christmas is the time the reality of loneliness can be painfully magnified when, seemingly, everybody else is having the time of their lives.

All of which provokes the question, ‘What small part can you play to reduce the experience of loneliness for just one person?’ The answer will be different for each of us. But can we do something?

For my own family, some of the best times have been when we have had an unexpected visitor with us. Like the Moroccan student who understood little of the meaning of Christmas and was even more confused when we went outside and threw snow at each other.

2.Don’t miss those who are hurting

Christmas has a way of stirring up painful memories for those now missing someone they love. If a bereavement is recent then this is understandable and we’ll be taking account. But it can equally be true for anyone facing a stark reminder that someone dear to them is not round the table.

It takes older and wiser heads to look out for the signs of pain. And a caring heart to come alongside and ‘be there’ for them. Who better than an after-worker – with their eyes and listening ears open – to respond.

However, a loved-one’s absence is not the only possible cause for hurt during the Christmas season. My most poignant Christmas memory was at our Christmas market when a man in a wheelchair said ‘I’m here to buy my wife her last Christmas present I’ll ever buy’. Knowing he was terminally ill, he wanted his wife to have a memory.

We took time to talk and pray with him. And now we see him as a constant reminder of the people to look out for.

Of all the wonders of Christmas, the most important thing for me is the people. And it is surely a time to look beyond the comfort and security of our homes and realise there is still a huge world of need out there.

3.Don’t miss the meaning of the season

This brings me back to my ‘automatic pilot’ concern. Those in the early stages of retirement can often have more responsibilities to distract them rather than less – children, grandchildren and even their parents.

That makes it hard – but even more important – to find some space to reflect. What better way than to wrap our minds round that profound Charles Wesley carol which has a sermon in every line.

Here it comes –to mull on and enjoy for the wonderful truths it carries. I’ve made some suggestions as to thoughts and responses you might have.

Hark the herald angels sing

Glory to the new born king

Worship is due to the son of God

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled

Pray for peace and new life for those who do not know Jesus 

Christ by highest heaven adored

Christ the everlasting Lord

Late in time behold him come

Offspring of the virgin’s womb

A brilliant description of the real Jesus

Veiled in flesh the godhead see

Hail the incarnate deity

Jesus is both man and God

Pleased as man with man to dwell

Jesus our Emmanuel

The living Word came and dwelt among us

Mild he lays his glory by

Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

            From glory he came to give us new life in him

Here’s to a happy, caring and Christ-centred Christmas.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

What way have you found to make Christmas special for others? Please share here or with our Facebook group.

Think the personal pain from abortion is nothing to do with you? Think again.

One in 3 UK women will have had an abortion by the time they are 45 – experiencing the emotional impact that can go with it. But why should this concern those in their after-work years? After all, doesn’t abortion mainly impact those much younger?

If that’s in your mind, please think again.

The 1967 Abortion Act is now 50 years old. This means many now in their later years will have made this choice – and some will be in our churches, possibly including your church. And they may well still be carrying a deep sense of guilt, failure, grief.

Even worse, due to a fear of rejection and being judged, they may never have felt able to tell anyone and so receive the loving care they need.

It’s because of this I have a longing for every church. It’s that they should be where those who’ve faced an abortion or other baby loss, can receive grace and compassionate understanding.

This is why OPEN exists, as an initiative of CARE. It’s also why your own prayerful wisdom could have such a part to play.

Is the post-abortion experience something to mention in church?

Over the years, Christians have spoken out to protect unborn human life and challenge efforts to make abortion law ever more liberal. But this doesn’t mean we should not whole-heartedly support women who’ve had abortions.

Keeping the two in balance is not easy. But, for Christians, both baby and mother matter.

In our churches, some may have come to terms with their abortion experience. They have no need or desire to open up about it. But there may well be others still feeling deeply affected, and who resist being open for fear of the reaction of others.

This means they’re left dealing with the hurt and pain on their own. This can also be the painful experience of women who’ve had a miscarriage or still birth.

I know this to be true.

Almost without fail, when I’m speaking for OPEN in churches, people confide in me of experiences which often have taken place years before. And they tell me how they’ve never spoken about their abortions, especially not in the setting of their church – and how the pain was still very real.

I’ve learned that being open, non-judgemental, and truly caring can have an amazing and transforming impact on those living with the experience of abortion.

For example I think of the woman who said she was ‘free’ for the first time in 30 years. For all that time she’d carried silent grief and pain, and a sense of unworthiness. This burden was lifted when she heard God understood this grief, and he forgives.

Here’s what you can do

With some extra time on your hands and years of wisdom at your disposal, here’s 6 simple but valuable things you can do to support those who have experienced abortion.

  1. Be aware: Start with an understanding that there may well be those in your circle of friends and contacts who are carrying pain from a past experience of either abortion or miscarriage.
  2. Be open: Sensitively include this reality in conversations or in the context of preaching and teaching.
  3. Be alert: Look for signals and be open to caring and affirming conversations with those who might find it helpful.
  4. Be praying: Pray for good conversations with those for whom this might be an issue.
  5. Be proactive: Get the issue on the agenda of your church by having a speaker share how a compassionate response can be made in your church and community.
  6. Be practical: One of the most helpful things you can do is recommend one of the OPEN Healing Retreats.

To learn more, do visit the We Are Open website. It’s a rich resource for you and your church. Or email me at open@care.org.uk

Jenny Baines

Jenny’s background as the mother of a large family, her own miscarriages and being a Pastor’s wife, drew her to respond to the needs of those impacted by pregnancy loss. She’s now a consultant for OPEN, an initiative of CARE, helping churches create an environment where these sensitive issues can be shared with grace and compassionate understanding.

Busier than ever? Here’s all you need to know about saying ‘no’.

An older woman writes a day plan on a calendar. Next to it is a cup of tea. Business concept. Close up.

It’s probably the thing I’ve most heard from those no longer in full-time paid employment – ‘I’ve never been so busy’. But it is seldom said with relish and joy.

What’s going on? Why are so many of us saying ‘yes’ to demands on our time when the opposite is what we really have in mind? And what can we do about it?

Here come my six rules to help you say ‘no’ and the four big reasons why it’s so hard to do so.

Six simple rules to help you say ‘no’

A fresh request for your time or help can come in one of three different ways. So be on the lookout for the ‘ask’ the ‘nag’ and the ‘ambush. The ‘ask’ is simply a ‘please’. The ‘nag’ is a ‘please, please, please’, and the ambush is when you are totally distracted and they sneak it in while off guard.

Parents go through this with their children. It can also happen to us in our adult afterwork life – from family, friends, church and more. Which is why you need to be clear, no matter how the request comes, that –

  1. You have a life to live too: This means you have as much right to say ‘no’ as they have to ask. You are under no obligation. And that even extends to caring for grandchildren. Love them though you do, you did not choose to have them and have every right to make your own decisions about them.
  2. It’s okay to ask for time to think it over. If the delivery of an outright ‘no’ seems too much, take the heat out of the situation. Try a response something like ‘I don’t think that’s going to be possible but let me check and get back to you’.
  3. Offer a trial run. Sometimes a request for a seemingly never-ending commitment can leave you unsure – with a ‘no’ being too definite and a ‘yes’ the same. So, reply along the lines of ‘Can we give it a try for a few weeks and then review it on both our sides?’.
  4. Never fudge. If you know the answer should be ‘no’, have the courage to say so for the sake of all concerned. You don’t have to justify your decision and the more you try to the deeper entrenched you’ll get. All that’s needed is an ‘I’m sorry but much as I’d like to that’s not going to be possible’.
  5. Having said ‘no’, leave the area. When you deliver your answer then either change the subject or move away – fast. The longer the ask is part of the conversation the more confusing it is for both of you and more likely you’ll recant.
  6. Offer a compromise. Perhaps you can’t go the whole hog but could still do something and would wish to do so. Then try ‘Sorry, that’s not possible. But what I could do is . . . . ‘. However, be sure that’s really what you want to do.

Why is it so hard to say ‘no’?

Having read the above you may already be saying ‘if only’ it was that easy. I understand. There are solid reasons why saying ‘no’ can be daunting – and here are some of them.

We fear the reaction of the other person. By saying ‘no’, will the other person like us less or even feel we don’t like them? Will we come over as selfish, thoughtless or unkind? There’s no reason for any of this to be true. Saying ‘no’ is only refusing a request and nothing more.

We wrongly believe our value is in what we do. That could have been how it was in the past – in our workplace, whatever that may have been. And it’s easy to carry such wrong thinking into our new afterwork era.

Much of our busyness – and failure to say ‘no’ – can stem from a subconscious need to feel loved and valued. In the new ‘free-grazing’ world of afterwork this can be even more so. And that can have the outcome of us trying to fill the gaps by saying ‘yes’ too often.

That is why we need to discover a greater confidence we are cherished and appreciated by God and others. This would deliver us from the pressing need to ‘do’ in order to gain approval.

We fail to recognise saying ‘yes’ to ‘this’ means saying ‘no’ to ‘that’. Time does not expand to accommodate each new commitment we make. If only! But it’s a reality we too often deny – like good old King Canute trying to hold back the waves.

Each day remains twenty-four hours long, no matter how many extra promises tumble from our well-meaning lips. Time is one of the most precious resources at our disposal and every new ‘yes’ can mean having to say ‘no’ to something else.

We have not nailed down what we will say ‘yes’ to. Think of it this way – shouldn’t Jesus have been the most overworked person to have walked the planet? So many were in desperate need of what only he could deliver. Yet he never seemed to canter or break out into a sweat.

How come? After all, think of Jesus making his way steadfastly to Jerusalem. It takes little imagination to reconstruct the possible words of his disciples walking the same road. ‘Master, there is a village close by where many need to be healed.’ ‘There is a distraught family, Master, where you could bring such a change.’

Yet Jesus kept going to Jerusalem. How was that possible? Because he knew what he had already said ‘yes’ to. And the clearer we are about our own ‘Jerusalem’ the freer we will be to say ‘no’.

What do you do that helps you say no? Please share it – here and on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.

 

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Want to get closer to your grandchildren? Try these 5 simple ways.

Grandchildren come in all shapes and sizes. And you want to build the closest possible relationship with them. But how?

Here are 6 simple ways to bridge the gap without sounding like you know it all or come from planet Zog. Try them. You have nothing to lose.

  1. Ask the right questions. We all enjoy talking about ourselves and kids are no exception. But you need to ask questions that go beyond the bland ‘So how’s school?’ to get below the surface.The ‘right questions’ lead to understanding what makes them different and special. And mean they know you’re genuinely interested and care.Do it well and in answer to your questions you’ll discover information about their best friend, their favourite room, their first memory, what frightens them, which children’s tv character they’d like to be, their favourite meal, what makes them happy – and sad, what makes them laugh, what they think they are best at, if they had a shop what they would sell, what’s the best food ever, what superpower they would like, their best joke, and more.Of course, this all involves making time to listen – which is one of the greatest gifts anyone can offer to a person of any age. And such conversations should never be forced or rushed. The child chooses whether to tell you stuff and it may take patience to wait for that privilege.
  2. Listen in depth. Don’t fall into the trap of asking questions and then not truly listening to the answers. That’s the listening equivalent of turning several pages over at once when reading to them!Grandchildren will know you are listening if you repeat back what you have heard them say and then dig a little deeper. Sometimes the very best next question is ‘why’ because it can take the conversation to a deeper level. And be prepared to listen to a lot of chatter that may bore you but enthrals them!
  3. Tell them your story. Getting closer is a two way process. So offer them the opportunity to ask their questions about you. And take the opportunity to delight them by telling then your own story.They’d love to know your own answers to the questions that you asked them; especially tales from your childhood and teenage years. Better still, dig out some very old photographs to bring it all to life.
  4. The role of grandparents is not the same as for parents. That gives us extra leeway to be understanding of their faults and mistakes – though not in a way that undermines the discipline and standards of their parents.What you may be able to contribute from time to time is a story of something from your past that relates to the child’s experience. These times might offer opportunities to talk about the virtues of courage, honesty, forgiveness, creative problem-solving, kindness and hard work.
  5. Believe in them. Praise and encouragement are priceless gifts to any child. It’s good to be positive about what they achieve – but even more so if that reinforces qualities you admire about them.Keep your eyes open for the positive things they do, asking God to make you aware. And then, over time, you can sow seeds and nurture the precious potential that lies within them. Be sure to express this genuine appreciation wherever you can. It will help to build the confidence that is supremely important for children, especially those who lack a strong sense of self-worth or have particular difficulties or disabilities.
  6. Hang on in there. Life has its ups and downs and grandchildren will have their own experiences of that – as will you most probably will in your relationship with them. There may be times when it’s not possible to see each other so often, situations they get into that make you feel anxious, disappointed, let down.But whether all is going swimmingly well or there are tensions don’t give up on your responsibility to be an example of faithful unconditional love – whatever that looks like for each child at every stage of their lives.

And, of course, above all else, pray for them.

For more practical insight on being a grandparent, see the AfterWorkNet webpages at Grand parenting.

What questions have you asked your grandchildren that have opened your eyes and deepened your relationships? Please share them here.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

Have you joined our Facebook group yet? It’s a great way to share the journey with other after-workers.

Up for a new challenge? How about becoming a Waterway Chaplain?

Life after fulltime work offers countless new opportunities. And if you enjoy the open air and have a gift for helping people, here’s something that may well float your boat.

The UK’s river and canal network is home to a large number of boat-dwellers as well as those who take to the water for fun. And out there – offering friendship, practical support and a listening ear – are Waterway Chaplains.

There’s a great need for many more to join their ranks. That’s because we want every stretch of the UK’s 2,200 or so miles of navigable canals and rivers to have a visible Christian presence.

As Senior Chaplain, it’s my job to make that happen and my vision is, by 2020 , we will have increased our present 70 Waterway Chaplains to 200.

This is a great rewarding opportunity those with time to offer and a heart for people – to extend the love of Christ through pastoral care, friendship and practical support.

What kind of needs are there on the waterways?

Don’t imagine a Waterway Chaplain’s flock is made up of posh, self-sufficient, people with boats. It’s not all P J Wodehouse’s ‘Three Men in a Boat’ – larking about on the river. Yes, there are those using the waterways for fun or seeking an escape to tranquillity in their active retirement. But there are many on limited incomes. They may be there because a boat offers affordable accommodation. With some struggling to get by, often experiencing health and relationship problems.

That’s why I can tell you about people like –

Jim’ – with depression and financial problems. He was helped by a chaplain – over a period of months – to get housing benefit, appeal when his benefits were stopped, and have access to a food bank until he was well enough to return to work.

‘Alex’ – dying of cancer. A chaplain supported him, hosted his American family who came for his funeral and led a service to scatter his ashes attended by about 30 people from the local boating community.

‘Jenny’ – feeling lost and alone. She had a new-born child and a husband who had lost his job. Too far from Citizen’s Advice and with no money for transport or fuel, she needed help. After a chaplain put a card under her door, ‘Jenny’ was helped with their immediate problems with the chaplain staying in touch until they were back on their feet.’

‘Bill – sleeping rough as he journeyed between locations, with thoughts of suicide. He thanked a chaplain for saving his life by being in touch by text as he walked along the towpath.

Dave’ – living on £50 a week. A chaplain help him claim housing benefit and have access to a food bank. When bitten by a dog, the chaplain arranged for his infection to be treated as a temporary patient.

What kind of people are Waterway Chaplains?

Our volunteer chaplains come from local churches and include both lay people and ordained ministers. Some have a background of boating. Others have had no previous experience of inland waterways.

They commit to walking a mile of towpath each week, engaging with boaters, canal workers, anglers, dog-walkers, ramblers and others. Sometimes it will just be a walk – praying as they go. But this regular journey, with a listening ear and a praying heart, may well lead to relationships with those who need to talk or have other needs to be met.

Senior Chaplains provide practical training and mentoring support, including prayer. Each chaplain is given a lock windlass engraved with our key values ‘act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God’ (Micah 6.8). It’s a scripture that perfectly sums up the role of a Waterway Chaplain.

Could this be a role that you – or someone you know – could take on? Please find out more about this wonderful opportunity to serve others in the name of Jesus at Waterways Chaplaincy.

However, if walking the waterways is not up your street, you’ll find a host of other ways to use your God-given years after work on the AfterWorkNet website page Serving Your Community.

Mark Chester

Mark Chester is a former army officer and a Vicar in Surrey. He’s married to Zillah, who is also a Waterways Chaplain and they have two grown up sons and two grandchildren. To relax Mark rides horses – with more enthusiasm than skill – but not on the towpath.

Sex in your 70’s – really? Perhaps, with these 6 things in mind.

Even if we’ve hit a certain age and stage in life, sexual intimacy can still happen for many married couples. It need not be just be something to look back on with a nostalgic smile.

If that sounds like a challenge or even offers some hope, here are six encouragements about having a fulfilling sex life into our seventies… and beyond!

1.It doesn’t have to be like it was.

A woman asked her husband to come upstairs and make love. With a sigh, he replied, ‘Darling these days I can do one or the other, not both!’

Now you’re no longer in the fresh flush of youth and sexual intimacy, think about focusing on gentle affection rather than passion and incredible physical and emotional experience. Romantic words, touching, kissing, and other intimate contact can be fulfilling and rewarding.

2.Physical affection is good for your health

Apparently, an active sex life can increase life expectancy. It’s good exercise, releases endorphins and reduces anxiety. If it involves emotional wellbeing and closeness that’s good too. Touch is very important to our sense of wellbeing and hugs make us all feel better.

3.If one of you used to be keener on sex than the other, have the courage to gently raise this issue

It’s not unusual – perhaps for women more than men – to quite honestly feel relieved if their spouse is winding down on wanting to make love, for one reason or another. But sex in later life could be a whole new departure, maybe less focused on needs and more about appreciation and enjoyment of each other’s love.

4.It’s OK if parts of you no longer work as well as they used to. Enjoying sexual intimacy doesn’t have to include intercourse

Feelings of inadequacy and not believing we’re sexy any more should be thought through and openly shared – with as much humour as possible.  Aging means our bodies change in many ways – both men and women may find physical intimacy and climax a challenge.  Talk about it!

There may be remedies to discomfort and disfunction. Or alternative ways to express your physical love to one another.

5.Making love well ideally starts way before you get to the bedroom

Two songs from the past: The Beatles ‘Will you still need me when I’m 64?’ They thought 64 was impossibly old in those days! And ‘You don’t bring me flowers any more’. Why not? It is such a sure way of making your wife feel good and there are plenty of male equivalents too, if your husband’s not that bothered about flowers. And there will are so many expressions of affection and tenderness whether its simply holding handsor some other gesture to make the one we love feel cherished.

6.There’s loads of confidential, understanding help out there if you need it.

The good news is that there’s ample help available for both men and women who have issues about sexual activity, physical or emotional . Google is often the first resort.

A good GP also knows what can be done about a whole range of difficulties; illness, disability, the effect of medicines, too much alcohol, anxiety over ‘performance’, surgery, low self-esteem and concerns about body image. But the first step is an honest acceptance of need and some equally honest conversations with each other.

In a nutshell

The key to resolving or at least finding a level of intimacy you can both live with is to talk about it – first with each other and if necessary with a qualified counsellor. It can be a difficult subject to broach, even after many years of marriage. But it is nothing like as difficult as living with an increasing sense of distance and even resentment.

Be kind – if things are not the way one of you would like, remember that ‘for better for worse’ line. A little understanding and TLC can go a long way.

Get help if there is a problem in this area. Sex is an important part of marriage and we need to try to understand how our partner is feeling. And there are many couples who have rediscovered a sexual relationship that they assumed was gone forever.

And perhaps the best bit of advice is something that’s relevant whatever age we are and however long we have been married. It is that that love-making starts with expressions of affection a long way from the bedroom.

For more on marriage in your active years of retirement do see AfterWorkNet’s webpages on the subject. Just go here.

Dianne Parsons – Care for the Family

Dianne has been an integral part of Care for the Family’s ministry over many years, alongside husband Rob, and speaking and writing with great empathy for women about marriage and family life.

Do you have something to share on this sensitive subject? Do share it here.

 

It’s an epidemic it would not cost a penny to solve – loneliness. And you could be the medicine.

I’ve blogged before about the ‘Elinor Rigby’ epidemic of loneliness that’s doing such damage today. It’s the cause of millions of mostly elderly people being deprived of human contact for days on end – leading to poor health, depression and shortened lives.

In the past I’ve focused on the opportunity for churches to respond. But churches are made up of individuals – like you – who could do so much to bring joy and warmth to someone who is lonely.

Who are those in need?

Official UK figures say some 9 million people are lonely. This includes –

  • About half a million people are often going for more than a week without seeing anybody.
  • About 200,000 older people have not spoken to a friend or relative in more than a month.
  • Many of those receiving regular visits from care workers get no more than 15 minutes of their time – with a survey showing 500,000 pensioners received visits so brief that staff didn’t even speak to them.

All it takes is a little of your time

This epidemic would not cost a penny to solve. It just needs the time of those who care – even just an hour a week.

The need is for troops on the ground. Those who care enough and with time enough to each play a part. And those no longer in fulltime employment have a God-given opportunity to step up.

If every ‘retired and active’ person found just one lonely person to visit, the love of Christ could be shared with many who are feeling that life has lost a lot of its meaning.

How to get started? Here are 5 simple ways –

  1. Seek out a lonely person in your street or nearby
  2. Talk to your church leaders about elderly church members in need of visitors
  3. Contact nearby retirement homes, asking if there are those who seldom have visitors
  4. Check with your local services to see what needs you could meet
  5. Contact agencies like Age Concern and offer to visit those known to them

Simple ways to get it right

To make the most of your time that will mean so much to a lonely person here are things to keep in mind –

  • Relationships take time to develop trust and openness. So don’t be surprised if your Initial approaches may be tense and difficult.
  • The person you are visiting may be depressed as this can result from a lack of human contact.
  • No two elderly people are the same. Some may find conversation difficult. Others could talk for England.
  • If they are expecting a visit, make sure you turn up.
  • Get them to tell their story.
  • Don’t expect them to remember every detail of your last conversation – or even your name.
  • Take your grandchildren with you. A recent TV documentary revealed the benefit of elderly people being with children regularly.
  • Be careful about what you offer. An occasional cake is fine but don’t be over-lavish and so create wrong expectations.

There’s something in it for you too 

Our faith is built on relationship to God – and also on relationships with others. It’s easy for our circle to become closed – the faithful who gather with us every Sunday.

Here’s the opportunity to open it out – and be enriched yourself in the process.

For an overview of the loneliness issue please see our web page on The Lonely.

David Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Do you have an experience about visiting someone who is lonely? Do share it here or on our Facebook group.

Once – a Company Director.  Now – supporting a prison chaplain. Steve’s story.

First, I need to come clean. ‘Steve’ is not my real name – which I can’t reveal for reasons of security. It’s a funny world.

As to ‘my story’ I didn’t see it coming. That, in my days after work, I’d be looking to do what I can to support a prison chaplain at a time when we seem to hear about the ever-increasing pressures on prison life almost weekly.

Yet, perhaps I should not have been so surprised.

For a dozen years or so I’d been ‘in prison’ four or five times a year as part of a team helping at chapel services. This was all during my very busy days as Director of a modest-size engineering business.

Then came the time when this period of my life was now coming to an end, with a younger and very able colleague ready to take the reins.

However, I could see it would be a bad idea to completely stop dead. I’d heard of those who had done so and not fared well. More than that, I could see the value of a planned a gradual withdrawal, initially with one or two days off in the week, plus some weekend days that were less crowded. But how should this extra time be spent?

Looking back at what I’d enjoyed and was good at, those occasional visits into some of Her Majesty’s Prisons came to mind. More than that, they had given me an insight into how pressured a prison chaplain’s role can be, and how much value an extra pair of hands would be from time to time.

Because of this I made contact with the chaplain at the prison near me, making the offer to do ‘whatever was needed’.

A few weeks later found me simply helping out in the chapel services – handing out hymn sheets, switching on the lights, plugging in the microphones, praying with a couple of prisoners at the end. A couple of times, when they were short of a musician I stood in on that as well.

It has been fulfilling, rewarding and worthwhile – leaving me with a sense that the more I could offer, the more opportunity I would have to do something really meaningful and appreciated.

And so has come the next possible step. I don’t have to wind down activities – I can step up a gear!

God has used my past to show what I can do in the present to make retirement more fulfilling for me and more valuable to others.

Steve

‘Steve’ has to be anonymous due to security issues relating to HM Prisons.

Do you have a story to share about using your past skills and experience in your after-work years? Do share it here or on our Facebook group.

Don’t let retirement scupper your marriage – the 3 top tips for staying afloat.

It’s a massive step to move from hardly seeing each other most daytimes to now being under each other’s feet.

Indeed, legions of women – please forgive the stereotype – have been known to mutter between clenched teeth ‘Is he never going out?!!’

That may not be the whole story behind the growing divorce rate among the over 65s. But the very existence of such a trend indicates the challenge retirement can bring to a marriage.

That means, when it comes to your own experience of retirement, you dare not be blind to its impact on others. Which is especially true of your life partner.

This is no time for a solo voyage, oblivious to the way your new role may be creating waves for our most significant ‘other’.

As the saying goes, ‘no man – or woman – is an island’. Our lives are entwined. That’s why those closest to you will have expectations, like – ‘she’ll have more time to spend with me’. And fears – ‘he’ll be under my feet all day’.

With so much at stake, here are 3 top tips to help you sail rather than sink.

1. Talk it through!

Some couples find situations like this – when major change is involved – fairly easy to work out. Meanwhile, others only get there after an explosion of built-up frustration.

Whichever it may be for you in your relationship, a planned ‘let’s talk this through’ session – perhaps over a meal – is where to start.

On the agenda would be items like –

Smaller stuff:

  • How are changes in my life going to impact you?
  • What hopes do you have for us when/now I’m retired?
  • What concerns do you have – and what would you like me to do about them?
  • What might we now be able to do together that we couldn’t before?
  • How best can we both find our space, how much time do we want to be apart?
  • Which household chores and responsibilities should now be reassigned?

Big stuff:

  • How best can we look out for each other?
  • What new adventures/experiences could we share?
  • What should be on our bucket list?

2. Give each other space

The biggest issue to impact your relationship is likely to be the ‘getting under each other’s feet’ one. When something like 200 days a year of being apart comes to a sudden or even a gradual end, readjustment can be a challenge.

Of course, what the Bible says is true; ‘It is not good for a man or woman to be alone’. But that’s not meant to be every waking moment.

Because of this it would be wise to:

  • Work at developing and enjoying your own individual interests and friendships as well as those you share. Having your own identity is good for you both and will enrich your marriage.
  • Establish separate spaces for each of you at home. There is great wisdom in having the equivalent of a man-shed – for both of you. This can be for anything from hobbies to TV watching.

3. Maintain communication

You may well find your retirement impacts you in unexpected ways. There may be the emotional issues linked to stress or your loss of status having left the workplace behind. For more see our website under Stress and Loss of Status.

When our emotions are hit, the temptation is to bottle it all up – especially for man. But that can then have an impact on your partner.

These things can be hard to talk about or even own up to. But your other half deserves to know what’s going on and have the opportunity to love and support you through it.

So honest conversation is vital for a safe and enjoyable voyage into the future.

Dianne Parsons – Care for the Family

Dianne has been an integral part of Care for the Family’s ministry over many years, alongside husband Rob, and speaking and writing with great empathy for women about marriage and family life.

Have you found a way to enrich your marriage in retirement? Do share it by joining our Facebook group and signing up for our inspiring blog  

10 great ways to achieve great grand-parenting

 

There’s something wonderful about being a grandparent. But, just like parenting, there’s a shortage of wisdom on how to do it right.

So let me share with you some wisdom from Rob Parsons’ brilliant book ‘The Sixty Minute Grandparent’. It includes 10 great insights on making grand-parenting a success.

But first, some context. Being a grandparent today can be tougher than for our parents’ generation. Our kids tend to have their off-springs later in life than we did. So we are older when the grandchildren are younger.

That can be a challenge to energy levels as well as finding the knack of constraining a wriggly infant in a car seat. Or working out how to collapse a baby buggy that needs a degree in engineering to do so.

You may also be one of the so-called ‘sandwich generation’. At one and the same time, committed to caring for your own elderly parents, supporting your ‘adult’ children and seeking to be a hands-on grandparent. It’s a challenge few in past generations had to face.

The world has changed too. When I was little my 70-year-old granny sang me Scottish folk songs and we played Snap together. Today, the average grandparent has to cope with the mysteries of the virtual world as well as being looked to for practical support by a working mother.

In fact, 1 in 3 UK families depend on grandparents for a degree of childcare. This can be both a blessing and a stress-inducing burden. It’s no joke looking after a toddler who wanders from one accident prone zone to the next. And with, everything needing to be done as the parents say, not how you used to do it.

So what about some wisdom to see you through? Here comes those 10 suggestions, thanks to Rob Parsons. The thinking is his but some of the words are also mine.

  1.  Try not to interfere with or criticise your children’s parenting. No matter how you would choose to do things, affirm and encourage. Because that’s what they need most.
  2. When they are old enough, find ways to connect them to the past. Help them to know ‘where they came from’ by telling them about their family and its history. Hang on to old photos and other reminders and share them.
  3.  Develop traditions – activities, things and events they associate with you that happen on your watch. It might be a special game, an ‘in’ joke, a regular surprise, or something else.
  4. Make sure they know your love for them is without conditions. That they cannot earn your love or lose it. Tell them and show them – often..
  5. If asked to help with childcare don’t feel compelled to rush into a long term regular commitment. Just because our offspring has chosen to have offspring of their own doesn’t make you obliged, and sometime not everything is possible. So set a date to review the situation – how it’s working for all parties.
  6. Agree a joint policy on bedtimes, rules for TV, iPads and sweets etc. And confirm them in earshot of the grandchild to save the ‘but Mummy says’ ambush. Bute reserving the right to have your special rules when the grandchildren are in your house.
  7. Keep your eyes open for little ears. They hear more than you can ever believe. And, especially, never speak negatively about their parents in children’s hearing.
  8. If you live at a distance Skype and WhatsApp are wonderful things to keep in touch and abreast with news.
  9. Praise them for their qualities and not their looks. In our image conscious world they don’t need more reinforcement that the way they look matters the most.
  10. If you have more than one, look for opportunities to spend time with them as individuals. Their own special time with Grandma or Grandad can be more special to them than you imagine.

For of course, in no time at all these ‘little ones’ will grow and present a whole new set of needs and pleasures as teens and beyond into adulthood. Meanwhile, we can add your prayers and the example of your life. And enjoy.

For more insights on you and your grandkids, see our website on Grand-parenting. And if you have thoughts of your own, do please share them on our Facebook.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

 

If retirement today was a foreign country, it would be one no previous generation had ever visited.

Our parent’s generation would hardly believe what life after work offers today. Because, between then and now, it has changed so dramatically.

For a start, would your mum have shopped for the latest fashion, joined an aerobics class or had a ‘night out with the girls’? Would your dad, in his 60s, have jogged, gone to a music festival, or made plans for international travel?

Come retirement, would either have been anticipating fresh discoveries, challenges and experiences? A wider world beyond work and family?

The answer to these questions is almost certainly ‘no’. Because in just one generation, when paid work comes to an end, there have been incredible changes to how we live and how we approach things.

Wrap your mind round this:

Health and expectations: For most of us, our parents were already feeling old, and classed as old, by the time their pension beckoned. Not only old in body but old in mind-set too. After all, why have a bucket list if your knees are gone, your pension is minimal and the clock is ticking fast?

Yet in only a generation, 65 has become the new 55. And 70 the new 60. Even though we are now retiring several years later, we are still younger in mind, body and outlook.

Social conditioning: Unlike us, our parents’ generation lived through World War 2 and may well have fought in it. Their three score years and ten were mostly about survival. About having enough income to pay the rent or mortgage and put food on the table. About ‘getting by’.

Unlike us, many lived, worked and died in the town where they were born. For some it was even the same house. To travel far was rare. To travel often, even rarer.

Unlike us, education was all about listening, obeying, writing and remembering. While ours tended to be about discovering, questioning, reasoning and enquiring.

Unlike us, work was mostly graft and the long haul. Often with one trade, and even one employer, for the whole of a working life. While, for us, our working life may have been one of change and development.

Cultural influences: Unlike our parents, we – the ‘baby boomer’ generation – were the first to be raised with television in the home, a source of constant entertainment, fun, possibilities and a window on a different world.

Unlike our parents, for us the economy boomed and so did our opportunities in a world of growing change and choice. In great contrast, they had lived through post-war austerity and high levels of unemployment. Eating out? Forget it. Just be sure to eat everything that’s put on your plate.

Our generation were the rule breakers, the innovators and the protesters – be it The Beatles, Jasper Conran or Ban the Bomb. The sedate tea dance became the free-form disco. The three piece suit became smart casual or jeans and tee shirts.

We experienced a land of new opportunities. This included something called ‘leisure’ – time for ourselves. And travel – to places our parents had never gone and for longer than they would ever believe possible.

It is these life experiences that have shaped our retirement expectations. What else should we expect other than even more years of change, choice, experiences, and prospects?

We are privileged to have opportunities undreamed of in the past. And with privilege comes responsibility. First, we should never take for granted what we now have in view of the price paid by so many in the past to make it so.

Second, we should face the challenge to make the most of it. That will mean something different for each one of us. But it must mean something.

And if you’d like a simple rough guide to this new country that few have visited before you, do check out AfterWorkNet.com

Peter Meadows
Peter uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids’ inheritance.

To share your own thoughts on how different your parent’s retirement was to yours, do join our FaceBook page and share.

The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife