We all think of our grandchildren as special. They all have gifts and talents that make them unique. But grandparents would be well advised to watch the words they use when telling grandchildren how special they are!
The problem is that telling grandchildren that they are “special” is a half-truth. The real reason we are special is because God gives each of us special gifts and talents. It’s not about us; it’s about what God has given to us!
For example, you can explain to young grandchildren that God has given us
• eyes so we can see;
• ears so we can hear;
• a mouth so we can speak;
• hands so we can do things;
• feet so we can go places;
• a mind so we can think;
• a heart so we can love.
But emphasize to your grandchildren that these physical gifts are not given for our own glory. God wants us to use our gifts to help each other and to make the world a better place.
Unique Gifts and Talents
God also gives unique gifts and talents to individuals. Maybe your grandchild is smart or athletic or has a talent for music, art, or writing. Some children are natural leaders. Some children deeply care about other people. Some have a gift for nurturing plants or animals. “I was at a Catholic workshop one time, and the speaker told us never to ask a grandchild what they want to do when they grow up,” one grandmother said. “Instead, he told us to ask our grandchildren how they will use the gifts God has given them when they grow up.”
You can help your grandchildren understand that a gift can also be a weakness. For example, a grandchild who has a gift of physical strength should never use it to bully someone. A grandchild who can make people laugh should never use humor to belittle someone.
Nor should we ever be jealous of someone else’s gift. Encourage your grandchildren to celebrate everyone’s gifts, because gifts are like pieces of a puzzle. We can’t see the picture unless all the pieces fit together.
The Spiritual Gifts
With older grandchildren, you can explore the spiritual gifts that each person receives at Baptism and that are strengthened through the Sacrament of Confirmation.
• Wisdom allows them to see the world as God sees it.
• Understanding helps them to realize that sometimes truth lies beneath the surface.
• Judgment allows them to know the difference between what is right and what is wrong.
• Knowledge gives them the desire to learn.
• Reverence helps them appreciate what is holy.
• Wonder and awe give them a deeper appreciation of the mysteries in life.
Talking with grandchildren about their gifts is one of the easiest ways to share your Catholic faith. Children are almost always excited to learn more about themselves. With older grandkids, you can even do a little Internet research on spiritual gifts and talents.
Talking about God-Given Gifts
• Have your grandchildren join you in asking the Holy Spirit to help you identify the gifts given to each child in your family.
• Read stories about the saints, and look for ways they used their gifts.
• Explore ways your grandchildren can use their gifts at home or at school.
• Remind your grandchildren that God expects them to use their gifts for good.
• Encourage your grandchildren to thank God every day for the gifts he has given to them.
Questions for Reflection
1. Think about your grandchildren’s God-given gifts and talents. In what ways are they different from your gifts and talents? In what ways are they the same?
2. How are you using your God-given gifts and talents as a grandparent?
3. Reflect on how your grandchildren’s God-given gifts could someday be used to help build up the body of Christ.
Lord Jesus, send down your Holy Spirit to inspire me as I help my grandchildren discover their gifts and talents. Show them how they can use their gifts in ways that are pleasing to you. Keep my grandchildren humble. Give them the strength and the courage they need to always use their gifts for good. Amen.
Excerpted from The Catholic Grandparents Handbook: Creative Ways to Show Love, Share Faith, and Have Fun by Lorene Hanley Duquin (The Word Among Us Press, 2018). Available at wau.org/books