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I’m a Grandparent of Teens. Now What? Mark Gregston and Larry Fowler

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
September 21, 2023 5:15 am

I’m a Grandparent of Teens. Now What? Mark Gregston and Larry Fowler

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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September 21, 2023 5:15 am

Grandparenting teenagers? Then you likely know the stakes are high—and you can't afford to phone this one in. Authors Mark Gregston and Larry Fowler help you engage in ways that matter and make an impact that keeps echoing.

One thing is you have to stop parenting. You have to realize your role as a grandparent is different. You're not the parent. You're still the parent of your adult kids, but you don't parent anymore unless you're invited. -- Larry Fowler

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Check out Mark Gregson at

Learn more about the Legacy Coalition Grandparenting Summit at

Purchase Mark's book on FamilyLife's shop: Grandparenting Teens: Leaving a Legacy of Hope

More from Larry Fowler on FamilyLife Today

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One thing is you have to stop parenting. You have to realize your role as a grandparent is different. You're not the parent.

You're still the parent of your adult kids, but you don't parent anymore unless you're invited. All right, I know the answer you're going to give me to this question. I don't usually know, but I know this answer. Maybe I'm going to surprise you.

Maybe you will. Best moment of the week for you every week? Grandkids. You knew I was going to say that. Well, I know we're talking about that today, but even if we were going to talk about anything else, I know you. You light up.

If I'm upstairs and I hear you go, whoa, the grandkids just came over. You're right. I know it.

You're right. And we've got six grandkids, eight to two, and so those years, they love us. They're so excited. We know that's going away, but right now- They're so excited to see us.

But also, we get tired quicker now, but I will say they really do refuel me. It's fun. It reminds me of like, man, this is what it's all about. And we do a lot of great things, but that's one of my favorites.

Yeah, so we're going to spend a couple days talking about it, but I got to be honest. I wish when I walked in the house, you went, whoa. Inside, I'm doing that. I'm like, oh, yeah, he's in.

I'm jealous sometimes when the grandkids come in because they get the energy. Anyway, enough about us. We've got Mark Gregson and Larry Fowler in the studio in Orlando, family life today. Larry's been here before. Mark, you've never been to our studio in Orlando.

I have not been here in Orlando, no. What do you think? Oh, it's unbelievable. It's a lot better than the Little Rock days, right? Well, I think so.

I think so. I mean, the mere fact that... No, you're not supposed to say that. You're supposed to say Little Rock, Bob Lapine. That was the best days of family life. You know, Little Rock and Bob Lapine was the best days of family life.

Hey, tell our listeners. You've known Bob how long? I have known Bob since I was 19 years of age.

We led Young Life Clubs in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And he's one of those obnoxious guys that I love to death. I love his wife even more. I mean, she is just an absolute jewel, but two of them together, they're just wonderful, wonderful people. Pretty dynamic.

Yeah, they really are. Mark, tell us a little bit about your life, what you're doing, your family. Yeah, you know, it's interesting. I started doing this Young Life thing when I was 19. Worked for a church for a while and made the decision to start working with kids, and in particular, kids who were struggling. And so moved to Branson, Missouri. Lived there for a number of years at a Christian sports camp called Canicock. We were just there.

Were you? Yeah, in Canicock. We did a marriage conference at Big Cedar Lodge. Oh, yeah, yeah. In Branson.

Yeah, wonderful. And I was the Area Director for Young Life at the same time, but my heart has always been for kids who were struggling. And so 35 years ago, I left that and moved back to Texas where I was born.

And we started a program called Heartlight where I lived with 60 high school kids, come from all over the country. Wait, just stop right there. You live with 60 high school kids, and you've been married how long?

48 years. So she's in there with you. Oh, yeah. And you have two kids.

Yeah. And then grandkids, but we have 60 kids, so we've had over 3,000 kids live with us throughout our life. And it all started when I was a Young Life Area Director or a Young Life Leader, and a man walked up to me and said, I'm struggling with my son. What do I do? And I'm going, I'm 19.

I have no idea. Why don't you let him come live with me? Wait, you said that. And that's how it started. And so this kid lived with me for four months before Jane and I got married. Then after we got married, even when I worked for a church or wherever it was, we would always have kids living with us. And I said, let's keep doing this. And so we started this program. And so here we are, 3,000 kids later.

And we've learned a lot about kids and a lot about parenting, and we've learned a lot about grandparenting as well in the process of all of it. Now, how long do they live with you? They live with us a year.

They come in. These are kids who are struggling. They're great kids.

They are wonderful kids that are spinning out of control, and half of them wouldn't be alive had they not come to us. And so they come, and it's intense counseling and group therapy. And it's a relational ministry, I would say, more than anything else. It's the relationships that are created with our staff and other kids that really transform their lives and give them the opportunity for change. And it's just a ministry we started, and it's been fantastic. So I get to spend my time, when I go home, tomorrow night I'll have 50 parents over to my home eating dinner that I get to cook dinner for them. And then on Sunday night, I get to have another group of kids come over from one of the houses. They're great kids. They're just struggling, out of control, and are fooling around with stuff they don't need to be fooling around with. There's a lot of parents that are probably listening right now. They're like, just give me the website. I just need to go there right now. I need help.

Because, man, especially, you've been doing that a long time. Are you seeing a difference today? Are parents in more need, or is it pretty much the same? Well, I think kids are being raised in a contrary culture. And I think the biggest challenge that any parent has, truly, is trying to figure out how to take those values and principles that they believe in, those biblical principles, and say, how do I apply it to this crazy world of dealing with the tough stuff? And we seem to get the tough stuff. Anything you can think of that is challenging to kids from fentanyl to cutting to gender identity issues, to sending nudes to, I mean, depression, anxiety, all those things. We deal with the tougher stuff that kids are going through.

And you begin to learn, okay, the challenge is how do I apply what I believe to this out of control situation? And I think that's where we get so many calls. We get 12,000 calls a year from parents who want to place kids with us.

And we only have 60 spots. And so that's where we spend a lot of time developing other resources. And then trying to prepare, you know, not only parents, but prepare grandparents to be involved in the lives of their teens because it's greatly needed.

It's wanted, but it's greatly needed. You're not the typical grandparent then. Like, you're just zipping off, they're cutting, they're doing fentanyl. You know what's going on in the lives of kids today, so it's going to be fun to talk to you about grandparenting and bringing that into it. Yeah, and you've got Larry Fowler sitting beside you. Larry's been here before.

I have, yes. Tell our listeners a little bit about Legacy Coalition and what you do. Yeah, well, Legacy Coalition started in 2016, and at that time there really wasn't a national ministry, just a couple people in the U.S. that were talking about grandparenting. And we wanted to have a national focus on it, so we started with a big vision of reaching the 30 million Christian grandparents in America and getting them excited about their role.

Because, like Mark just said, grandparents can have a significant impact on their grandkids' lives, but most grandparents are missing, and we want to give them a vision. We want to equip them to do that. So that's what Legacy Coalition's all about. And you've got a summit coming up? We have a summit coming up.

It's in October, and it's live in Dallas, Texas, but livestreamed to over 150 sites all across North America. So that's one of the ways that we envision and equip grandparents through our national conference. I hope you get some good speakers. You got anybody good coming?

We have one guy named Mark Gregston that's going to be there, and a few others that people might know of as well. Mark, let's talk about Grandparenting Teens, your book, Leaving a Legacy of Hope. We're grandparents. We all are. Congratulations.

Thank you. And Larry, how many grandkids do you have? So I have seven, and I have two sets. I think Mark has two sets, too. We both have an older set and a younger set. You guys just have a younger set. Mine 22 to 28 is an older set, and I have a younger set that's 8 to 12. Yeah, mine 10 and 11, and 18 and 23.

Wow. So we're, you know, we're just our oldest is eight. So like Ann said, they're at this stage, they love us. Nonnie and Poppy are the greatest people in the world. But you're ahead of us, so talk to us and any grandparent.

Where do we start? What would you say, first off, right to grandparents? Well, this is a great time that you guys are in. I mean, you can do no wrong. I mean, they love you. They run to you. They love you. They hang on to every word. They love doing puzzles and, I mean, playing with a box or whatever it is. They just love doing everything. But it's coming.

It's coming. When they turn 11 or 12 and get into middle school, things begin to change. Just like our kids did.

Yeah, they do. And they begin to change, and their social circles get expanded so much that what happens is they start to lop off people that they're close to. And if parents and if grandparents aren't intentional about moving toward their grandkids during that time, the grandparents will be eliminated.

I mean, they're one of the first people to go. And so that's where it's telling grandparents, you've got to be involved because these kids need your support. They need your wisdom more than anything else. Larry, did you experience that with your older grandkids?

Yeah, but there's hope, too. You know, they come back. Not to the same extent that they did when they were little. But we've gone through those teenage years, and we saw exactly what Mark's talking about, where our grandkids didn't have time for us. But now that they're young adults, guess what? They're coming back to us and spending time with us. And yeah, you really have to be intentional during the younger years in order to be able to anticipate what's going to happen during the teenagers and be there for them.

I mean, what would you say that looks like? You say be intentional. Coach this up. Okay, so for me, the primary thing is that you develop a loving individual relationship with each one. I think one of the best practices that grandparents can have, you guys, when they're younger, is spend individual time with each one of them, especially as they get towards the 10 to 12 years, so that you really are building a personal relationship with each one of them. Not just family time. Family time's great, and family time can really be important, but individual time is real.

One on one. I know what Mark, I'm sure, has something to add. You know, I mean, I think I feel that I had to be intentional in saying, let's go to the Country Music Awards. I mean, here's my 11-year-old granddaughter that loves country music, and so I take her to the Country Music Awards. And the crazy thing that night is we end up going to one of the after parties, and all of a sudden, we're walking into this place. Kid Rock has a coat wrapped around my daughter, walking her in to get her in. I mean, it's something that she'll never forget. And I've always said that the moods of a lifetime are often found in those all but forgotten times during adolescence.

And so it's creating those things. She can't tell you who sang at the Country Music Awards that night. She can't tell you who was at the CMA Fest. She can't tell you all of those things, but she knows she was with me. And we got to spend that time together. And over a period of time, by what Larry's saying, spending time and being intentional and developing that deeper relationship and saying, I'm going to make that happen. I'm going to spend the money to make it happen. I'm going to give the time.

I'm going to make the trip. I'm going to make the journey to find you and find something that you enjoy, something that you want to do and say, that's what we're going to do. Then eventually there'll be a time in life that she will look at me and go, Papa, I've got a question for you. And I remember her coming home saying, Papa, can I talk to you just you and me having dinner?

Yeah. And she goes, well, I'll go wherever you want. Yeah, let's do. So we sit down and she goes, I got drunk last night.

And I go, this is what I've been practicing for. Because it's during those times that I want to have the opportunity to speak truth into her life, to give her an ear, to listen, to give her a voice of reason, to give her a nonjudgmental approach that says, I love you. There's nothing you can do to make me love you more. There's nothing you can do to make me love you less in encouraging her that you can get through this. Now, let's figure out what you're going to do with all of this, because I think if she felt like she could tell her mom and dad, then that would be a mess. And then we got these rules and grounding and we get so consumed in that as a parent.

Whereas a grandparent has that special relationship that could be nonjudgmental and help share wisdom to them. Now, did her parents find out? Oh, yeah, because I said, you need to tell your mom and dad. And so she did. And so the relationship just continues. But it's with the intentionality that a grandparent says, I'm going to be involved. I want to be involved. And you have no excuse as a grandparent to not communicate because you have every way known to man to communicate with your grandkids.

And so you just have to make it happen. That's what I was going to ask. We're so separated in the country right now, like we're living all over the world. So you guys, did you have grandkids that didn't live around you as well? Like were they in other parts of the country?

Yeah, so I live in California. My older set of grandkids live in Colorado. And so when we practice this thing of spending individual time with them. So when we go to visit, Diane and I would make dates with our grandkids.

We take them out for breakfast or coffee or lunch. And one is especially memorable because our second grandson is kind of an introvert. And so in family gatherings, he doesn't talk a lot. You know, if he's addressed, yes.

But so we get out to have coffee together at a Starbucks and we sit down and we sit down across the table. He's 17. And the very first thing he says to me, he says, grandpa and grandma, I got a girlfriend. And now he would not even told us that in a family setting. Then he says, and I want you to know, she's a virgin and so am I.

And we're going to keep it that way. He tells you this. And just like this when he's 17. And that never, never would have happened without the kind of grandparenting that Mark just talked about. That's really significant. And it showed that he understood our values.

We didn't have to say, now, don't you ever have sex with your girlfriend? You know, he knew that already. He knew where we were coming from. And he wanted to be able to let us know that that he was honoring that. Well, that relationship didn't last very long, but still we were honored. We were honored that he would share that with us.

That was very, very significant for us. I mean, how do you coach up grandparents to have a relationship with their grandkids in such a way that these kind of conversations happen? I mean, you both shared stories about, man, I got drunk. I'm not going to I mean, those are intimate conversations that don't come out of nowhere. You've done something that a lot of grandparents probably haven't done. They're leaning in going, my grandchild would never say that to me. How how did that happen?

Well, I think let me let me have one thought and then Mark can jump in. One thing is you have to stop parenting. You have to realize your role as a grandparent is different. You're not the parent. You're you're still the parent of your adult kids, but you don't parent anymore unless you're invited.

That's the caveat for that. So that means you have a different kind of relationship. You're not judgmental.

Grace first, truth later. Demonstrating grace to your grandkids in the relationship. I mean, in many ways, it's similar to you're not parenting your adult kids anymore either. Exactly. You know, you're adult to adult now. So you're saying it's similar?

Yeah. You know, I think there's a part where you just if you know that it's coming and there's going to be challenges. And anybody who says, well, my kid will never, you know, never go through any challenges.

I go, then you don't know kids. Because adolescents, it's that time that they go through challenges and they have these identity issues and they experiment and they're curious. And they do stupid things and make poor decisions. And I think that's great because if you have a relationship with them, then you get to be with them and speak truth into their life. But it's not the same way even in the preteen years. I mean, the preteen years you're doing this teaching model, what you're doing in the teen years and beyond is a training model where you're shifting the way you engage with them. You're wanting to give more things to them, have them take responsibility, make decisions.

And so then you become kind of a coach that's beside them. But it doesn't automatically happen at age 16 when they wreck the car and they have a DUI or they got drunk or have sex for the first time or, you know, it begins when they're 11 or 12. And you start building that relationship and you share things in your life.

You know, one of the things that I think is so important is sharing your imperfections with your grandkids that are becoming teens to let them know that it's okay to struggle. It's okay to be a mess. I mean, I'm still a mess.

I mean, even to this day, somebody goes, well, you seem like you have it all together. Then you don't know me. I'm a mess. I struggle with this. I struggle with that. I have a tough time. I get hurt by this.

I'm disappointed. I feel rejected. You know, I want them to know that I'm an imperfect person because nobody likes hanging out with perfect people. I've been amazed with our grandkids when I will tell them a struggle I've had, a fear I've had, a failure. They always want to know more. What do you mean?

What happened? And I don't think we understand the pressure that they feel, especially as teens, for us to live up to our expectations. So when we share our own failures, I think they're relieved. And I think that opens their hearts up to us more. Well, I think it does because look at the world they grow up in. I mean, everything's perfect. I mean, they get on fake book and spend time, you know, on Instagram and TikTok, and they see perfection, perfection, perfection, and they never measure up. And they are so relieved when they hear that their parents are imperfect.

So in a teaching model, those preteen years, of course you want to do something perfect. But during the teen years, you want to start sharing those imperfections, those difficulties and struggles. How honest do you get? I get as honest as anything. I mean, I tell them anything.

I mean, I've just said I'm not hiding anything. You want to know something that's going to come out because I think they're struggling with things that I never had to struggle with. I mean, I never knew anybody that committed suicide when I was in high school. I know 50 kids that have committed suicide in the last 15 years.

I know 40 some kids that have died of fentanyl overdoses in the last five years. I mean, so they're up against a challenge that so many of us never went through. And so I go overboard in saying things that maybe my wife looks at me and says, you shouldn't have said that, you know, where I didn't want them to know that. But I would rather go overboard and be genuine and authentic in a world where they have no genuineness and no authenticity. And they don't have any deep relationships.

And they don't know that it's okay to struggle through these things because that's what adolescence is about. Did you do that with your kids too? No.

I messed up with my kids. Are you kidding me? Would you do that now? Oh, absolutely. You would. You'd share all your junk with your teenagers.

I would. You know, my daughter ended up wrestling with an eating disorder when she cheered at Baylor. And I wonder sometimes if that was the, I was so busy taking care of everybody else's kids and pour my life into everybody else that I kind of neglected my own daughter.

I wonder if, and she's 47 now, my son had a drinking problem and just quit a year and a half ago. But even, you know, it came to a head when he decided to leave the gal that he married nine months after their wedding and have an affair with somebody else. That was a challenging point for me that began to say, you know, you need to move toward your kids when they struggle rather than moving away from them. Because I was creating a world that I wanted them to be perfect. And I realized that I didn't share the imperfections and hurts and difficulties and the hardships that I'd gone through. They didn't know about their mom being sexually abused for years.

They didn't know that I can't breathe out of the left side of my face. You know, that kind of thing, that it's the way we were raised. And so I would go back and redo those things that could maybe, you know, prevent them from having to go through that to have those discussions. But I think it's a time that even grandparents hold that role of wisdom to be able to share that during their teen years. And kids need it desperately because they're getting information from parents. They need wisdom from grandparents.

Yeah, that's good. Have you ever had your kids say, hey, Poppy, you know, you went a little too far with our kids, with what you shared. Have you ever had that pushback from your own kids about the grandkids? Yeah, they say, I don't think I would have shared that.

You know, I go, well, sorry, it's already out of the bag. You know, it's pretty much shared. Well, I remember, you know, sitting at the dinner table with our youngest son because the other two were off in college. He's there by himself and he's a minister now, but he's sitting there in his high school years and he looks at us one night, you remember this? And he just goes, hey, so did you guys drink?

Did you guys get drunk in college? Let's talk about that. We look at each other like we talked, like, should we share this kind of stuff with him? But it's one of those moments where you're thinking as a parent, well, if I say yes, because I did, he may think, well, look at you. You're fine.

You're a pastor now. And so I guess it's OK. And if I say no, I'm lying. And so we said, yeah, let's tell you our story and why it was bad and why you shouldn't.

But here's the truth. But it was that moment where you're like, wow, how vulnerable do I want to be? And you're saying be vulnerable with you, especially with your grandkids. They need it. I mean, because you're because it's a life and death situation for them.

It's true. I mean, it's it's a different world. I mean, kids are kids are taking their life right and left. I mean, and you don't even know it.

That's the amazing thing is that all the kids that I know that have committed suicide, nobody knew that it was coming. And I go, so I want to share anything and everything. And then they start to ask questions.

Well, how did you get out of that? Well, let me tell you. And there's the wisdom. Let me tell you what I've learned from this. Let me tell you about where my faith plays a role in my life. Let me tell you what Jesus says about this.

Let me share some wisdom from scripture. But it's never without the introduction or the invitation by them to ask that in. And I find that that happens more and more when I share those things that they struggle with as well.

I think this has been so valuable today. And as a grandparent, I think it spurs us on like maybe I need to make a call or I need to text or I need to get in contact with our grandkids because we don't want to miss that. And so keep pursuing those grandkids, reconnect with them, because it will pay off in the long run. We're going to hear more encouragement from Anne in just a second, but, you know, Proverbs says that the splendor of the old is their gray hair. Now, the splendor is wisdom, wisdom that can be passed on to younger generations in the context of caring and loving relationships. I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Mark Gregsten and Larry Fowler on Family Life Today.

I loved this conversation. And Mark Gregsten, who you just heard there at the end, has written a book called Grandparenting Teens, Leaving a Legacy of Hope. It's a great way to learn more practical steps on how to pour into your grandkids and do that, like I said, in the context of relationship. You can pick up a copy of Mark's book, Grandparenting Teens, at, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329.

That's 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. You know, leaving a legacy as a grandparent is something that is maybe sometimes difficult to figure out, difficult to practically work out. Well, the Legacy Coalition Grandparenting Summit is coming up to help you with just that. You can attend the summit in person in Dallas, Texas, or you can actually log on online and attend.

It's coming up October 19th and 20th. And if you want more details and to see about the Legacy Coalition Grandparenting Summit, the link will be in the show notes at All right, here's Ann Wilson with an encouragement to pursue relationships with your grandkids. And I think when we become empty nesters, we can think we're done. And there is a segment before our kids might have their own kids.

But man, I feel like in a lot of ways, it's just beginning or can just beginning with our grandkids and we can have an impact. Now, coming up tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are joined again by Mark Gregsten and Larry Fowler. They're going to talk about the importance of impactful grandparenting and dispelling stereotypes about how grandparents usually act. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-27 15:57:16 / 2023-10-27 16:09:09 / 12

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