Ask a Latter-day Saint therapist: Should we have attended our unmarried granddaughter’s baby shower?

Editor's note: The views, information, or opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author. Readers should consider each unique situation. This content is not meant to be a substitute for individual, professional advice.

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Q: Our granddaughter is going to have a baby soon and the child will be born out of wedlock. Someone gave our granddaughter a baby shower and we did not attend as we feel it is not right to celebrate due to the circumstances of the birth. The granddaughter’s mother (our daughter) is upset with us for not attending the shower. We now feel we are terrible parents and grandparents. Were we wrong in not attending the shower? We did send some clothing as a gift, as we don’t want the child to suffer for what the parents are doing.

A: Thank you very much for reaching out and trusting me with this question. I understand your concern about implicitly condoning your granddaughter’s lifestyle choice by attending the baby shower. I also understand that you are questioning your decision not to attend.

What I offer here, as I do in any of my columns, is my educated opinion as a believing Latter-day Saint and a licensed family therapist. I am not speaking for the Church itself. Other members may give you different advice.

In my opinion, you’ve raised your family in the gospel. They already know what you believe about marriage, parenthood, chastity, and God’s laws. In all cases like these that I’ve encountered, the child is perfectly clear on the matter of where his or her parents (or in this case, grandparents) stand on moral issues.

This is not a case of whether or not you agree with her decision. It’s a case of whether or not you support her right to make it. It’s a case of whether or not you show love by being there for her in what is a major moment in her life.

In my opinion, by not attending the shower you unintentionally sent the message that your love may be conditional. Sending clothes so that the child won’t suffer may have been something you did to feel comfort about your choice. The child wouldn’t suffer if he or she didn’t receive your gift—as a newborn infant, the baby would never know the difference.

The way I see it, you owe your daughter and granddaughter an apology. Your intentions were good, but the results were hurtful. If you don’t take steps to make amends, you will only create a sense of rejection that may close their hearts to any influence you can have for good in their lives.

I echo the words of Elder Dale G. Renlund:

"We can stand firm in our beliefs and have a loving relationship with those who hold differing opinions. For example, I believe drinking alcohol is a violation of God’s law. So what do I do when I am hosting friends who do not believe as I do? My wife and I arrange to go to a restaurant with them where they can order as they choose to. And when they order wine with their meal, I do not get in their faces and call them out as sinners.

"Similarly, can I be friends with individuals who are living together without the benefit of marriage? Absolutely. And when I am with them, do I stand up in great indignation and call them to repentance, even though they are presently engaged in behavior I do not agree with? No, of course not.

"We can stand firm in our beliefs and have a loving relationship with those who hold differing opinions. Let us not forget that the plan of salvation offers the love and mercy of our Savior Jesus Christ to all."

I know that you are disappointed in the choices your granddaughter has made. It’s understandable. Perhaps you may even see it as a reflection on you. Or perhaps you simply love her and know that living the gospel is the greatest path to happiness, and you want that for her. Refusing to show up for her baby shower is not what is going to help her back, if she ever chooses to come back. Since you can’t undo your past decision, trust that your granddaughter already knows where you stand on moral issues, and commit to being there for her moving forward.

You are not terrible parents and grandparents. You care. Deeply. You made the best decision you knew how to make at the time. Now, your loved ones are telling you that that decision was hurtful. That wasn’t your intent. But you can apologize, ask how to make it right, and redirect your efforts in the future, or you can risk the divide growing between you.

God bless you. I hope this helps.

Lead Image: Shutterstock

Jonathan Decker, LMFT, Contributor

Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical director of Your Family Expert. He offers online relationship courses to people anywhere, as well as face-to-face and online therapy to persons in several states. Jonathan has presented at Brigham Young University Education Week and at regional conferences in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. He is married with five children. Contact him here and join his Facebook group for daily gospel-based relationship tips. 

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