10 tips for the grandkids’ visit

Having your grandkids stay with you for a while over the summer can be a truly bonding and loving experience. But let’s face it: it can also be a little stressful! Here are ten tips for making that summer vacation go smoothly.

Plan together
Even before the grandkids arrive, you can set everyone up for success.  Take the time before they come to talk about activities you can do together.  If they’ve been before a great starting point is to ask them what they liked and remember most from the last visit.  If your grandkids are in their teens, this is also a good time to start talking about how much time they would like on their own, whether they expect to have access to a car or to go out with kids their own age, and other issues like that.

Don’t overschedule
Although kids are apt to complain about being bored, they can also get overwhelmed and tired.  A trip to your home doesn’t have to have the excitement of a three-day weekend at Disney World.  Leave some time for calmer activities like stories or playing in the backyard.

Simplicity works
The activities you plan don’t he to be elaborate. A trip to a local park often does as well for an afternoon as something more structured. Younger kids may be entertained for hours playing dress-up from your closet. And older kids may well like some time to relax. The best place to get ideas is from your grandchild’s interests. If he or she loves animals, look for a zoo or a local farm – or a walk with a neighbour’s dog. If he or she loves planes, consider a trip to a field near the local airport with a picnic lunch to watch the planes.  Some other ideas:

  • card and board games may not have the glitz of video games, but kids still enjoy them
  • make a trip to the library soon after their arrrival to pick out some books
  • craft supplies plus your time and expertise can easily fill a rainy day or two; cooking is also a great rainy day activity
  • creating a scrapbook from family memorabilia is something an older grandchild can really appreciate

Establish a schedule
A routine to the day can help any kid – from 6 to 16 – feel comfortable and secure, and can also preserve your sanity.  Let the kids know about what time you expect to have meals, tidy up, and go to bed.  If you tend to have “at-home” time and “going-out” time at similar times each day that also provides a routine. For older kids, letting them know when you expect to see them and when they might have time to go out on their own is key.

Be flexible
Conversely, sometimes it’s time to be flexible.  If it’s raining and the kids are bored, it might be time for a change of plan and to rent a video and make popcorn, or head out to see a movie.  Or maybe there is that one big event like a fair or fireworks display and it’s worth the tired eyes in the morning to stay out late and take it all in. Remember – it’s a holiday.

Include the grandkids in your life
Some of the best memories grandkids keep of their grandparents involve a sense of being included in their grandparents’ day.  One advantage you may have is time – where their parents might be rushing them off to a soccer practice before they speed off to a meeting at school, you can slow down and really include them. If you have a minor fix-it project and your grandkids can safely help, enlist them and teach them a thing or two about power tools. Show them how to help with household chores. Let them help bake for church or a bake sale.  If you usually play bingo at night and your bingo hall allows it, have them tag along.

Prepare your home
If your grandchildren are young and rambunctious – or even older and rambuctious – you may want to consider putting away any knick-knacks that you especially treasure. Although learning to treat your home with care is an important lesson for any grandchild, accidents do happen and if you can avoid one that would be very upsetting, so much the better.  You can also make your grandchild feel special by setting up his or her room or space with a welcome sign, or some toys or a favourite book that you want to share with them especially.

Food, glorious food
Children, especially younger ones, can be quite upset if they find themselves away from home with unfamiliar dishes.  Its a good idea to ask what their favourite foods are and serve them early in the visit. Having their favourite snack in the fridge will also help to smooth the way. One way to approach this is to take the grandkids grocery shopping with you. But once they are well settled in, it can be a bonding experience to share a meal with them that’s something you used to serve to their parent, but they haven’t had as often.  That’s how stories about “grandpa’s chili” get handed down over generations.

The big ‘D’
Before the grandchildren arrive it’s a good idea to discuss discipline with your children.  Traditionally grandparents aren’t strong disciplinarians in their grandkids’ lives. But even so, it’s a good idea to plan and discuss how to handle any problems that might come up. It’s also a good idea to set ‘house rules’ with them when they arrive – if you don’t want them playing on your computer, or roughhousing indoors, be clear from the start.

Remember – it’s all family
And what if the visit seems like a disaster – the kids are allergic to the food you cook; they get the stomach flu from the next door neighbours, and the car breaks down on the way to the zoo?  Remember: you’re a family, and sometimes, that’s what families do together – they just go with the flow, and share hugs and tears alike.