Making Family Get-Togethers Work
By Bonnie Baker Cowan
With summer coming, family get-togethers at graduation parties, reunions, vacations and cottage weekends bring together different generations with varying lifestyle needs. These gatherings can include at least three, sometimes four generations, especially with ‘beanpole’ families now being the norm. With Zoomers living longer and couples having fewer children, the beanpole phenomenon is the result of multiple generations with fewer members in each.
Depending on which generation is hosting the family reunion or vacation this summer, it can be a juggling act in dealing with different personalities, lifestyles and age differences.
Dr. Staci Illsley, a Vancouver psychologist, specializing in children and adolescents, gives this advice about meal options. “If the grandparents are hosting, everyone else is a guest and it’s not the job of grandparents to please everyone. They can offer choices for lunches and dinners, but they should also set boundaries,” she says.
Whatever the meal plans are, make them as effortless as possible. Simple foods on the barbecue make mealtime fun and easy, especially if your son-in-law offers to do the flipping. Making sure there’s lots of fruit, ice cream and sundae toppings for dessert is easy on the host and gives kids the chance to make their own sundaes or ice cream floats. And make mealtime even easier by asking everyone to contribute a dish or one of the courses.
Playing can mean different things to a three-year-old and a 63-year-old. For the three-year-old, playing means “with a lot of toys.” For a 63-year-old, playing can mean a good hand of bridge. Dr. Illsley suggests parents be encouraged to bring children’s toys to the get-together so there aren’t any expectations that the grandparents are in charge of entertaining everyone.