How to Handle Longer Visits With Your Grandkids

As you’re thinking through any upcoming visit with your grandkids, you should keep three things in mind: energy levels, expectations and boundaries, and a solid schedule.

Consider Energy Levels

When we recommend being mindful of energy levels, we’re not talking about your microwave. Odds are that you and your grandkids are going to bring different energy levels to daily activities. If their energy can be measured in megawatts and your energy level is more like miniwatts, you may need to think through a daily activity schedule (more on this later) that provides opportunities for them to safely bounce off the walls while also including plenty of recovery time for you.

Planning experts suggest, as you’re outlining your vacation or visit, that you schedule downtime in addition to activities. Whether you’re planning a long weekend at the house or a trip to Myrtle Beach for Spring Break, we think that’s a solid suggestion for any longer visit. As a start, how about planning an hour of rest for every two hours of activity? As you progress through your visit, you can adjust that ratio based on your specific circumstances.

Set Expectations and Boundaries

Just as you didn’t parent exactly like your parents did, your children aren’t going to parent exactly like you do. (Even though you did everything right … right?) As such, your grandchildren may be bringing in rules and expectations that you may not agree with, but should honor nonetheless. Want to ply your grandson with cookies before bedtime to make sure he has extra-sweet dreams, but there’s a “no sugar after 6 p.m.” rule in effect? Then save the chocolate chips for tomorrow. A momentary rush from bending the rules isn’t worth potentially triggering an argument.

Instead, before the visit, talk with your grandkids’ parents about what your own expectations will be during this time. Discuss your needs, concerns and boundaries, and be honest about your own limitations and what you can and cannot handle. And don’t confine the conversation to emotional boundaries! If your home office is to be completely off-limits or your collection of antique dolls doesn’t need sticky hands ruining the patina, the time for honesty is before frustrations start to rise. And if you have anything particularly irreplaceable, consider packing it away somewhere safe temporarily — especially if toddlers are in the picture.

Draft a Schedule

Well in advance of the visit, think through what you, your children, and your grandchildren each hope to accomplish during the visit, and draft a reasonable plan to ensure everyone gets at least a bit of what they’re wanting. Having a daily schedule and establishing a routine for meals, activities, and rest time can also help the grandkids feel more comfortable and secure during their stay with you. Be sure to communicate with everyone involved about the details of the schedule, so that everyone knows what to expect and can plan accordingly.

Also, notice that we said “draft” your schedule instead of “chisel your schedule in stone.” This is because while it’s smart to have a plan in place, children — especially young children — can be unpredictable, and you’ll potentially need to accommodate irregular nap times, bathroom emergencies or “hangry” snack stops. And as you make your plan, don’t count on down-to-the-minute precision in its execution. Perhaps consider adding flextime of 15 minutes before or 15 minutes after a planned activity, to allow for any last-minute adjustments, traffic delays or impromptu wardrobe changes due to apple juice spills. Not only could having some flexibility reduce your overall stress, it could also improve the quality of the time you’re spending on the planned activity.

Overall, the keys to handling longer visits with grandkids involve communication, planning and preparation. With a little bit of forethought and creativity, you can do your best to make sure that everyone has a great time and your grandkids leave feeling happy and loved — and, even better, everyone is looking forward to doing it again.

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