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This is the week that many schools, daycare centers and greeting card companies celebrate National Grandparents Day. Technically, Grandparents Day in the United States was on Sept. 9 — but it’s definitely not too late to celebrate the grandmas and grandpas in your life.
In my experience, the best way to do that is to visit and spend time with them. If you live down the street from the grandparents in your family, that may be a simple enough process. If you have to travel to visit your child’s grandparents, however, there are a few ways to make the visit even better for everyone in the family.
1. FaceTime between visits
Nothing replaces in-person time together with family. But FaceTime and similar services can certainly help close the gaps. Some regular ‘FaceTiming’ with grandparents is a great way to stay connected and ensure that your time together starts right where you left off.
2. Book your own hotel
If I could only share one tip for traveling to visit grandparents, it would be to book your own hotel room nearby rather than expecting Grandma and Grandpa to host everyone in their home. While there are exceptions to every rule, most people do better with their own space. Grandparents put all their energy into maximizing time with their grandkids during the day, so let them have their own space to recharge at night.
Along the same lines, visiting family can be as tiring as it is exciting, so having your own bed, shower and quiet space is worth the points (or cash) investment, so increase those point balances if you need to and make the reservation. This is especially true if the grandparents’ house has limited space, or your visit is for longer than two nights.
And when grandparents travel to visit us, we like to book them a hotel nearby for all the same reasons.
3. Let the grandparents plan activities
If Grandma and Grandpa have things they want your family to do while visiting, leave time to accommodate those specific activities. They may have waited a long time to have your family experience certain attractions and their favorite place to eat. They may even want the grandkids to meet their friends. If a suggested activity sounds like a really poor match for your family, voice your concerns. Otherwise, let them be your local tour guide as much as they want.
4. Get out of the way
If the grandparents want to take an active role with the grandkids for a few days: let them. Over the years, we’ve found that having two grandparents and two parents involved in all the daily tasks and activities is just too many cooks in the kitchen.
Personally, my husband and I like to have a couple days with everyone together, and then duck out for a short trip while the grandparents have the grandkids to themselves. (This works great if visiting the grandparents is a stopover on the way to somewhere else). If that isn’t feasible, still try and stay out of the way as much as possible so Grandma and Grandpa can enjoy quality time the grandkids.
Of course, if your children are babies or very young and do best with a consistent routine — or if you have concerns about the grandparents’ ability to safely keep up with your toddler — don’t get out of the way completely.
5. Take professional pictures
Multi-generational time together is special, so take a few photos. Or a lot. Photos taken with your phone may be sufficient, but don’t be afraid to invest in a professional photographer every once in a while (or at least a pro-quality camera) if you want to capture high-quality shots with everyone. It may be a pain to take photos in the moment, but you’ll be very glad you have them down the road.
6. Don’t overstay your welcome
The amount of time every family can — or wants to — spend together certainly varies. But in general, try not to overstay your welcome. Our family vastly prefers multiple, shorter visits with grandparents rather than one very long visit. By the third or fourth day, almost everyone starts to get run down. If you have a longer visit planned, that third or fourth day may be a good time for everyone to do their own thing and recharge.
Taking two independently functioning family units and combining them into one big mass isn’t always simple, and it’s OK to know your limits and keep visits short and sweet. Everyone is better off with a shorter period of time that goes well, rather than a longer period of time marked by family-fatigue.
7. Make plans to visit again
Saying goodbye is usually easier if there are at least rough plans for the next visit. You don’t have to have actual reservations in place, but start the discussion about when and where the next visit should take place.
My family likes to alternate where we visit grandparents so that one family isn’t always doing the traveling (or hosting). In fact, one of our favorite ways to visit with grandparents is to meet up somewhere fun, so that no one is hosting and everyone has exciting things to do and explore together. Regardless of where you meet, start that conversation now, so that goodbye isn’t goodbye: it’s see you next time.
Images by Andrea Bacle Photography.
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