Ask Dr. Gramma Karen: Plan Win-Win Visits With the Grandchildren

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Dear Readers,

This is an unabridged version of a column I wrote for GRAND Magazine.

With the coming of summer, it’s not too soon for grandparents to extend invitations and to plan for visits with the grandchildren. As the real-life examples below illustrate, some creativity and flexibility in the arrangements may make for visits that are more relaxing and fun for everyone.

It Seemed Like Such a Good Idea …

When Grandpa Don and (step) Grandma Marni dropped off Don’s son and his wife and their two young children at the airport, they felt guilty because they were so glad to see them leave.

New Englanders Don and Marni had rented a beautiful three-bedroom condominium for the winter on the water in Florida. As a Christmas present to their two grown children, both married with two young children each, Don and Marni bought them plane tickets and invited each family to stay with them for a week, a month apart, to enjoy a break from the cold New England weather.

The first family arrived with the two grandchildren both sick with colds and fevers. The parents explained, “We came even though the kids were sick, thinking the warm weather would be good for them.” Marni and Don spent the week taking care of their sick grandchildren while their parents took in the beaches and local attractions. After they left, Marni came down with a cold and fever that lasted for days.

The second family arrived for their week in good health, but their grandchildren’s behavior left much to be desired: they rough-housed and fought with each other, grabbed food off each other’s plates, and complained about whatever activities Marni and Don had planned for them. The parents justified their kids’ bad behavior by saying, “Kids will be kids.”

In describing these visits Marni said, “Our time together was strained. We would have preferred rescheduling the week with the sick grandchildren, and as regards our other grandchildren, we didn’t want to spend our time disciplining them. We were disappointed with both visits, and at first we said, ‘Never again!’ Then after a couple days of venting, we felt sad as we thought about not spending extended time with our grandchildren.”

A New Game Plan

Marni and Don addressed the situation with a different plan for the next winter. They would rent a one-bedroom condominium for themselves, and they would rent a nearby efficiency with two bedrooms and a kitchenette for a week for each of the two families. They also plan to rent a car for each visiting family. Marni and Don figured out that paying for the plane tickets, the efficiency, and the rental cars will be more cost effective than renting an upscale three-bedroom condo for three months.

Marni and Don like this new plan, as the visiting families can have privacy, independence, and take care of many of their own meals. In addition, they feel that the actual time they will be spending with Don’s grown children and their spouses and their grandchildren will be more relaxed and fun for everyone.

Other Solutions

Marni’s and Don’s solution brings to mind examples of how other grandparents have figured out ways to spend quality time with their grandchildren.

Case in point is grandparents Sue and Roger, who live in a state that is far from the state in which their grandchildren and their parents Lilly and Will live. When Lilly and Will mentioned to Sue and Roger that they had been invited to a destination wedding in the Caribbean, Sue and Roger suggested that Lilly and Will drop off the grandkids to stay with them while they went to the wedding, since they had to change planes at the airport right near them anyway. Lilly and Will extended their time in the islands and had a real vacation, and Sue and Roger had special time with their grandchildren.

In another New England family with two teenaged grandsons, during their spring break, one of the grandsons couldn’t go far because he had sports practice every morning. The other grandson didn’t have any obligations to keep him homebound, so the grandparents, who live in Florida, extended an invitation to this grandson to come stay with them for his spring break. They also told their grandson that he could bring a friend. (The grandson is old enough to fly alone, so a parent or other adult need not accompany him.) Just imagine how excited the grandparents are at the prospect of having their grandson – and perhaps his friend – all to themselves!

And finally, there is the example of the grandparents who had their two toddler-aged grandchildren stay with them while their parents stayed in a nearby hotel. The grandparents, who were early risers anyway, happily took on all the tasks required when caring for young children, e.g., getting up early, needing to provide constant supervision and entertainment. Meanwhile, the young parents could sleep in and leisurely make their way to the grandparents’ home to spend time with their toddlers, or do things sans their kids, like enjoy a quiet three-hour dinner.

All of these are examples where some creativity and flexibility can result in satisfying arrangements so that . . .


Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.
E-mail queries to [email protected]

Dr. Rancourt’s most recent book is,
Its All About Relationships: New Ways to Make Them Healthy and Fulfilling, at Home and at Work

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