Whether you’re visiting grandparents, or grandparents are coming to visit your home, the key to a successful and happy visit is preparation. Be ready with some things and also with some ideas, and you can be sure the time spent together will be enjoyed by young and old.
For overnight accommodations, try to set-up the grandparents in a ground-floor guest room, even if that means having one of the kids give up their room for the duration. You don’t want seniors going up and down stairs, especially in an unfamiliar environment or late at night. If grandma or grandpa will be using a shared bathroom, remind children that their older relative gets priority bathroom time during the visit.
If grandparents or other senior citizens will be visiting your home, be realistic about “together time” with young children. Of course, older folks don’t have the energy level of young kids, so don’t plan a lot of running around or activities. Quiet time spent reading aloud, working on a jigsaw puzzle or even watching a family movie can be a pleasure for everyone and not too taxing. Talk with your kids before the visit and remind them that grandma or grandpa may tire easily and may even need some nap time or a rest hour (or hours!). Make sure kids understand this up front, and encourage them to be understanding and respectful rather than resentful or disappointed when Grandma’s had enough and needs a rest.
For intergenerational playtime, simple is best. Blowing up a couple of balloons and batting them around can be more fun than you think. Low-tech games like checkers, Go Fish or Crazy Eights are a great way to spend time together and connect. Hobbies such as gardening or baking cookies are fun for all ages.
If visiting grandparents will be staying overnight or for several days, try to simplify the pace of family life as much as possible. Racing between activities, homework, practice, meals—and trying to fit-in time with grandma or grandpa—can be exhausting for the seniors and frustrating for kids. For the few days of the visit, consider reducing the out-of-the-house obligations. Stick close to home and spend time as a family. Ask the grandparent to share stories about his or her childhood—kids love hearing about life in the “olden days.”
Time spent with grandparents or other senior citizens is important for children—giving them a sense of their own history, fostering respect for the past and empathy. It’s also a lot of fun!