I have a photo of me and my three grandkids – ages 6, 5, and 16 months – on my office desk. There’s a caption, and it reads: “Grandpa & Me, You are a friend I will never outgrow.”
I love my grandkids with all my heart. But as much as I want to be a friend who sometimes spoils them with one too many cookies or a giggle-inducing piggyback ride right before bedtime, I also have to be one of the responsible adults in their lives. This is especially true when they come to stay with us for a summer visit.
No matter their age, grandkids need to have a set of rules and behavioral expectations when they come to Papa and Grandma’s house.
So when school’s out and the grandchildren settle in, it’s time for SUMMER RULES!
Here are just a few suggestions that can help make your grandkids’ summer visits pleasant and fun.
Discipline. Consistency is the key to getting kids to use good behaviors and stay out of trouble. So talk to Mom and Dad before their kids come to your house and find out how they’re addressing behaviors – good and bad – at home. Then follow suit. Boys Town believes in a positive approach to discipline, which calls for encouraging good behavior by rewarding it with praise and correcting bad behavior through teaching appropriate behavior and using consequences (for example, Time-Out for younger children; having older kids do an extra chore). It also means keeping your cool and not letting emotions dictate your actions. That way, you can effectively discipline your grandkids without raising your voice or your hand. When the grandkids see that you are going to enforce the same rules as Mom and Dad, in the same way, they’ll soon understand what behaviors you want to see and work hard to gain your positive attention for them.
Food. It’s tempting to want to say “Yes” every time your grandchild asks for a treat or says he or she is hungry. But healthy eating habits are always a must and should be consistently enforced. Prepare what you know your grandkids will eat but don’t be afraid to have them try something new once in a while. For fun, eat a meal on the deck or patio, or have a picnic at the park. Remember to say grace together before each meal; this is a great opportunity to teach your grandkids how to give thanks and why it is important. As for those treats, use them as rewards for the good behavior of finishing a meal and helping with the dishes.
Bedtime. Every child needs a lot of sleep. For younger kids, set a summer bedtime that’s at or close to their bedtime at home. An hour or so before bedtime, help them start winding down by having a snack (fruit or cereal is good; just avoid the sugary stuff), brushing their teeth, and reading a book together. It’s okay to let school-aged or “tween” grandkids stay up a little later, but shut down screen time (TV, video games, texting) as their bedtime approaches. Also, keep phones out of the bedroom so kids aren’t up all night playing on them.
Personal Hygiene. Nobody likes a stinky kid. So make sure your grandkids bathe or shower (with soap and shampoo; younger kids love bubble baths) after a hard day of playing outside; brush their teeth in the morning and evening; put on clean clothes every day; and, if they’ve reached puberty, use deodorant. These habits are a great way to teach kids the importance of taking care of their bodies, for their own health and comfort and the comfort of those around them.
Chores. Even though it’s vacation time, there’s nothing wrong with giving kids chores to do during a summer visit. Just make sure the tasks are appropriate for their age and the kids are able to do them. If they make a mess, have them clean it up. If they scatter their toys all over the basement floor or the backyard, have them pick them up and put them away. In the morning, they should make their bed. In the evening, they should put their dirty clothes in the laundry. Make a game out of having the grandkids set the table for dinner or help with the dishes after a meal. All of these activities teach kids responsibility and help them experience the satisfaction of doing a job well!
Outings and Fun Activities. It can get mighty expensive trying to go out to eat, go to a movie, or do something else fun that costs money when the grandkids are visiting. So think free (or almost free) and seasonal. Check out the local newspaper for farmer’s markets, festivals, holiday celebrations, church bazaars, concerts, craft fairs, and other free events. If your grandkids are toddlers or school-aged, take them to a local park or go for a walk around the neighborhood. Older grandkids might enjoy a bike ride, going fishing, or building something in the garage. No matter what activities you choose, the most important thing is to have fun and spend time together.
These are just a few areas to consider when the grandkids head your way for a summer visit. Being prepared, having a daily routine so the kids know what to expect and what is expected of them, and mixing in a few surprises will bring you closer together, ensure a good time for everyone, and create lasting memories!
Discover additional tips by visiting Boys Town Parenting Site.