When I met my husband, Alex, he was a widower with five grown children. I had three children of my own. After 20 years of marriage, Alex and I joke that our nine grandchildren are God’s reward for not choking our kids.
We have had the joy of traveling extensively with our grandkids. One year, we took five of them to New York City. A few years later, we took seven kids, ranging in age from 8 to 17, to Montana for a week of hiking.
Here’s what we’ve learned about traveling successfully with grandkids:
- Leave the parents at home. Believe it or not, kids behave better when their parents aren’t around.
- Provide options: Before bed each night, plan for the next day. Come up with two or three different activities, and then let the kids decide what they want to do.
- Set boundaries. Decide where you want to go, who you want to join you, and what you are willing to do once you get there.
How to Set Boundaries
My friend Julie has grown tired of her 13-year-old grandson picking on his younger brother, so this summer she invited them to come to their beach house on separate weeks. She told each boy that he could bring one friend. Last week, the 13-year-old grandson called and said he wanted to bring two friends. One was a boy and one was a girl. He also said he was planning on staying a few extra days during his brother’s week.
Julie said, “I don’t know what to do!”
I said, “Say, ‘No’! You’re hosting the vacation. You get to set the rules.”
She said, “Just like that? You just say, ‘No’?”
I said, “Yes. Just like that. You say, ‘No. That doesn’t work for us. You can come the last week of August, and you can bring one friend.’ Period.”
Spending time with grandkids isn’t just about making sure they have a good time. It’s an opportunity to teach them how to treat other people. If we act like a doormat, we teach them that it is OK to be rude and inconsiderate. If we stand firm and teach them to respect our boundaries, we can help them grow into responsible, thoughtful, caring adults. And that might end up being the greatest gift we will ever give to a child we love.
Elaine K. Sanchez is the author of the book, “Letters from Madelyn, Chronicles of a Caregiver.” She is also the co-founder of CaregiverHelp.com, an online caregiver support program, and she frequently delivers keynotes, workshops and trainings at healthcare and caregiving conferences across the country. You can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.