The chance to retreat to their grandparents’ house for an overnight or weekend visit is a time-honored tradition enjoyed by countless grandchildren. Anxious grandparents and eager grandchildren alike know that spending a weekend together can be exciting and exhilarating. Hosting your grandchildren for the weekend or for an overnight slumber party can also be challenging and stressful when everyone is not prepared.
Knowing how to help your grandchildren transition to being away from home and how to stock your house with kid-friendly items will ease the anxiety and help everyone enjoy a fabulous and fun weekend sleepover.
Rest up. Making sure that everyone is mentally and physically prepared increases the success rate of a weekend or overnight visit. “Don’t plan a sleepover weekend when you or your grandchild is overtired or under the weather, as it’s harder to deal with stress when you have no reserve,” says pediatrician and author Cathryn Tobin, M.D., of Toronto, Canada. Feeling your best and being well rested will ensure you are ready for a burst of playful energy and that your grandchildren can experience all the wonderful doting attention they have been looking forward to.
Avoid frenzy. Drop-off and pick-up times can be the most stressful for everyone embarking on a weekend adventure. Making sure you begin the occasion on time offers an uncertain child reassurance about the weekend and soothe an anxious child ready to start having fun. “I always make sure my kids are packed and ready to go on time,” says Tess Nagel of Baldwinsville, N.Y. working with their parents to make sure your grandchildren are ready to go at the appointed time also helps them know what to expect from the weekend and when to expect it.
Start slow. A short overnight visit is best if there is any concern with your grandchild’s apprehension. Spending a long day together prior to the sleepover is also a great transition to an overnight visit. “Your grandchild will be better prepared to be away from home and to rely on you for primary care,” notes child advocate specialist and recent first-time grandmother Diana Derby of Crystal Lake, Ill. The chance to interact one-on-one with you at your house, and without parents present, will give your grandchild a glimpse of what to expect during an overnight or weekend visit with you.
Be positive. “Grandparents can set the stage for success by approaching the visit with enthusiasm and a positive attitude,” adds Dr. Tobin. When your grandchild is being dropped off, make sure to remain positive about the time together instead of focusing on what or whom the child may be missing. Although goodbyes may be delivered with heartfelt sincerity, hearing comments like “Mommy misses you so much” can elevate a child’s stress level and spark a bout of separation anxiety.
Easing into the fun. Avoid rushing right into stimulating activities at the start of the visit to give your grandchildren the chance to ease into the weekend. “I usually plan to bake cookies or play cards and board games for the first few hours when my granddaughters spend the weekend,” offers grandmother of five Liz Deluca of Baton Rogue, La.
Stock up on supplies. Keeping a few items such as spare underwear or a tube of the children’s favorite toothpaste can turn a weekend visit at your house into time spent at a second home. “My grandchildren feel like this is their home too because a part of them is always here,” adds Deluca. Keeping a duplicate favorite game, stuffed animal or doll at your house prevents the need to shuttle treasured items back and forth and ensures your grandchild will feel comfortable being surrounded by the comforts of home. Little things mean a lot for these overnight visits.
Staying in touch. Reassure your grandchildren of their parents’ continued presence with scheduled calls to say hello or to offer updates on all the fun. By adhering to the prearranged call times, well-wishing parents will be sure to not intrude on the time spent with your grandchildren while still offering a loving show of support.
Send your own message. Asking children to remind their parents about a planned dinner next weekend or to call their great-aunt puts children in an uncomfortable position. Focus on spending time with your grandchildren and resist the urge to ask them to relay a message to their parents or siblings.
Nightmares beware. It is important to discuss how to handle nightmares, bedwetting or sleeplessness issues with your grandchild’s parents prior to having your grandchild overnight. “This way, you’ll all be in agreement on what to do if the child is crying during the night,” adds Derby. Discussing the planned resolution with older grandchildren instills a sense of empowerment and adds a dose of reassurance to hopefully stave off nighttime troubles.
Allow for downtime. Even the most energetic and enthusiastic children require time to unwind and process the day’s events. Plan for periods of rest for you and your grandchildren so you can recharge your batteries and regroup your efforts. Giving your grandchildren the freedom to lounge on the sofa for a bit or to relax in their room shows that you respect the need for personal space and encourages their respect of your needs as well.
Don’t be surprised if your grandchildren aren’t ready to go home as the weekend draws to a close! Your efforts to host a wonderful weekend are sure to create lifelong memories you and your grandchildren will cherish forever.
Originally Published on GRAND Magazine in January-February 2007 Issue