The start of a new year is a great time to map out the time you will spend with the people who mean the most to you. As you think about the places you want to go this year, and things you would like to do, keep in mind the importance of spending time with your grandparents. For many families—especially those who live near—this is an easy thing to do, and visiting grandparents may be a frequent part of everyday life. But for others, it can require a little planning, and coordinating with other family members.
Spending time with grandparents is important for people of all ages, especially young children. They connect us directly to our family’s history, and love sharing stories about their lives. If you have kids, it is an especially transformative experience to watch your own parents become grandparents. The pride and joy they find in their grandchildren is unlike any other.
Of course, life gets busy. It can become hard to remember our grandparents when things are piling up and our schedules are full. Therefore, it can be helpful to make a game plan early in the year and stick to it so our beloved elder relatives don’t slip down the slope of our priority list.
Plan with your immediate family first
My wife and I live quite far from both of our families, so we typically spend our vacations visiting them. We know how quickly the year takes off, and travel time is limited, so we try our best to have a rough estimate of these details as early as possible.
Plans are certainly subject to change, but it is helpful at least to sit down with your family and discuss some ideas of when to visit.
If you live closer to your grandparents, set some goals for how often, and in what ways you can spend time with them. For example:
- Take them out to lunch
- Bring the kids over to spend a Saturday helping them with chores
- Afternoon tea once a month
- Invite them to the movies or a play
Once you have a game plan as a household, it is time to start planning with your other relatives.
Discuss with extended family
If you belong to a large family, it isn’t always easy to be on the same page, especially if not everyone is close (geographically or otherwise). But communicating with one another about who and when to visit grandparents is a solid way to ensure steady and frequent visits.
Some families benefit from either a get-together or group call at the beginning of the year to discuss plans and expectations. Others may prefer starting a group text thread where each family member can send updates throughout the year as plans develop or change. However, you choose to stay connected, be intentional about it and do your best to make sure each member of the family feels included.
Start by taking a look at holidays, since it is particularly the holidays that require planning and coordination. Will someone be able to be with them for each major holiday? Or is it possible for everybody to get together for one holiday? Grandparents love to see all their family together in one place, but that can be difficult to coordinate. You also don’t want to overwhelm them if they are hosting you, so work together to make sure not too many people are planning to stay with them at the same time and explore alternative accommodations.
Be sensitive to differences
Each family member is different, and it is not helpful to expect everyone to spend the same amount of time with grandparents. Some may have a harder time getting off work to travel, some may live closer, etc. What you do not want is tension or resentment among relatives, so be cautious not to make assumptions or judgments.
People have different ways of showing love, and all of them can be appreciated by your grandparents. For instance, some show love by acts of service—going out grocery shopping for them, or spending an afternoon taking care of some chores around the yard for them can bless them just as much as sitting down for tea.
Talking about these differences, and helping each other with ideas of how to care for grandparents in their unique situations, can be a constructive way to come together as a family.
Other ways to make time for grandparents
Sometimes making it back home for a visit may just not be in the cards for you. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still be a part of their lives. Here are a few simple ways you can keep your relationship with your grandparents strong from a distance:
- Help them become more connected with technology: More and more seniors are using mobile phones and social media. They enjoy being able to stay connected through these means. You can help make it easier for them. If your grandparents have wireless internet in their home, consider buying them a tablet as a gift. Before giving it to them, you can load it up with photos and videos of your family, and create them a Skype account so they can video chat with you. If you have children, it will brighten their day to be able to see them.
- Call as often as you can: Whether by Skype or by phone, find out what time is generally best for them and pencil them into your schedule so you don’t forget.
- Write letters: Grandparents love receiving letters from you! Make it easy on them and mail them personalized stationery and a set of nice pens. Have your kids get involved in writing their own letters or drawing pictures and include those too!
- Sponsor a caregiver: Your senior relatives will love you for sponsoring an afternoon with a caregiver every now and then. In this way they will feel very appreciated as there will be a person explicitly spending time with and taking care of them. The caregiver doesn’t need to help in the household exclusively, he or she can also just sit down with the grandparents for an afternoon tea, chat with them or play a game of chess. You will find caregivers in your grandparents’ area here.
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