The Ultimate Grandparents Summer Holiday Survival Guide

It’s the summer hols, which means the Grandkids are coming to stay – hurrah!  It’s so lovely to be with them, but it can be a challenge too and Janey’s postbag is often packed with frustrated grandparents not sure how to handle issues coming up during family visits.

We compiled the most common with our breakdown – read to the end for Janey’s best advice!

Joyful old woman and little girl are posing in waiting hall

Money

According to Travelodge, the average cost of a family day out for four is around £87 – that’s to somewhere like the beach or a museum. If you want to go somewhere bigger, like an amusement park, you can usually double it.

Add the cost of treats, extra household food and bills, plus all the minutiae of having kids around and costs mount fast.  With an average couple of pensioners in the UK earning a maximum of £29, 560 per year, it means having the kids through the summer can be a big expense.

What to do:

  1. Be realistic. Yes, we love our grandchildren and it’s so fun to spoil them but going into debt for it isn’t worth it. Don’t promise more than you can afford, for either of your sake
  2. Talk to their parents. Our kids are sometimes the worst ones for not realising how overstretched we are. If the kids are staying with you and you could do with some support financially to make that easier, ask for help.  Even if it’s just popping to the supermarket to top up the food supplies, or buying the picnic that day, it all adds up.
  3. Look for bargains. Wowcher, Money Saving Expert, and Kids Pass all have offers on regularly. Most places offer a discount if you book online in advance and WhereCanWeGo advertises loads of fun, local excursions that are cheap/free.

Food

In our day, food was more expensive and less available.  Therefore, being picky wasn’t really tolerated and we certainly didn’t get multiple options if we didn’t like something.

So, it can be frustrating if your grandchildren eat like locusts and turn their noses up at your lovingly created dinners.  It’s even worse if their parents allow it.

Expecting takeaways regularly, sloshing everything with sauce and allergy-prone kids can also all cause conflicts when trying to get holiday mealtime right. But it doesn’t have to be a battleground.

  1. Before they come to stay, ask their parents for a list of things they don’t like – then don’t cook it. Even if you disagree, their parents are responsible for their health, not you. If mum insists on a vegan diet with four types of Kale, ask her to share her favourite recipes with you, or suggest she does the shopping and cooking for those nights herself if it’s not your thing *and do feel free to sneak off for a chippy if you really hate what she’s made 😊.
  2. Pre-agree what nights you’re going to go out for dinner. After big days out is usually a good idea when no one wants to cook.  Then stick to your guns. No child needs a big mac every day.
  3. Cook with the kids. Many of us learned to love cooking at the knees of our grandparents – take the opportunity to share that love with your own offspring.  Same with gardening, which is a wonderful way to teach children about growing their own food.

summer-holiday-grandparent-funfair

Technology

Gahhhh – is there anything worse than trying to enjoy the precious babies you see occasionally, only to have to fight their devices for any attention at all?

Worse, you’ve planned a great day out and they want to ditch it to play computers. Or you’re in a restaurant and they’re there tapping away at the table. So rude!

Days Out. This is where we say play hardball.  They want to moan about not taking the tech. Let them.  It won’t do them any harm at all to be away from the mobile.  In fact, it’ll do them good and once their busy they’ll soon forget it and if they don’t tough.

Parent Conflict. If their parents disagree it can be more difficult.  Explain that you’re so looking forward to enjoying their company, but you’d prefer it if the devices weren’t around for your very limited time with them, but you’re happy for them to have a bit of time after you’ve been out.

At Dinner. In restaurants, the rule is ‘bring a basket’. And everyone (including you) puts phones and tablets AWAY.  Make sure you take a colouring book or pad with them to distract them if needs be and bring out the old games like Eye Spy to keep them engaged.

Finally, be a good example!  If you’re on Facebook all day, you certainly can’t expect them not to be!

Discipline & Differing Rules

It’s so hard this one.  You have your rules and you bought your kids up one way, but they want to do something different.

Manners, later bedtimes,  what they wear, the language they use… it can be so tough if you don’t agree and certainly when they’re in your home, but especially if you only spend limited time with them, it really is best to step back.

If they’re very rude, mentioning it to a parent might be ok, but they can be notoriously sensitive to perceived slights (as we once were no doubt). Unless it’s really serious, or you’re responsible for them alone then it really isn’t up to you to share your thoughts on their upbringing.

If you’re in charge and they are at yours without parents for a length of time, I recommend setting some ground rules in advance; house rules if you like. A simple reward for adhering to them makes a world of difference and gentle reminders rather than endless nagging will make a happier home for you both.

Activities

Everything today can be so expensive, and kids definitely expect to be entertained but that can be exhausting and as we’ve already discussed, VERY expensive for you.

I like the old-fashioned options in this case.  Go to the park.  Let them dig in the garden.  Pop to the library (they’re fab these days you know).  Have a picnic.  Grab some old movies and blankets and chill out at home.

If mobility is an issue, be honest about what you can do – perhaps letting them know you can’t do what they’re used to but painting, crafts or looking through old photo albums at their parents as children can be a lovely way to while away the days without putting pressure on yourself.

Self-Care

Interestingly, taking care of your Grandkids can be one of the best ways to improve mental health and overall wellbeing according to research.  However, it is tiring and can be frustrating.

Self-care is a new concept and one lots of us struggle with a bit, after all, ours is the generation who didn’t have access to medication and meditation in the same way the next do.  However, it is beneficial.

It doesn’t necessarily mean a Spa day (although yay for that idea).  Calling a friend for a rant about the fact that your daughter allowed your child to eat only nuggets for three days, or your son didn’t even offer to split the bill at the cinema is a good way to get the stress out without causing conflict.

Recognising your limits and going for a walk, or a snooze is good for everyone – no one enjoys being around tired, grouchy people and making yourself ill certainly isn’t going to make for a good vacay.

Janey Says:

Your grandchildren wanting to be with you is the best feeling in the world, I think. I’ve spent so much time trying to be the best granny – and a little bribery has come into this I must admit!

When it comes to looking after them alone though, it’s a different situation for me now, which I hate, but I need to be honest about.  I don’t have the physical strength to do all the things I’d love to do with them on my own.

One day maybe when they’re older it might be different.  Either way, for their safety and mine, it’s important to recognise one’s limitations and the same goes for us all.

We all have limits, be they financial, emotional or physical and it’s important we recognise them when we’re in charge of the littlies – being realistic about what we can do is critical to how much you and they enjoy themselves!

When I was diagnosed the neurologist warned me not to do too much for the new babies she knew were arriving.  ‘Take care of yourself, put yourself first’ was her advice. I hated hearing it because I wanted my children to all go away (for as long as they liked frankly) and leave my ridiculously adored grandchildren with me.  Unmonitored I could have a complete ball – and experience the joy of the new babies with so much more confidence than I did the first time around. But…

Even as a fit granny I can imagine how exhausting the whole thing is, and although I hate to admit it – when they all pile out of the house and back in their mummy’s cars for bath time and tea, I heave a sigh of relief.

My advice to any granny however fit is to not try to overdo it. Keep a bit in reserve for yourselves.

Our kids are used to leaning on us and it’s the greatest pleasure to be able to help with, everything frankly.  Saying no is like an admission of old age, something I fight with every day!

Absolutely embrace all the wonderfulness of every aspect of your grandbabies – but keep a bit back to manage to keep smiling at the end of the day.

None of us wants to be remembered for crawling up to the door on our hands and knees weak from exhaustion!

Far better to ask them before they’re taken away ‘would you like some ice cream, and shall I tell you a story of when I was little – and did something really naughty?’ Those are the memories I’d like mine to treasure.

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