For many children, time spent with grandma and grandpa on vacation can be a treasured time, full of memory-making adventures. If you are one of the many parents preparing to send your child to "Grandparents Camp," during the upcoming vacation break, here are some helpful tips to ensure your child and the grandparents in charge can make the most of the time together.
- Make sure your child knows his grandparents' real names and can recite their contact information. Many younger children may simply know their grandparents as "grandma" and "grandpa," or other traditional family names for grandparents. In case they ever get separated, your child should know his grandfather and grandmother's first and last name, phone number, and address. For toddlers and other young children who may not be able to recite this information from memory yet, be sure to include a contact card with these details inside the child's backpack and luggage. There are also many companies that sell bracelets with child contact and allergy info as well.
- Have at least one discussion with the set of receiving grandparents about expectations, well before the trip happens. Talk openly about any activities that you would not approve of for your child for any reason, as well as any fears and phobias your child may have. Let them know if there are certain foods that your child loves as well as foods he cannot or should not eat. Share with them a list of activities that he really enjoys, activities that help him feel safe and secure, and activities that might make him anxious. You know your child best, and it is important to communicate these details beforehand so that grandparents can be well prepped and armed with information to help make the trip as enjoyable as possible for everyone.
- Make sure the grandparents have important medical information about your child handy at all times. Before the trip, review any food or medication allergies your child may have. If your child has an ongoing medical condition, review your child's daily medicine schedule as well as how to properly administer/dispense necessary medication, and how to react in case your child has an allergic reaction or other medical emergency. Make sure they have the name and contact information of your child's pediatrician, and keep that information in their cell phones in case of emergency.
- Have a talk with your child before the trip about behavioral expectations. Remind him that while he is there, his grandparents are in charge. He is expected to behave as well as he would at home, and also adhere to the rules that his grandparents set forth for their home.
- Create a specific "safe word" for this trip that only you, your child, and your child's grandparents will know. Just as it's important to have a "safe word" at home, it's important to create a new one specifically for your child's vacation with his grandparents. This is a designated password to be used only by adults who have your permission and the child's grandparents' permission to pick him up in the event that the grandparents are not available to do so. Be sure your child also knows what to do in the event that an adult does try to lure him away without knowing the safe word. For example: if any adult tries to lure your child away at a busy park or shopping mall, and that adult does not know the safe word when your child asks for it, then your child will know to run away, yell "stranger danger!", and find his grandparents or tell the nearest authoritative adult, such as a store employee.
- If your child has a cell phone, be sure to turn the GPS location tracking on and remind him that stays on at all times.
Spending one-on-one vacation time with grandparents can be such a wonderful experience for your child. He can learn to build deeper bonds with other adults who love him, while also gaining confidence and independence as he experiences life adventures in a supervised environment outside of his immediate family unit. Reviewing these key points before he embarks on his vacation away can help ensure he has a fun -- and safe -- adventure.