If you have ever planned a long weekend away with your spouse and left your children behind, you have probably asked yourself, “is it really worth it?”
With thoughtful preparation and planning ahead, this can definitely be a worthwhile experience for everyone involved.
As parents, our goal is to make things as easy as we can for grandma and grandpa – or whoever is babysitting – so they will be willing to care for the kiddos again – and so you will be able to take a vacation again.
Timelines and schedules for the children can be very helpful. A close to consistent schedule will not only help the caretakers, but will ensure your children feel more comfortable.
• Write it out beginning with what time they typically rise in the morning and what they do when they get up. Whether snuggle time comes first or breakfast is a priority. Do they get dressed right away or do they get to play in their pajamas? Pack outfits together, including outer and underwear, so it is easy to access when it is time to get dressed.
• Depending on the age and development of your children, indicate when the bathroom visits typically occur and how independently those are managed.
• If naps are a part of their day, list when and where they nap best, along with any “nap aids” they are used to. This might include favorite blankets, stuffed animals, background music, etc.
• Mealtime, bath time and bedtime can all be challenging, so use specifics to describe how and when these typically occur. Optional menus can be suggested, and foods that are not typically available at the relative’s home should be provided by the parents.
• Practice how they should respond when grandma says it is time to do something or go somewhere. The response should always be, “OK grandma,” and then do it right away. Make sure you practice other skills, such as saying, “please” and “thank you.”
• Talk about what they should do if they get lonesome. Perhaps read a book or watch a movie. Some parents provide a picture of their family to take along or a lipstick kiss from mom on a note card tucked into the bag for a good night kiss.
• Talk with the kids about how many nights before mom and dad will return. Talk about the fun things they will get to do.
So, is it worth trying to get a way for a weekend? The answer is YES! Relatives will have the chance to grow closer to the children and children will gain self-confidence from being without their parents for a time. They'll learn not only can they survive, but they can have a good time, too.
Parents will be reminded of their own relationship and how it is “without kids,” which sometimes gets lost in their busy lives of jobs, sports and meeting the needs of their children. When parents are happy with one another, their children are happier, too!
So start planning your next long weekend and have a great time.
Pat Thomas of Boys Town's Family Hotline wrote this guest blog for momaha.com. Thomas has more than 30 years of experience working with children and families from many cultures and in many settings around the world. She has worked is various positions at Boys Town as a Family-Teacher, Trainer, and Hotline counselor. Since 2010, Pat has shared her experiences with families who call the Nebraska Family Helpline.