Bridging the Generation Gap: Travel = Bonding for Grandparents and Grandchildren
By Julie Engelhardt
Most families no longer have multiple generations living in the same household, or even the same city, but there are ways that these two generations can spend time together and really bond through travel.
When he was young, my older son had both sets of grandparents living within an hour's drive of our home. That changed when one set of grandparents moved to another state, and then we moved that same year, meaning we would no longer have any grandparents close by. My younger son was barely a toddler when this transition took place, and I was saddened that he wouldn't experience what it is like to have his grandparents around all of the time—until I learned some great strategies for keeping their bonds strong.
Even if you live states away from extended family, there are countless ways of fostering the grandparent-grandchild relationship. Phone calls, letters, and email are an excellent way of maintaining contact, but nothing seals the bond better than actually spending time together. One way of doing this is having the children visit their grandparents' home.
Alan and Judy Marcus live in New Jersey, and their granddaughters, ages seven and nine, live in Arizona. According to Alan, he and his wife make a point to stay involved in the girls' lives, even though nearly 3,000 miles separates the two families. "The kids come in at least twice a year for visits, and they just completed a five-week stay with us," he says. "They think of our home as 'camp.' Since the girls are each other's best friends, this works well. The girls have made friends in New Jersey so there is a good level of kid contact. At least one day per visit they come to work with me—something that I really enjoy."
Your own child's age will determine how long he can bear being away from you and the comforts of home. Discuss the trip several weeks in advance to prepare him for the journey. Keep in mind, if your child is too young to fly alone, it's best that you travel with him to his destination, then have a grandparent accompany him on the return trip.
One way to make a visit memorable is to plan activities that will hold a child's interest. Alan and Judy live just 30 minutes from midtown New York, so there is always plenty to do. "We go to museums, see puppet shows in Central Park, attend Broadway plays, and visit the Statue of Liberty. We also go bicycle riding, swimming, and do arts and crafts. We always try to do things together as a family," Alan explains.
If you're looking for activities in your area, check out BabyZone's Local Events and Resources guides. Here you will find scores of parks, entertainment centers, and happenings that appeal to all ages. Even if you live miles away from a big city, BabyZone has hundreds of suggestions for activities grandparents and kids can do at home. Local parks and recreation departments, libraries, or YMCAs also have special programs happening throughout the year.