How to Survive Grandma Detox


Just four days ago my family returned from a week-long missions trip with 21 high school students. This year’s trip took us to a camp, where we enjoyed a high and low ropes course, lake swimming, service projects, and lots of late nights. In anticipation of such a pace, we knew this would not be the best trip to keep our toddler with us, so a week at Grandma’s house was in order. While our child had the time of his life last week, his parents, who were already in a post-missions-trip-fog, were left to put our sweet toddler back together again. When it comes to Grandma Detox, I write to you today straight from the trenches!

Symptoms that indicate a Grandma Detox is necessary include:

  • Demanding pretzels.
  • Total meltdowns when not given a pretzel the second it is demanded.
  • Puppy dog eyes followed by mean glares when their desires have not been immediately met.
  • Laughing when given instructions.
  • Throwing food off the table.

The list could go on forever, but the behavior will certainly be centered around the things you JUST taught your child to stop doing.

There are two types of Grandma Detox parents will encounter: the short-term visit detox and the long-term visit detox. For those who live down the street from Grandma, the short-term detox can be done in a quick evening or two. For those who visit with Grandma for a weekend or more at a time, this detox will take longer. No matter which type you are walking through, keep your goal in mind: regaining a child that knows how things work in your house. I implement this goal through a 4-phase process.

Phase 1: Sleep

This has to be the first step in achieving your goal of a Grandma Detox. Everyone knows a well-rested child will be more receptive to change than a sleep-deprived child. If you want to make any progress in the rest of your detox program, PLEASE, start here! This may mean re-implementing nap time (perhaps on a temporary basis, if your kiddo is past the daily napping stage). In my case, it meant having nap time at the same time (well, around the same basic time) each day and getting my toddler back into the groove of a two-hour nap instead of just running until he collapsed and hoping he would be pleasant during dinner time (which he NEVER is without a full nap!). Bedtime will need to be as strictly enforced as you can make it during your detox. Reacquainting your kiddo with the appropriate amount of sleep he needs will be your best strategy for making it to the next day.

To help reestablish normal sleep patterns, also strive to stay home as much as possible during the detox. Taking your kiddo out in public when he is sleep deprived and high on Grandma fumes is a dangerous combination! A trip to a restaurant is just asking for trouble! Order in and run your errands alone for a few days.

Phase 2: Food

Once your little one has achieved a close-to-normal sleeping routine, it will be time to start changing her diet back to what is normal for your family. In my family that basically means there will no longer be ice cream with every meal. A quick removal of sugar can leave your child with the shakes and some major withdrawal, so a slow weaning may be your best bet. I mean, the love of ice cream was firmly instilled in me, too, so a little ice cream to celebrate being together again makes everyone happy. Cold turkey quitting when it comes to sugar is not a battle I am willing to fight.

We also had to remind our son that we do not snack all day. Grandmas have the job of making their grandchildren happy, and that usually means a snack whenever said grandchild indicates he may think about being hungry or potentially shows that he might have an interest in chocolate in the next three days. So, obviously that will need to be addressed. We started small by allowing a healthy snack in between mealtimes to adjust his tiny tummy to waiting a bit longer between eating. Then we worked toward refocusing that time with favorite activities. We took walks, played basketball, raced cars down the hallway, anything to keep his mind engaged in playing and not thinking about the mindless snacking to which he had grown accustomed.

Phase 3: Manners

Hey look! You now have a well-rested kiddo with a tummy full of more than sugar. Hooray! Almost there. Keep going! Now is the time to hone in on the basic rules of politeness that help our society function. This is not to say manners were not used in the prior two phases, just that they were not the main focus in that stage of detox. Now manners are your biggest goal. Work with your kiddo to say (or sign) “please” and “thank you” and you will help your son or daughter to remember how you treat others within your home and as you are out and about. Manners will not solve behavior problems, but they will get your little one closer to his sweet little self.

Phase 4: Normalcy

Once phases 1-3 have successfully run their courses, you should be close to, if not already, back in a state of normalcy. Kids will be kids, so your parenting job is not over, but you should have your child back to the state he was in before Grandma entered the picture.

Until the next Grandma visit!

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