Family Reunions: A Mom's Guide
Keeping Relatives Happy
“One of the biggest mistakes people make with a family reunion … is to stretch it out too long and to try to do too much,” explains Dr. Ione Vargus, Emeritus Faculty Chair of the Family Reunion Institute of Temple University in Philadelphia. “Don’t plan too many activities at the first one. Activities and traditions will grow over time as you have more reunions.” Dr. Vargus suggests games and activities that will help you reconnect with your family rather than those that might encourage family members to go in separate directions.
Your baby can help you in your efforts to reconnect. Bring copies of your baby’s portrait and ask relatives to bring copies of their own baby pictures. You can finally figure out whether your daughter inherited your father’s nose or your son has your great-grandfather’s ears. Trying centering a game around the pictures, like “guess the relative,” and have copies to take home as keepsakes. Consider bringing disposable cameras for yourself and other family members. This way everyone can take pictures, and you won’t be worried about lugging your best camera somewhere in your diaper bag or purse. These pictures will be invaluable when your kids grow up and ask about distant relatives.
- Don’t plan too many activities.
- Plan games that help family members reconnect.
- Reconnect with family through your baby or child.
- Don’t forget to capture special moments on film or video.
- Lighten up and let things go.
- Remember that not everyone, even family, will share the same parenting values as you.
- Plan on receiving lots of advice.
- Let relatives share your burden and care for your baby so you can have a break.
- For plenty of tips and locations for your gathering, see familyreunion.com.
- Information on planning your reunion, games, and much more can be found at Temple University’s Family Reunion Institute.
- Visit www.ymcarockies.org and click on Conferences and Reunions. The Family Reunion University™ will be held in mid-November. Call 800-777-YMCA for more information.
Keeping Yourself Happy
Sometimes you just need to lighten up, explains family reunion frequenter Lisa Cohn, author of One Family, Two Family, New Family: Stories and Advice for Stepfamilies. “Parenting styles can be very different,” recalls Cohn of her family’s reunions. “Sometimes you just have to let things go unless you think your kid is in danger.” Cohn still recalls when her mother questioned whether her son really had food allergies. “She became offended that I wouldn’t let my son eat milk products.” To alleviate the frustration, Cohn carries rice or soymilk along with other snacks until she has a chance to sneak off to the store.
Plan on receiving helpful advice on all sorts of topics—from pacifiers, diapers, and nursing to potty training and schooling. Try not to take things too personally, and be grateful that someone cares.
Take time for yourself and take up relatives on their offers to care for your little one. “It’s nice when people, not parents, can step in and be surrogates and give parents a rest,” says Dr. Vargus. “I mean that’s why you’re there—to support each other.”
Family reunions will become more and more important as your child grows older. Start the tradition now and take time this summer to gather with your family and introduce your baby or child to the people who love him.
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