Where are you supposed to have Grandma sleep when you don’t have a guest room? Who controls the thermostat? Who gets the first shower? And do you have to let your brother bring his dog? Having family come to stay can be both easier (you know what to expect) and harder (fighting is more familiar) than having friends as houseguests. Here’s how to handle these quandaries and more.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Some issues can be minimized with smart planning. If you know that you and a certain in-law will be fighting by day three, don’t make it a weeklong event. When there are ongoing family conflicts, it’s better for everyone to keep things short and sweet. Also know that you are not obligated to provide pet housing. If you’re allergic to dogs or simply don’t want your brother’s bull terrier eating your couch cushions, tell him in advance to make other arrangements for the pooch — he may be upset initially, but it would be better than fighting over a dog during the entire visit.
Be flexible about temperature. If you are used to keeping that thermostat set to a firm number, it’s time to loosen your grip. Older relatives may want the rooms to feel nice and cozy … which may seem hot to you, but remind yourself it’s only temporary. Of course, if you notice the thermostat set to a wildly inappropriate temp (like 95 degrees) it’s reasonable to adjust it — and assure your warmth-loving relation you will be sure to keep things plenty warm without going overboard.
Don’t make your elders sleep on the couch. Sure, if your kid sister is coming to stay, it’s OK to ask her to take the couch or sleep on an air mattress. But when it’s Mom or Grandpa we’re talking about, they deserve a bed … and if your bed is the only bed in the house, that means you’ll be sleeping on the couch.
Respect privacy. Need something from your bedroom, but Grandma is staying in there? For the time being, consider it her bedroom. Always knock and wait for a reply before entering. And if you need something while she is not in the room, it’s still polite to let her know you’ll be going in.
Discuss shower schedules. Have a quick chat with your guests about their preferred shower times as they are getting settled in — this is especially important if you have only one shower or if the hot water is temperamental. If it sounds like there will be a time crunch, offer to take your own shower in the evening.
Make it clear what’s theirs and what’s yours. Your family should respect your privacy when staying with you, but they may not. That’s just family. It’s a gracious touch to leave out extra toiletries for your guests to use, but you may also want to tuck out of sight anything you don’t want them to use (or see), like that superexpensive face cream you use only a drop of or your prescription meds.
Have a guest-friendly kitchen. When family has traveled from afar, their eating schedules can be thrown way off. Make it obvious where the snacks and breakfast-making supplies are by keeping everything right out on the counter, and your fam can help themselves whenever hunger strikes.
Stock up on favorites. One good thing about having family come to stay is that you are probably already quite familiar with their preferences. Know Dad needs his superstrength coffee first thing in the morning? Be sure to pick up a pound of the good stuff and set out all of the equipment where he can easily find it at 6 a.m., and he won’t have to disturb you to find it.
Help your family understand baby’s routines (but stay flexible). If you have a wee one in the house, it can be mighty frustrating when your in-laws come booming in right at nap time. But they won’t know better unless you tell them — and that’s usually best done before something goes awry. Of course, it’s pretty much impossible to keep everything the same for baby with a houseful of people. Do some deep breathing and remind yourself this is not forever. Then do your best to roll with it.
Aim to have at least one meaningful event. What that is totally depends on you and your family. It could be anything: a group outing, a hike in the woods, a family photo shoot, a late-night poker game. When the visit is done, if there was just one thing that went over really well, that’s all most people will remember in years to come.