By: Tricia Cornell
When my family hits the road — in the summer and during the winter holidays — we often find ourselves staying with extended family. As much as I enjoy the extra together-time, I also find it draining. I spend nearly every minute on high alert: Are we in the way? Are my kids behaving? Are we helping out enough? Too much? Have we overstayed our welcome? I’m sure my anxiety makes me less than pleasant to be around. And I know it causes tension within my nuclear family.[Related: 7 Easy Tips for Creating Fun Summer Memories]
When the doors close behind us for the last time, I finally exhale. And I bet our hosts do, too.
But I’m glad my kids get to practice staying in someone else’s house and living (briefly) under someone else’s rules. Being a good houseguest is a lifelong skill worth learning.
Here are some ways we can all set good examples for our kids.
Match your hosts’ schedule. As much as possible, that is. And we all know that babies and small children have their own immovable inner clocks. But if you’re staying with early risers, don’t count on sleeping until noon. If your hosts hit the hay early, don’t burn the midnight oil.
Follow the house rules. Eating in the living room might be okay in your house, but if it’s not in this house, then stick to the kitchen. Your hosts are unlikely to speak up, so try to follow their lead. If you’re unsure, ask.
Offer to help. Always. With the dishes, with grocery shopping, with other household chores. Yes, most hosts will turn you down. Offer anyway. Or, better yet, pick up a dishrag and start washing.
Take care of yourself. That means bringing snacks for your kids, having entertainment options that keep your kids from rummaging around your hosts’ house, and planning an itinerary of things to do. Being flexible is great; looking blankly at your hosts when they ask what you’d like to do or what you like to eat is not. Plan on some time on your own, away from your hosts, to give them a break.
Engage. Introverts like me might find this one hardest, but it is the most important. Your hosts invited you into their home because they enjoy your company, not just because you need a place to stay. Rally your energy and stick around chat after dinner, while you’re doing the dishes, or wherever. You can get some alone-time when you get home. And this goes for the younger visitors as well. Children, including sullen teens and tweens, should be expected to socialize, at least a little, with their hosts.
Say thanks. Some people say “Thank you” with a small hostess gift. Some bring flowers. However you do it, make your gratitude known when you arrive, and send a nice note after you get home.
Relax. These folks like you enough to invite you into their home. As long as you’re not abusing that, you’ll probably stay in their good graces.Tell Us:--> When traveling out of town, do you prefer to stay with friends, family, or in a hotel?