Merry Christmas: The Family Visit Survival Guide!

Christmas is approaching rapidly and families from around the world come together to have a merry family time together. It always sounds like a wonderful idea, but after the jetleg, the long drive, the overstimulated children, the few too many beverages and lack of sleep, it’s very easy for the Christmas spirit (or complete holiday) to turn pear shaped. Here are a few tips on how to prepare for a visit from (overseas) family and keep the peace over the summer holidays.

1. Go out of your way. Be the hostess of the mostess. It is your responsibility to set the tone and make your guests feel welcome. Signal to your visitors they matter by being present when they arrive or pick them up form the airport. Have the guestrooms set up and ready to go. Add simple gestures that show you care; some fresh flowers, the guests’ favourites drinks chilling in the fridge and an appropriate dinner. First impressions last and after the first few days your guests have settled in and you can (hopefully) sit back and relax…

2. One-on-one. Sometimes the big family gatherings (especially with lots of small kids involved) get very busy and overwhelming. Invite each family member to do something one-on-one with you, a little walk or a quick coffee, without kids. Just you and your mum, sister-in-law or aunty having some quality time.

3. Be prepared & realistic: A family affair is different to spending time with your best friends, don’t expect the same level of mutual interests and banter. Avoid sitting around and getting on each other’s nerves. Have some ideas handy or offer a tip for things to do. Last-minute planning can make your guests feel unimportant or unwanted. Instead organise tickets for a special, memorable event like an excursion, show or concert that your family can enjoy with or without your company.

4. Time matters. Sometimes a long weekend with family can be more than enough for everyone. Overseas guests who traveled halfway across the world will need a bit more time. If things are known to get intense stay in charge and put a time limit on the visit. Allow visitors to stay two weeks rather than two months; longer is not necessarily better.

5. Allow your guests to get involved. After playing hostess for the first days, allow (and encourage) guests to help. Visitors usually want to help out, but are sometimes unsure and need a subtle hint (or clear instructions); it can also be hard for a mother- or sister-in-law to find the right balance between interfering and assisting in someone’s household. Just say you would really appreciate the help with school pick-ups, bath time, baking that birthday cake or babysitting one night (so you and your hubby can go out for dinner together!).

6. Get space. Take breaks when you need them during visits, ranging from a walk by yourself to a weekend away with your hubby while your guests babysit the kids. It’s okay to sometimes retire to your bedroom early with a glass of wine and a book.

8. Manage emotions & anticipate hot spots. You know what will make your family clutch and react. Try to stay mature and thoughtful instead of falling back into the role of “little sister” or “older sibling”. Think ahead and plan – rather than react emotionally. Refrain from advice-giving. Make a plan to manage the conversation and your own reactivity, so things don’t escalate. Observe rather than participate in heated discussions.

9. Avoiding a disaster. If you have consistently had bad experiences with hosting and having family over, it may be worth the expense to offer to pay for comfortable accommodations close to your home. You can choose to be together or have time apart when things start to heat up.

10. Be relaxed & merry. It’s only a visit, it’s Christmas and there will come an end to it! You might actually enjoy your family’s company if you relax, drink some champagne and let go of unnecessary worries and stress. At the end of the day (and stay) you will have your house back to yourself. And your family will stay family forever.

Happy Holidays & a very merry family Christmas ♥

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