‘Tis the season for family visits—which means your in-laws might be on their way into town as we speak! It’s also the time of year for long-term, overnight stays, and those stays can bring a serious dose of stress with them. Whether you’re hosting the holidays at your home for the first time or are a seasoned pro who still gets a little antsy as the calendar (and guest rooms!) fill up, these tips will help make sure the visit is smooth sailing, and keep your overnight guests feeling comfortable and cared for.
"First holidays with the in-laws can be a bit of a shocker for newly-married couples," commiserates John Duffy, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and author of The Available Parent. Not only can close quarters suddenly feel cramped, he says, but privacy now comes at a premium. "Plus, the holidays are an emotionally-charged time for most people," Duffy points out. "Holiday traditions may clash, power struggles may ensue, and losses may be felt." But don’t let last year’s fiasco get you down. Follow these tips to be the best possible hosts.
Make the guest room a getaway.
The best way to start off on the right foot is to make sure there’s a comfortable place for your in-laws to settle in once they arrive. Turn your guest room into a respite worthy of a vacation with soft linens, plenty of pillows, and cozy layered blankets. Place fresh flowers on the nightstand (alongside a carafe and glass for water), and make sure there’s room for them to hang things in the closet if needed. Adds Duffy, "If your home is noisy, invest in a white noise machine for their room to eat up some of that sound.” Finish it all off with a framed photo of the four of you together (a wedding picture would be perfect!) and you’ll hit the bulls-eye.
Consider their meal preferences.
Everyone has to eat, so make sure you’re keeping their dietary needs in mind. Call your in-laws prior to their arrival to ask what they might like to eat, or if they have any dietary concerns of which you should be aware, says Ruth Nemzoff, Ph.D., parenting expert and author of Don't Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws Into Family. "If you enjoy cooking, consider asking them to choose between a couple of your best dishes," she suggests, "and do your homework and ask what your spouse thinks would be appropriate." Stock the fridge with easy basics, like their favorite yogurt or fresh fruit, and then put meals they’ll love on the menu. And of course, you can always make reservations at their favorite local restaurant!
Sure, the holiday season brings up images of cozying up in front of the fire and sipping cocoa (or whiskey!), but you can’t do that all day. Instead of trying to keep your in-laws entertained for hours on end, give yourselves a hosting break and let someone else do the heavy lifting with out-of-the-house activities. It could be a trip to the movie theater for a Sunday matinee, an afternoon wandering the local shops in search of stocking stuffers, or something more active like snowshoeing or ice skating. Getting out and about is a great chance to show your in-laws around your town, and gives them a peek into the life you’re building together.
Include them in your day.
It would be great to have nothing else to do while your in-laws are in town, but chances are you’ve still got things on your calendar, even if it’s as simple as running errands or hitting the gym. Going to yoga? Ask your mother-in-law if she’d like to join you. Do you have a project around the house that could benefit from an extra set of hands? Ask your father-in-law to join you on a trip to the hardware store and help you get it done. Daily life may not be the stuff of holiday rom-coms, but these low-key moments will go miles when it comes to bonding with your partner’s parents.
Create a new tradition together.
A marriage is all about turning two families into one, and nothing makes everyone feel like family like anticipated traditions. Talk to your spouse about the traditions you both grew up with, and incorporate those into your weekend. Want to take your annual visit to the next level? Start a new tradition together! “It doesn’t have to be a big deal,” says Duffy. “Organize a game night, or break out the guitars and have a sing along.”