Handling Holiday House Guests

Holidays seem synonymous with spending time with family. But oftentimes, staying together with family can drive you nuts. Family relationships can be really wonderful but they can also be loaded with all kinds of issues from the past. Struggles with parents for control and separation, competition with siblings which never went away, wishes for family approval and disappointment in family members can all lead to stress, tension and even arguing during the holiday “togetherness.” Most families have unrealistic expectations of joyful togetherness and this adds to the tension and ultimate disappointment at the reality.

Specific questions arise like: Is it better to stay at a hotel or in the home all together? Here I think you have to know yourself and your family. If you or your guests are short on flexibility and really like things to be a certain way, a hotel may be the better option. It’s wonderful to be together but not when one family member is very neat and the another family member is sloppy, or one is quiet and the other is really noisy. Preserving some fun times together matters more than sleeping under the same roof together. When there are a lot of differences, a little space can go a long way.

Generally speaking, when everyone pitches in to cook, clean and helps with other chores and tasks, tensions stay lower and you enjoy all being in it together. But this only works if you can accept things not being done the way you usually would. Everyone has different standards for clean, nice and well done. If you need to have it to your way, you cannot expect help. Think about which matters more to you — help and contributions or done the way you want it?

Generally we think of kids experiencing pure joy and fun at the holidays. But when adults are stressed out, kids pick up on those emotions and get stressed, too. Kids also can feel tension when guests or other family members come to stay in their house or they are staying someplace other than home. Be mindful of this and tell your kids that, while they may be having fun, it’s normal to be a little stressed during the holidays. Tell them you feel a little uptight sometimes traveling or having everyone over but that the stress is not about them and it is still a joyous holiday for you, too. Tell them to talk to you if they feel tense or unsure about what to do in a particular situation.

If you are going to visit with or be with someone with whom there is a disagreement brewing, I would suggest you talk beforehand to try to clear the air. If that cannot happen, the holiday itself is not the time to work it out. The expectation will be too high and the outcome too risky. Instead reinforce that you value their relationship and that after the holiday you would like to spend time talking with them.

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