How to Survive Hosting Your In-Laws at Thanksgiving
In the best of cases, even if you get along swimmingly with your significant other’s parents, hosting them during the holidays adds a layer of pressure and stress that in turn leads to strained relations where there’s normally peace. In the worst of cases? The mere thought of them coming to town puts your defense mechanisms into high alert. To help you remain neutral during a tense time, we spoke to national modern manners and etiquette expert Diane Gottsman for her tips on making it through a visit from your in-laws this Thanksgiving, so you can focus on more important things, like pumpkin pie.
Keep clicking for her must-read advice on managing the loaded in-laws-staying-over situation this holiday. Trust us, you’ll be glad you armed yourself with these brilliant tips before Jim and Susan knock on your front door.
Gottsman suggests offering a few ideas on different activities for your in-laws to consider. Having planned events during their stay allows little time for sitting around and will make them feel like you put thought into their visit. Last-minute planning may make them feel unimportant.
If conversation with your in-laws doesn’t flow naturally, opt for entertainment options that don’t require a great deal of personal interaction. By choosing to attend a sports game, local play, or movie, you are spending time and creating memories with your in-laws while successfully avoiding situations that call for lots of personal conversation.
You don’t need to, and shouldn’t, do everything together while your in-laws are in town. Create down time away from them by buying them tickets to a city tour or local wine tasting. Give them suggestions for favorite delis, walking trails, and small coffee shops, and provide them with the opportunity to explore the city by themselves. Offer to meet up for dinner later at one of your favorite restaurants.
If you know you get overwhelmed at times by visitors, having a pre-planned errand, chore, or phone call to make allows yourself some guaranteed breathing room. Discuss this beforehand with your spouse so you don’t leave him or her guessing as to the reason for the sudden departure.
Invite friends with similar interests over to meet your in-laws. Your friends will create lively conversation at dinner and help the evening go smoothly, creating a buffer so you don’t have to entertain alone, and your in-laws will appreciate the thoughtful gesture.
While we all want to be the host of the century, don’t forget that your in-laws are family, says Gottsman. More often than not they will want to help out when it comes to dinners or children. Allow them to pick up the kids from school and take them to their after-school activities. Ask if they would like a special night with the grandkids, so that you and your spouse can go out for dinner. It’s a win-win for both parties.
Make your end-of-the-day routine well-known, even if it means retiring to the comfort of your own bed with a glass of wine. Gottsman recommends simply saying, “Today has been great! I am going to start winding down. Feel free to stay up as late as you would like. See you all in the morning.” This will allow you to reclaim your evening, by relaxing in your room.
If you have consistently had bad experiences with hosting your in-laws, it may be worth the expense to offer to pay for comfortable accommodations close to your home. Just say, “Our home is so small, and the kids really need their own space. We’d like to make your stay as pleasurable as possible.” If money is tight, you might say, “We look forward to your upcoming visit. I’m happy to research hotels close by if you give me a price point to stay within. We’d also like to offer the use of our car while you are here.”
Bottom line, weigh your risk of hurting the relationship versus hurting your marriage and personal peace of mind during their visit. “Though a one-week stay with your in-laws may seem overwhelming, it’s in everyone’s best interest to maintain a healthy relationship,” Gottsman says.
Do you have any tried-and-true tips for managing visits from in-laws during the holidays? Tell us below!