Diane Gottsman is a national modern manners and etiquette expert, sought out industry leader, accomplished speaker, author and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas. Below are a few tips from Gottsman on how to survive this holiday with your sanity and family love!
Create a flexible itinerary. Offer a few ideas on different activities to consider. Having planned events during their stay allows little time for sitting around. Last minute planning may also make them feel unimportant.
Go to the movies or a sports event. If conversation with your in-laws isn’t your strong suit, opt for entertainment options that don’t require a great deal of personal interaction. By choosing to attend a local play, or attend an art exhibit, you are spending time and creating memories with your in-laws, while successfully avoiding awkward lulls in conversation.
Set up a special afternoon…without you. Buy tickets to a city tour or a local wine tasting. Give them suggestions for favorite delis, walking trails and small coffee shops, providing them the opportunity to explore the city by themselves. Offer to meet up for dinner later at one of your favorite restaurants.
Have a backup plan to recharge. If you know you can become overwhelmed at times by visitors, have a pre-planned errand, chore or phone call to make, allowing yourself some 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.
Host a gathering in your in-laws’ honor. Invite friends with similar interests to meet your in-laws. Your friends will create lively conversation over dinner and help the evening go smoothly, creating a buffer so you don’t have to entertain alone.
Allow your in-laws to get involved. While we all want to be host of the century, don’t forget your in-laws are family. More often than not they will want to help out when it comes to dinners or children. Allow your in-laws 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.
Retire to your room early. 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. Simply say, “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.
Worst Case Scenario. Pay for a hotel, or point them in the direction of modestly priced lodging. 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. 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.
“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.