Home for the Holidays

Be a Good Guest at Home

Mother Teresa said, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” There is something to be said for that philosophy; when families are strong, loving and supportive it helps its members individually to be so, as well. That promotes a well-being that can spread kindness and consideration to all with whom one comes into touch, and eventually throughout the world. That philosophy is the cornerstone of etiquette. To come full circle with that thought today, such kindness and consideration for others should be the basis of one’s visit home for the holidays.

Everyone understands that there are certain responsibilities and obligations that go along with being a guest in someone’s home; but people often forget that they should be a good guest in their parents’ homes as well.  If you are having trouble imagining this concept, consider how you would behave if you were invited to be a weekend guest at the home of the president of your college.  Ah!

However, there are even more considerations to apply when visiting one’s parents, or grandparents, aunts and uncles; they are, after all, the people who love you the most and do the most for you. Thus, your focus should be on making them happy that you are home, as they deserve your best guest manners and more.

Following are 10 tips to make your visit home for the holidays as pleasant and rewarding as possible – for everyone:

  1. Ask Permission – Ask your parents permission to bring someone home with you, and explain the relationship. If your parents will be uncomfortable with you and your girlfriend or boyfriend sharing the same bedroom, cut them some slack and graciously accept separate sleeping accommodations. If your parents are cool with accommodating your sleeping arrangements with your significant other, don’t make them sorry for their generosity. Regardless of the sleeping arrangements, accord your parents or other relatives the courtesy and consideration they deserve by observing proper decorum and ensuring that you both conduct yourselves with maturity, discretion and modesty and dignity.
  2. Avoid Conflicts – It’s easy for families to fall into haggling and bickering; the closeness of family members prompts the tendency to take each other for granted. But, during the holidays try to rise above this inclination and treat everyone with respect and understanding. If a conflict arises practice conflict resolution, lightening the mood or simply removing yourself gracefully from the conflict with a genuine and sympathetic smile.
  3. Communicate – Be clear about your arrival date and time and the duration of your stay to allow your folks to coordinate on their end. If your job and lifestyle are such that you have many balls in the air,e air, at the very least keep in touch with your parents so that they are not in the dark with any changes you must make. And, remember to ask them what they have planned so that you know what to bring in the way of wardrobe, accessories, equipment and your contributions.
  4. Do Laundry – It’s a time-honored tradition that offspring bring their laundry home to do or be done.  Either there is a lack of laundry facilities or time in which to do it before heading home for the holidays; in some cases one has never learned how to do laundry properly, but by this stage in your life it should not be this reason! If you do bring laundry home, do it yourself; do not expect your parents or siblings to do it for you. If you are a guy, don’t ask your mom or sisters to do your laundry; that will place you squarely in the middle of the last century and ruin any perception that you are savvy and understand that women are not expected to wait on men in the New Millennium. But, whether you are a guy or a gal, take care not to get in the way of others trying to do their laundry; in fact, offer to do it for them.
  5. Organize – Pack appropriately for the number of days you plan to stay and the types of activities and events that are planned. Don’t over pack and cause unnecessary clutter and chaos for you or your parents.
  6. Participate – Be prepared to go along with whatever your parents have planned. And, if your mom asks you to play the piano or your dad wants to shoot some baskets, be a sport and go along with their requests even if you’re not enthused; it will mean a lot to them and make them happy. If you feel that you’ve reached a point where you’ve had enough, laugh and give your mom a hug or your dad an affectionate (and soft) punch on the arm and tell them kindly that that’s enough for now.
  7. Pitch In – Don’t assume that your folks have everything under control. Offer to help clean, run errands, set the table, shovel the snow in the driveway, wash the car, walk the dog, clean out  the litter box, trim the Christmas tree, do the dishes, greet other guests, etc. And, be sure to clean up after yourself and keep your quarters neat and clean.
  8. Put Away Childish Things – You might recall the passage from The Holy Scriptures, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11, King James Version). This is good to remember when visiting home. It’s easy to fall back into one’s childhood habits when visiting the home and hearth where one grew up. But, it’s time to put such behavior aside and conduct yourself like a sophisticated, thoughtful young adult. Okay, I’ll grant you that exceptions might include diving into your mom’s double chocolate-chip cookies or doing a little scrimmage with your dad – or vice versa, depending on each parent’s particular skills! In general, though, your parents want to see that their adult child is, indeed, an adult. 
  9. Renew Family Ties – Remember why you are home – or at your parents’ home – for the holidays.  Ensure that the time you spend with your family is upbeat and pleasant, sharing fun and meaningful memories and producing new ones that will sustain you far beyond the holidays. And, while your parents want to hear all about what you’re doing with your life, don’t make the visit all about you. Ask them what they’ve been up to, as well as your siblings, other relatives, neighbors and friends.  Practice active listening when in dialogue with others.
  10. Say Thank You – And say it often, especially to your parents. When you arrive back at your own abode, call them and thank them again, and tell them how much your holiday visit meant to you.

Practicing these tips during your holiday visit home will ensure that you do your part to make your holiday visit pleasant for everyone, and give your parents the best gift imaginable. And, it’s not such a bad gift to yourself, either.

Until next year,

Jeanne

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