Being (or having) house guests isn’t as easy once you have kids. Here’s how you can maintain the benefits of your normal routine while being flexible and having great time with family and friends.
This holiday season we have some visitors coming.
My mother and father-in-laws…
And my sister and brother-in-law…
and their 3 kids under 5.
Add myself, my husband, and our 5 kids 7 years old and under and well… it’s gonna be a holly, jolly Christmas of 14 people under one roof.
With most of us, we have a few goals when having (or being) house guests and they are these:
- Enjoying time with loved ones.
- Avoiding over-stimulation, over-tiredness, and exhaustion.
- Feeling at home (or helping our guests feel at home) where we are.
- Having relaxed and fun time together.
That’s basically it.
The trouble is that having others in our home (or being in others home) can be a bit tricky if we have lots of little ones. But no matter… with a bit of advanced thought you can make it go as smooth as possible.
How To Have (Or Be) Houseguests With Small Children (And Love It!)
So let’s dive in. If you are laid back and Type B this might seem like overkill to you, but for us Type A mamas… a little bit of prep can help us to relax and actually enjoy this time instead of stressing about the small stuff.
#1 – Discuss Expectations
If you are going to have guests for an extended period of time (say, longer than one week) then it’s a good idea to let them know what they can expect at your home.
You might let them know some of the following things (particularly if they don’t have kids of their own):
- What time the kids get up | If you are elsewhere and your kids are early risers, you’ll want to know where the coffee is and if the kids can play quietly, etc. If guests are at your house, you might want to prepare them for what time they’ll likely hear noise.
- Naps | Obviously skipping naps happens during special occasions, but if you’re going to be somewhere for a few days and have young babies or toddlers, you’ll likely want to keep some of these naps or things will start to go downhill rapidly.
- Bed times | If we’re somewhere else we tend to be as flexible as we can with our daily routine, but after a few days this does catch up with us so I try to keep bedtimes as close to normal as possible so we can actually enjoy the next day together. Plus, you can relax and enjoy adult company more if the kids are nestled safety in beds instead of running around like decapitated chickens at 10 p.m.
#2 – Get Clear On Sleeping Arrangements
We don’t have a dedicated guest room in our house, so we’re getting creative with how our kids sleep so that my husband’s parents can have their own space.
This means that we’ll let some of our kids share (oh btw, read this before you let a toddler share a room with a baby) or we’ll find somewhere else (like a large walk-in closet) for one to sleep. Because this will disrupt the normal routine of one of our children, we’ve been talking about it with him in advance.
- Gather air mattresses, fold out cots, or extra mattresses if you need to add sleeping areas for guests.
- If you’re traveling, find out whether you need a pack ‘n play or bassinet and – if your host doesn’t have any or you don’t have room to bring one – look into renting baby equipment where you are.
- Stagger bedtimes if you have some kids who won’t go to sleep if they’re all going together.
- If you’re a guest and there are only sheer curtains on the windows, ask for a blanket or some sheets to hang. This may get you an extra hour or two of sleep.
Use White Noise & Be Flexible Where Possible
We use white noise machines at home and – if we travel – we either bring them with us (they’re light and thin) or we use apps with white noise. This means the adults can stay up later and talk and hang out while the little ones can still rest well. Win win for everyone.
One of the greatest gifts of the holidays is being with loved ones.
We personally plan on having lots of fun (a lot of it spontaneous, I hope!) with all our extended family, and hope to be flexible. One of the best ways to be as flexible as possible is to hang on to one or two things that really make the most difference in your family’s well-being and sanity.
Here are some examples of things that will help you be flexible:
- If we know we’re going to have a late night, we’ll prioritize napping. This helps us have happy campers longer.
- My husband and I will often rotate “sacrificing adults” meaning that if we have an overtired child one of us will stay back and let them rest while the other goes and enjoys the time. Next time it happens, we’ll switch.
- Bring your own snacks. If your child’s world and food and everything is different they can have a hard time adjusting. Snacks are a simple way to keep some continuity. As soon as we arrive somewhere we’ll make sure we have some things on hand we normally do at home. This helps us settle the kids into the new normal easily and prevents hanger.
- Rotate busy days with calm days. If you’re only with family (or they’re only with you) for a few days then it’ll be nonstop the whole time. But if the visit is extended it can be a good idea to rotate the days. Don’t do two back to back super stimulating loud and busy days and expect to have happy toddlers and babies. One day crazy, one day rest, will keep the kids happy and – by extension – you.
Establish Some Ground Rules
Really, having guests and being good guests isn’t rocket science.
But it’s out of the ordinary.
If you’re going somewhere else, find out what the kids shouldn’t touch. Are there off limit rooms? Are they not allowed to get down from the table? Do they need to use certain plates and cutlery? If you’re having guests, considering telling the other parents what the rules are so the other family can feel at home. Remember, knowing the rules is comforting, not limiting.
If you’re having house guests (or if you are going to be one yourself) I hope these will help you to have a nice restful time with family.
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