Hosting Tips

How to Be a Gracious Guest When You Have Kids

Two words: plan ahead.

By Hailey Andresen

Since having kids, our apartment has become the place we celebrate most holidays. Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years — you name it, we’ve hosted it. And to be honest, I love it this way. Maybe it’s the control freak in me, but it feels less stressful to have everyone over than it does to bring our family of four into someone else’s home. But, I realize that just because I have kids doesn’t mean I can hoard hosting the holidays forever, and letting others share in the hosting duties can bring them joy and lighten my load.

This season, I’m making plans for how our growing family can be gracious guests when we visit others’ homes. 

Connect with your spouse.

Chat through the event and how you plan to handle when things don’t go according to plan. This is something my husband and I do nearly every time we take the kids to someone else’s house or even out to dinner. It might seem over the top, but doing so helps us avoid those lovely under-the-breath fights all couples are familiar with. 

Keep kids in the loop on plans.

For my four-year-old son, this is huge. There are plenty of kids who are go-with-the-flow, but my son is one who likes to know the plan. Where are we going? Who is going to be there? What will we do? Where are we going after? Keeping his expectations in check helps avoid meltdowns, provides comfort and ensures a better time for the whole family. 

Check the menu.

Anyone else have a picky eater? So many of our friends and family members are incredible when it comes to making sure the kids are set up with what they need to eat, but especially during this season, I don’t expect anyone to get special snacks for my kids. Checking in on the menu might seem like you’re putting too much pressure on the host, but maybe there are other kids attending and by offering to bring something it will lighten his or her load and help some other families out. 

Bring an activity for the kids.

When you’re checking on the menu, it’s also helpful to touch base on the schedule so that you can be prepared to bring something that will keep your little ones entertained but not throw off your host’s plan. I know it’s hard not to feel annoying, but you will enjoy yourself so much more if you know your family is taken care of. Will there be space for a board game? Outdoor space for bubbles? Is it best to bring smaller toys or even an iPad? Or maybe they already have something planned for the kids! It’s always worth it to ask. 

Practice gratitude.

We are big on gratitude at home. I do my best to write in my gratitude journal each morning, and when my son started asking me what I was writing, we started a gratitude journal for him, too. To make it accessible for his age, I ask him, “What’s something nice someone has done for you?” Or “What’s something that makes you really happy?” We encourage him to say thank you not only at home, but with strangers when we’re out and about as well. That way (with some subtle reminders) when these events take place, he knows that a thank you is in order. 

Get ahead with thank you cards or gifts.

Buy a pack of thank you cards and a book of stamps now, before the holiday season is officially underway. That way as these events pass you can easily send a card to your host to thank them for being so welcoming to your family! You can also update your address book now so that all you have to do is write the actual thank you when the time comes. 

Any tips or tricks to being gracious guests when you’ve got kids?