It should be simple to know how to be a good guest in your child’s home. After all it is likely that you have a history with your offspring that includes at least 18 years of sharing the same residence. Still, somehow when the tables and everything else are turned on you and you are no longer the proprietor but only the visitor, you may feel a little unsure about how to behave and uncertain about what is expected of you.
Of course there are no official rules for such social interaction, except those we make up and enforce on ourselves. But how you chose to act can effect your relationship with your child and everyone in his or her household as well as the welcome you may receive the next time around. So you may want to give these suggestions a try.
Your arrival is key to setting the tone for your visit so no matter how tired you may be from your plane, train or car trip, you’ll want to work at putting on a happy face and expressing simply but effectively how happy you are to be there and how much you have been looking forward to spending time together. It’s certainly not required, especially with relatives, but a simple hostess gift is still good manners and can put a smile on everyone’s face. You don’t have to bring something expensive, in fact you can even bring something silly. You are not trying to pay for the hospitality you hope to receive but rather to acknowledge how nice it is to have a happy place in which to stay and visit.
Once there you may find that being a guest in your adult child’s home means knowing when to act like a guest and when to act like family. It’s not always an easy call and of course only your existing relationship with your child and other household members can really dictate where to draw the line. A rule I like to follow is to never act so much like a guest that you seem distant or so much like a member of the household that you seem invasive.
For example helping to set the table for dinner is an action that generally oversteps no bounds. You can give your host a bit of help and carry on a friendly conversation at the same time and everyone is comfortable. Taking out other household items and cleaning them without being asked probably steps over the line and can make a spouse uncomfortable.
Helping out with a tab one night when the family is buying takeout is a nice gesture and helps to share the additional expense that your visit has caused. Insisting on paying every time there is an expense registered during your stay borders on the offensive and definitely will make your hosts uncomfortable unless some prior arrangement that everyone acknowledges has been made.
When you leave you will certainly extend your thanks with hugs and kisses, but it’s also nice to leave a little note or remembrance behind, possibly in the room where you stayed. If you haven’t had a chance to help out with expenses you may want to tuck a few bills under the pillow, but only if you know your child and spouse will be okay with a money gift. If you know they worry about your finances then this is not a good idea at all.
Once home you can make a phone call, e-mail or quick note to remind everyone, including you of what a nice time everyone had. These simple actions, friendly and courteous, will express our appreciation for the effort that you know goes into turning your home into a hotel even for your parents.