How to Manage the Holidays With Visiting Family

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This post is for letter “V” in the 2016 ABCs of Homeschooling Through the Holidays series.

The holidays can be stressful with all the gifts, parties, baking, and Christmas activities that are often planned. I usually begin to stress around October, and I don’t fully relax until mid-January. When relatives come to visit, the stress can hit epic levels, and meltdowns are inevitable. However, your family holiday does not have to end in tears and chocolate binges. Follow a few tips, and you can manage visiting family in your home with minimal stress.


Step 1: Make a Plan

I am a planner, but even for non-planners, a quick outline of the holidays can help you focus on priorities and not get bogged down in all the Christmas chaos. A plan doesn’t have to be fancy. A simple notebook with ideas and to-do lists will work. I have found lots of great planners online that are not only useful but have cute designs. Here are some great free holiday planner printables to get you started:

Step 2: Schedule some activities to break things up

It’s difficult to have several people living with you for a few days without some boredom setting in, especially for the littles. Board games are a great way to relieve some of that boredom and have fun with the whole family. Some of our family’s most hilarious memories are of playing board games. My favorite? The time my then 12-year-old son tried to get us to guess “hors d’oeuvres” while playing Taboo. His clue? “A really not nice girl who does inappropriate things.” Uh, thanks, phonics.

Holiday movies are also an excellent diversion. We stream VidAngel at our house so family members of all ages can watch movies without having to worry about inappropriate scenes or language (like hors d’oeuvres).

Plan an outing for the kids. If there are several of you in one home, it might be a good idea to get the kids out of the house to run off some energy. Plan a trip to a local park or just a walk around the neighborhood. Not only will this be great for the kids, but it also will give the adults a chance for some quiet time.

Make sure everyone has a place that he or she can go to decompress. Whether that’s a private bedroom, a quiet corner in the garden or just a place to take a walk. Some of us need a place to recharge our energy in solitude. Don’t expect everyone to want to participate in all the activities you have planned. Separating from the rest of the family for a few minutes may be just what they need to come back fully charged and mentally refreshed.

Step 3: Make dinner potluck

The number one disaster in a Christmas family holiday is when dinner falls apart. The first year I planned a Christmas holiday, I insisted on cooking everything myself. I had already spent an enormous amount of time decorating, cleaning and preparing for our overnight guests. When it came to dinner, I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. However, I was already frazzled when I started dinner, and it went downhill from there. Needless to say, the dog wouldn’t even eat the dressing that year.

My solution? Don’t plan on making all the dinner. Delegate some of the dishes and make Christmas dinner potluck. My mother’s family has been doing this for over 40 years. Everyone picks their specialty dishes, lets the other family members know in advance, and then brings them to dinner.

Some important things to note: You must coordinate the dishes, so you don’t have duplicates, but it’s also important to encourage the “non-chefs” to make easy dishes. Don’t let your meal be without a Christmas ham because the designee brought a frozen ham in a box (she’s been assigned sodas ever since but, I digress).

Step 4: Be still

Relax and realize that everything will not go to plan. The plan is just an outline to keep you sane leading up to the event. No one will know if the cranberries did not get candied or the popcorn strung on the tree. And no one will care if you forgot to put the holiday soaps in the bathroom. They will, however, remember that you made them feel welcome and special as you shared your home with them for the holidays.


Dachelle is a homeschooling mom of 3 in the South. She loves chocolate and has been known to hide it from her children. She can often be found reading a good book (or even sometimes just an okay book) and enjoying a jar of Nutella — don’t judge. She blogs at when she’s not planning and making lists…lots and lots of lists (it’s an addiction).

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Hi, there! I’m Heather Bowen, and I am so glad you’re here.

My passion lies in helping homeschool moms balance marriage, motherhood, homemaking, and homeschooling all while remaining sane!

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