Grandfamilies: Hints for Hosting a Houseful

Cadence, Daphne, and Sawyer, “Playing” the Piano. April 2014.

Last week we looked into being good guests when visiting the kids and grandkids. A friend suggested I write about hosting the kids and grandkids, which seemed like a splendid idea to me.  Some ideas:

  1. Figure out where they’ll stay. If your son tells you that he and his family will be staying at a hotel, accept that decision with grace. If you’ve converted the guest room into a scrapbooking studio, let the kids know you can provide a futon in the family room. Give them a chance to opt out if your accommodations won’t suit their needs. Maybe your family would love for the grandlittles to sleep over with Grandma and Gramps while the grownups stay at a hotel.
  2. Offer to borrow any little-kid equipment (portable crib, high chair), so it’s in your home and ready when they arrive.
  3. Find out who drinks what in the morning. Nothing says welcome more than a steaming mug of one’s favorite eye-opener, be it Earl Gray or French roast. Extra credit: Inquire about and provide favored additives. Soy milk? Honey? Splenda?
  4. Protect your grandchildren–and your other treasures. The shredder in the picture above is unplugged, just in case any of those precious fingers stray from the keyboard. And that golden bowl on top of the piano? It isn’t worth much money, but it belonged to my mother. When toddlers visit, I put it out of reach.
  5. Hold your schedule with an open hand. Deprive a toddler of her nap at your peril. Your teenaged grandson may not enjoy breakfast with Elmo. Be ready to suggest activities and outings, but don’t insist on a busy schedule–or any schedule. If a visit to you is also a visit to her hometown, your daughter may want time to visit her old chums with her husband and children. Be gracious about their plans that don’t include you. Organize an open house during their visit so friends can drop by. Extra credit: If the visiting family includes bonus kids or bonus grandkids who are visiting for the first time, an open house is a lovely touch.
  6. Embrace down time. Children need rest. Your introverted son-in-law needs time to recharge. Give everyone room to breathe.
  7. Pull out the photo albums and home movies. Children love to see pictures of their parents as children. They also enjoy photos of themselves as babies. And Grandma and Grandpa as little ones? That’s over the top, right there! Extra credit: Skip the photos of ex-spouses (yours or the kids’).
  8. Make something together. Cookies? Crayon drawings? Handprint stepping-stones for the garden? Paper airplanes? What you make matters little. That you make matters much. Working together on a project shifts everyone’s perspective. Try it.
  9. Build traditions. My wise mother always said, If you do it twice it’s a tradition. Find something to weave each visit into a fabric of memories. A friend serves ice cream for breakfast on Saturday mornings, much to the delight of her grandlittles. Take a walk around the neighborhood. Watch a movie together on Saturday nights–youngest visitor’s pick. Serve the same Sunday morning breakfast or departure-eve dinner at each visit.
  10. Be tender around new changes. If you or your visitors have recently married or become single again, expect everyone to be tentative. Emotions will be roiling beneath calm surfaces. Listen well. Don’t make assumptions about what your family is feeling. Love the very best you know how.

rabbit conga

8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Peter 4:8-9 (ESV)

rabbit conga

On Tuesdays, we’re talking about families and the joys and challenges that arise when we stretch across three (or more?) generations (child, parent, grandparent). Everyone is welcome, and I hope to hear each generation’s perspective.  Being family is by turns effortless, impossible, blessed, challenging, hurtful, joyous . . . . Let’s talk about it.
Please join us.



  1. Lots of well thought out tips here, thanks, Sheila. I love it when family comes to visit but it’s easy to overlook some of these opportunities to make good memories for everyone.

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