How to Get Through the Holidays When Hosting Your In-Laws (And Maybe Even Enjoy It!)

For many of us, the holiday season is the most special time of year. Great food, lights, decorations, and quality time with loved ones are just a few things that we look forward to when November and December come around. However, as adults, we know that the holidays require hard work and that they can add even more stress to our everyday work and home lives, especially when the in-laws are involved.

If you love your in-laws to death (or at least get along with them pretty well), hosting them for the holidays can serve as a relatively easy way to make joyous memories, though keeping everyone happy may take some planning and preparation on your part. But if you’re still building a relationship with your in-laws or are navigating difficulties and challenges within the relationship, making memories may not be your goal this year—perhaps you’re just trying to survive the holidays with your sanity intact.

The truth is that there are ways that you can make the most of the holidays whether you have a good or bad relationship with your in-laws. By keeping a few things in mind, you can put your mind at ease and relieve some of the tension that plagues your family every year. So, get ready to ditch the dread and embrace enthusiasm this holiday season! Below are three tips that can get you there.


The first order of business for successfully hosting your in-laws is to take control of your stress. From expecting little to setting boundaries to taking walks after dinner, here are some practical ways to manage stress during the holidays:

Adjusting Your Expectations

A lot of tense and fractured family relationships come from skewed or unrealistic expectations. When hosting your in-laws this year, determine from the get-go that you will lower your expectations. This doesn’t mean that you allow a nagging mother-in-law to walk all over you or an inconsiderate father-in-law to ruin dinner. It simply means not to saddle your in-laws (or yourself) with the responsibility of being perfect.

Instead of looking for approval or warmth from your in-laws, choose to treat them as honored guests, whether you feel they deserve it or not. They might surprise you with appreciation, and even if they don’t, you and your spouse will know you did your part.

Asking for Help

This is a good thing to do, not only because it can take a few tasks off your plate but because it can help your in-laws feel included in the process. See if your mother-in-law will bring her favorite dessert to dinner, or if you’re feeling bold, ask her to help you prepare a dish in the kitchen. See if your father-in-law will hang some lights or build a fire. At the end of the day, people like to contribute and feel like they’re needed.

Sparking Conversation

There are endless jokes out there about awkward holiday dinner conversations with extended family. But when it comes down to it, practical communication is one of the best ways to cut through the tension and set the stage for a good time. And oftentimes it only takes a simple question to break the ice. Ask your in-laws about things like their childhood, hobbies, work, or other topics that might start a meaningful conversation.

Nixing Negativity

While it may be difficult to avoid all negativity, especially if you have a strained relationship with your in-laws, make it a point to try this year. If your mother- or father-in-law makes negative comments or criticisms of you, your spouse, or any of your children, don’t give them the satisfaction of responding passionately. Try to give short, patient responses without giving into their insinuations or accusations. If the criticism continues, make it clear that you won’t be having any more negativity during their visit.

Establishing Boundaries

A lot of potential issues with in-laws can be prevented by setting boundaries beforehand. Since every family is different, this is an important step in developing expectations at any stage of your marriage, but it can prove particularly crucial during the stress of the holidays.

When hosting your in-laws this holiday season, agree on a set time for them to arrive and depart. Figure out what works best around the activities that you, your spouse, and your children have planned for yourselves. Leaving Thanksgiving or Christmas Day wide open for them to come and go as they please is likely to cause unnecessary tension at one point or another. If you have an especially difficult relationship with your in-laws, it might be best to keep the time you spend together relatively short. That way, they can still see your spouse and their grandchildren, and you will still have an opportunity to work on building a healthier relationship.

Getting Some Fresh Air

This is perhaps the most practical step you can take to avoiding/relieving tension with your in-laws. Take a walk in the morning, in the afternoon, after dinner, or any other time that you just need to take some deep breaths and recuperate.


One of the best ways to make this holiday season enjoyable (or tolerable) when you’re hosting your in-laws is to prepare your home and your schedule for their arrival. Let’s discuss some workable tips for accomplishing this:

Cleaning Thoroughly

You shouldn’t have to spend days deep cleaning your home for your in-laws to feel welcome and comfortable. However, no one wants to be a guest in a home that’s messy and dirty. Set aside some time to clean your home thoroughly, including the guest room and any other areas of the home where your in-laws will be spending time.

Throw away or store any items that make each space feel crowded. Vacuum and mop the floors, dust and wipe down every surface, and sanitize the bathroom. If you bring your spouse in on the cleaning, it will go by much faster!

Appealing to Your In-Laws

Along with providing your in-laws with a clean living space, think of any other ways that you can make their stay as comfortable as possible. For example, provide them with fresh bedding, fluff their pillows, place a blanket on the recliner and sofa, and put out a new candle with your mother-in-law’s favorite scent. Figure out what kinds of breakfast foods, movies, and books they like, and make those available. Little things like these can go a long way in helping your in-laws feel special and at home, which will be a win-win for everyone!

Planning Events

You also want to have some kind of plan in place for when your in-laws visit. Otherwise, you might be relegated to boredom and awkward silence, which won’t be a win-win for everyone! While you don’t want to develop a full itinerary for your in-laws, it will help for them to have some events to look forward to. For instance, you might consider making dinner reservations at a fun restaurant or having a family movie night. Or you might do something a little more active like hiking or going put-put golfing. The Charlotte area has a wide variety of activities to offer families, which we’ll get into later!

Getting Detailed About Time

From the get-go, make clear to your in-laws what your family’s schedule is. For example, if you want to sleep in until 9:30 a.m. and they prefer to wake up earlier, show them where the breakfast foods are and grind coffee the night before so they won’t be grinding coffee and waking up you and your kids at 7 a.m. If you or your spouse will be working from home, it’s especially important to establish a set schedule; otherwise, it will be next to impossible to accomplish what you need to.


As previously mentioned, Charlotte and the surrounding areas have plenty to offer in terms of holiday activities and family activities in general. While you may want to do some research on your own, we’ve put together a few ideas to get you started:

Lights and Shows

Going to see Christmas lights is a great way to celebrate the holidays while social distancing. And there are many spectacular light displays in and around Charlotte. Here are some events to look into when your in-laws come to town:

Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum
Nights of a Thousand Candles
Langtree Tree Lighting
Christmas Wonderland of Lights at Zootastic Park
Downtown’s Holiday Light Spectacular at Mooresville
3rd Annual Festival of Trees (Belmont)
Lighting of Christmas Town USA (McAdenville)

Ice Skating
Ice skating is and always be a classic winter activity that’s fun for the whole family. One of the best places to go ice skating in the area is at Uptown’s Holiday on Ice in Charlotte. Through January, the NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza will be a high-quality ice rink (10,000 gallons of water!). Another great place for ice skating is at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte. Set on the Upper Pond of the whitewater river, this new ice rink totals 17,000 square feet and is divided into three areas: free skate, winter sports, and a 600-foot ice trail. You can also expect coffee, hot chocolate, and craft beer to be available!

Seeing Santa
You know the kids want to do it. And COVID-19 has made it a little more challenging. But you, your kids, and your in-laws can still make memories by going to see Santa Claus. For instance, Northlake Mall has arranged several Virtual Santa experiences, including:

Live VIP Zoom Video Call with Santa
Virtual Photos with Santa
Virtual Pet Photos with Santa
Exclusive Video Story Time with Santa

Also, through the holidays, Bass Pro Shops in Concord is offering safe, free photos with Santa during it’s Santa’s Wonderland experience. And families are able to take photos with Santa at Southpark Mall (“Light’s. Camera. Santa!”) during the holidays, as long as everyone wears masks!

Parades are another great way to celebrate the holidays with your in-laws. Check out the 42nd Annual Southern Rowan Christmas Parade on Nov. 24 in Landis and China Grove. Indian Trail is also throwing a Christmas Parade— at Chestnut Square Park on Dec. 6. Or if you want to keep it virtual, check out the 67th Annual Virtual Union County Christmas Parade on Nov. 22!

Christmas Tree Farms
Finally, find the perfect Christmas tree and enjoy the wonderful scents of the holidays by taking your family to a Christmas tree farm. This is a fantastic way to spend quality time picking out a tree together and creating memories that will last forever. Helms Christmas Tree Farm in Vale is a go-to for many tree seekers, as is the Chickadee Hill Farms Tree Festival in Statesville.

Although the holidays can be stressful, they also provide the opportunity for precious memories to be made with your family. And yes, this is true even when you’re hosting your in-laws! Remember to take any necessary steps to manage your stress through this time, make preparations for everyone to have a great time, and take advantage of some of the many holiday activities Charlotte has to offer.

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