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CMAP Health

The Stress of Hosting Family

It seems as though anytime given time of the year, you can hear someone say “it’s that time of year again”. Whether it be a reference to upcoming holidays, events, or reunions, gatherings may be a regular occurrence for many families, big and small. If unregular to gather as a family, this idea is all the more unfamiliar, which can be both nerve wracking and exciting to attend. Seeing old relatives, being around loved ones, enjoying family activity, filling up on good food, and finally back home to your personal space sounds relatively pleasant. However, even the closest of families can stir up some tension, anxiety, and even conflict when gathered for occasion making it rarely a stress-free time. So, what if you are the one hosting?


Why is being the host so stressful?
Although many enjoy family celebrations, those who are responsible for ensuring everyone is happy, comfortable, fed, and entertained can sometimes miss out on the excitement. Those who find family gatherings stressful in general, are even more likely to feel the pressure and responsibility magnified when their home becomes the venue, finding themselves as the host. Suddenly, an event is much more than showing up with a dessert and going along for the ride. It can involve cleaning the space, ensuring directions are understood, organizing sleeping arrangements, prepping and serving food, let alone the actual interaction, entertaining, and of course, the clean-up afterwards. Regardless of the size of the family, this is no easy task. The good news is that there are ways easing the stress that could make hosting family a little easier and more enjoyable.


Easing the Stress
It is no secret that hosting the family gathering is simply more work than attending the family gathering. Therefore, easing the stress should start practical, such as the following:

Divide the work.
Just because you are the host, does that really mean you have to do it all alone? While we may think asking for help is burdening, people actually enjoy contributing and being helpful guests. Consider a potluck to reduce the amount of cooking, sharing tasks with your partner, or co-host with another family member.

Set healthy boundaries.
While the gathering may be in your space, this does not mean it no longer belongs to you. Guests, especially family, may overstay, be destructive, or invasive of privacy. It is okay to set boundaries and rules with guests to ensure everyone feels respected. Best set up front, rules and boundaries should be clearly communicated well in advance. They could include: specific rooms that are off limits for valuable items, no second plates until everyone has had one, and specific items for each party to bring with clear spending limits. Boundaries can also include respectfully asking guests to leave when appropriate or even declining to answer invasive questions from pushy relatives.

Give yourself permission to not be exactly like your family.
When families gather, especially when it brings together relatives who grew up or used to live together, it can often feel like time goes back along with the roles we used to play within these relationships. With this reunion of people and reminder of the past, it is also not uncommon for people to hold themselves to a standard they perceive someone else has. For example, thinking “my house must be to my parents’ level of cleanliness”. This standard is often perceived to be of high importance to the individual, but in reality, causes turmoil, worry, and much added stress. While a challenging belief to break, it can be helpful to give yourself permission to not be exactly like you family because in fact, you are not. What this can become is permission to be yourself and move to a place of accepting that who you are and what you offer is already enough. In addition to this, reflecting on what is important for you and your family. Do you really care when someone else’s house is not spotless?

It’s about the time spent together and the enjoyment.
Although the festivities of a special occasion are exciting and anticipated, it is the time spent together that always stands out in the end. Rather than the cleanliness of the house, the appeal of the food, or the quality of the weather, it is the smiles, laughter, and love that is remembered. So, why not be a part of the enjoyment as much as possible when hosting? The dishes can wait while the memories sometimes cannot.


Ultimately, it is important to remember that it is a special occasion! After it is all said and done, the house is tidy, the dishes clean, and the relatives back home safely, you can get back to your routine. Perhaps best of all, you can then get some rest knowing you did a great job hosting your family.


About the author: 

Olivia Lundy is one of our (Qualifying) Registered Psychotherapists [RP (Q)] and a senior therapist under supervision at CMAP Health. She has an Honours Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioural Psychology from St. Lawrence College and is currently finalizing her Master of Arts Degree in Counselling Psychology at Yorkville University. To find out more about Olivia you can review her profile.

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