10 Ways Grandparents Can Be Great House Guests

Follow the General Rules of Etiquette, With a Few Additions

Being a long-distance grandparent is tough, but it has one benefit that many grandparents treasure: the possibility of being a house guest in the home of your grandchildren. 

Staying with grandchildren and their parents offers the opportunity to share in their daily lives in a unique way. You'll gain insights not available to drop-in grandparents. You may, however, enhance your chances of family conflict. Much depends upon the kind of house guest you choose to be.

Follow these 10 tips, and your adult children will still love you when you head for home.


Get Input Before Scheduling Your Visit

Father and grandfather posing for cell phone selfie with baby boy

Ariel Skelley / Getty Images 

Many young families lead hectic lives with diverse obligations. Be sure to seek input from the parents before scheduling a visit. Whatever you do, don't just announce when you will be arriving. Considerate grandparents may offer to come at a time when the young family will need some babysitting help.

Be sure to get input about the length of your visit, too. It might be best to schedule a short visit first. If all goes well, try for a longer stay next time. If you plan to combine your visit with something else, such as a business event or a visit to a friend or relative, share your schedule ahead of time and do not treat your hosts' home like a hotel.


Respect Parenting Time and Parents' Rules

Of course, you want to spend as much time with your grandchildren as possible, but don't impinge on the parents' time with their children. This is especially important if you have an infant grandchild. You may want to spend all day bonding with the baby, but the parents may prefer that you help out in other ways. If your grandchildren are older, the parents will probably be happy for you to keep them entertained, but be respectful of parents' bedtime rituals or cuddle times. Always respect the parents' rules, and don't buy into that business about grandparents having the right to spoil. No parent wants to deal with overindulged, cranky children after their grandparents have gone home.


Do Offer to Babysit

Most young parents would love to have a date night while the kids are in capable hands. Make sure that you are capable by carefully observing how the parents handle the kids. It might be best to be on-site for a day or two before you take on child care on your own. Do your best to learn child care routines and where supplies are kept. When babysitting, follow all instructions as carefully as possible and don't hesitate to call the parents if you have an issue or a question. 


Don't Expect to Be Carried Around

Savvy grandparents make their own transportation arrangements if possible. Your adult children may not really want you driving their cars, although they may be hesitant to tell you. Driving your own car is a possibility for grandparents who don't live too far away. Other grandparents should check into renting a car or using public transportation. Ridesharing adds another option. All of these choices allow you to avoid driving the family vehicle during your stay but still give you options if you need or want to go somewhere. 


Be Flexible About Sleep Arrangements

 Although staying with your children and grandchildren is ideal in terms of bonding, it often involves less-than-ideal sleeping arrangements. You may be given a child's bedroom or have to bunk on a couch or air mattress. If you can't handle a little discomfort and inconvenience, or if you really need good sleep in order to function, make other lodging arrangements. Whatever you do, don't complain about the accommodations.


Be Self-Sufficient

It should go without saying that the parents of your grandchildren don't need someone else to take care of. Take care of yourself as much as possible. Pack carefully so that you don't get away without essentials. If you need a certain kind of pillow or a fan in your room, take it. Be especially certain to pack medications. If you must have certain foods, pack them too, or have a plan to obtain them. Many grocery stores now have delivery services. Also, be careful not to get overtired, which isn't easy with grandchildren around. Fatigue often leads to sickness, though, and you don't want that to happen during your visit.


Help Out With Household Tasks

Considerate guests make up their beds and don't let their toiletries take over the bathroom. Grandparents can go a step further and help out with cooking and cleaning. Choose tasks that you can do with a minimum of instruction. Almost anyone can fold towels or chop onions. Refrain from deep cleaning, home repairs or reorganization tasks unless specifically requested to do something. Otherwise, it can seem as if you are criticizing the household's standards of cleanliness. 


Allow for Private Time

Occasionally withdraw to your own room or to the porch or patio and give your host family some privacy. You'll be more relaxed, too, if you spend a little time away from the hustle and bustle. Bring a book to read or pack your knitting needles or yoga mat. If you sense that things are getting a little tense, go for a long walk or drive, or take a nap. When you return to the family circle, you'll probably feel more welcome. 


Have a Positive Attitude and Avoid Conflict

A person with a positive attitude is a pleasure to be around. Complainers are never good company. Besides being generally positive, grandparents should not criticize how the parents do things, even if the criticism is cloaked as friendly advice. The often-given advice that grandparents should zip their lips goes double when you are in the home of your children. If the topic of politics is a problem, avoid it. Instead, notice what your hosts like to talk about and steer conversation in that direction. 


Treat Your Hosts

Having house guests, even cooperative ones is stressful. Reward your hosts, even though they are your children, with a token of your appreciation. If you want to stick with tradition and send a gift after your visit is over, that is fine. Never send gifts for the grandchildren without tucking in something for their parents, too. You can also do something special during your visits, such as paying for a dinner out or picking up the tab for groceries or entertainment. A gift or treat will end the visit on a positive note and increase your chances of being asked back. And that's what most grandparent house guests hope for!

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. New York Times. Stressed, tired, rushed: a portrait of the modern family.

  2. The Huffington Post. 16 tips to stay healthy while traveling.

  3. Psychology Today. What to do when politics and family collide.

  4. Business Insider. 20 host and hostess gifts that go beyond the classic fruit basket.

By Susan Adcox
Susan Adcox is a writer covering grandparenting and author of Stories From My Grandparent: An Heirloom Journal for Your Grandchild.