This post: Teach Your Teen to Be a Good Houseguest: 10 Etiquette Rules They Should Know
Written by: Marybeth Bock
Whether your teen is crashing at a friend’s house for a few days or they’re heading across the country to spend a week with grandma and grandpa, there’s something they should know before they go…. how to be a respectful, thoughtful and gracious houseguest.
If you’ve ever had guests in your home, you know how wonderful it feels to have a well-mannered, considerate, courteous houseguest (and, how exhausting and utterly frustrating it can be when someone isn’t). Teach your teen to be a good houseguest by sharing these simple etiquette rules with them. (After all, if you don’t teach them, who will?)
No matter who your teen is staying with or how long they’re planning on staying, here are 10 etiquette rules your teen should follow as a houseguest. Trust me, if they follow these rules, they’ll surely be invited back!
Teach Your Teen to Be a Good Houseguest: 10 Etiquette Rules They Should Follow
#1 Be Clear About Your Plans
Don’t show up with the assumption that your friend’s family won’t care if you stay two weeks or that Aunt Joanne and Uncle Bob won’t mind if you crash at their place until you’re good and ready to leave. Be clear and upfront about when you’re coming, how long you’ll be staying and exactly when you’re leaving.
Sure, there’s always room for flexibility. Most hosts won’t mind if a houseguest extends their stay a day or two. But most people prefer to have a plan in place so they can plan and prepare ahead of time. (Also, never show up announced.)
#2 Don’t Arrive Empty-Handed
Although most people will insist they don’t want or expect anything when you stay with them, most truly appreciate a small “gift” as a gesture to say thank you for allowing you to stay with them. (Even a close friend’s family or grandma!)
It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or expensive. It can be something heartfelt and small like a bouquet of flowers (they can even be hand-picked from your yard), a small box of chocolates or even a homemade gift like a batch of chocolate chip cookies or muffins to share at breakfast.
Depending on the length of your teen’s stay (and their budget) a few other ideas include a board game (to play with the family during their stay), a gift card to a restaurant or an offer to make dinner one night (if your teen is comfortable in the kitchen).
#3 Keep Your Personal Items In One Spot
We all know teenagers, (most anyway), are notorious for leaving their stuff ALL over the house. Their shoes kicked off in different rooms, their clothes strewn all over the floor, their bathroom toiletries scattered all over the counter – let’s just say they’re not very neat. But when they’re a guest in someone’s house, this is a big “no-no.”
They should make an effort to keep all their belongings in one spot and, at least try, to be as neat as possible. I typically tell my kids to leave the space as neat (or neater) than when they arrived.
#4 Follow the House Rules (Ask If You’re Unsure)
Every family has its own unique set of rules, including whether they allow food in the bedrooms, whether it’s okay to put your feet up on the furniture, if they prefer to put cell phones away at the dinner table or whether shoes should be taken off at the door, for example.
Teach your teen to observe and learn to “read the room” when it comes to what’s allowed and what’s not. If they’re unsure about anything, encourage them to ask. Above all, they should abide by the family’s rules – even if it’s not what they’re accustomed to, or it doesn’t seem to make sense to them. Bottom line, just go with the flow – their castle, their rules.
#5 Offer To Pitch In
The worst houseguests sit around expecting everyone to wait on them hand and foot. Don’t let your teen be that houseguest. Encourage them to jump in and help whenever they can. Take their plate to the sink, offer to help prepare a meal or clean the kitchen, take out the trash, or take the dog for a walk
If they’re continually told that it’s not necessary that they help (in which case they should honor the host’s wishes), they should, at the very least, still be taking their dishes to the sink, making up their bed every day and cleaning up after themselves in the bathroom. (No wet towels on the floor, please!)
#6 Don’t Stare at Your Cell Phone the Whole Time
There’s nothing worse than a guest who acts as if they’re totally bored because they’re staring at their cell phone the entire time. Plus, it’s just plain rude. When you’re a guest in someone’s home, take the time to engage with the family, hang out in the kitchen or watch a movie together – just enjoy their company.
That doesn’t mean you can’t spend a few minutes here and there checking your texts or emails, just don’t get lost scrolling through Instagram or TikTok for hours which will only leave your host feeling as though there’s somewhere else you’d rather be.
#7 Ramp Up Manners
Before your teen slips and drops the “F” bomb in front of their friend’s parents, sleeps ’til noon like they don’t have a care in the world or drops their wet towels on the floor after their shower waiting for the maid to pick them up, they might want to think again if they want to be invited back. No one likes a disrespectful, entitled houseguest.
Chances are you’ve been pounding manners into your teen’s head for years, well… now is the time for them to put them to the test. When in doubt, they should choose modesty and always aim to be as polite, well-mannered, and as considerate as possible. Just consider it good practice!
#8 Treat Your Host(s) to Something Small
Another great way for your teen to show appreciation to their host(s) is to treat them to something during their stay. It could be anything from picking up a dozen doughnuts for breakfast to springing for pizza one night. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or pricey, it’s simply a nice way to let the host(s) know how grateful they are for their hospitality. Remember, it’s not the price of what they do… it’s the thought that counts.
#9 Clean Up Before You Leave
At the end of your teen’s stay, they should ask the parent or host if they would like them to remove the sheets from the bed (some people appreciate this gesture, while others prefer guests simply make the bed before leaving or pull the sheets off and leave them at the bottom of the bed).
If they ask your teen to remove the sheets/pillowcases, your teen should ask where they would like them to be placed (like a laundry basket or laundry room). Make sure, too, that your child gathers up any towels they may have used during their stay and places them in the laundry area as well.
It’s also important that they leave their space as clean as possible and give the bathroom a quick cleaning so they don’t leave the counters with gobs of sticky toothpaste. Also, be sure they check every room (including outdoor areas) to make certain they’re not leaving anything behind.
#10 Say Thank You
Etiquette experts suggest saying “thank you” three times when you’re a houseguest – once when you arrive, once when you’re leaving and once more after you return home by sending a hand-written thank you note. I know… we’re in the day and age when a quick text or an email seems sufficient to thank someone, but not in this case.
Your host(s) opened their home to your teen, graciously fed them and showered them with their hospitality – a quip, “Hey, thanks” just won’t cut it here. The thank you doesn’t have to be anything fancy or too long-winded, just a quick note to express their appreciation.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Walker,
I can’t thank you enough for letting me stay with you for a few days. You made me feel so welcome! I enjoyed every minute and especially loved hanging out and reminiscing about old times. We shared some great laughs!
You truly are amazing hosts. Thank you so much for your warmth and hospitality. It meant the world to me.
Teach your teen to be a good houseguest by reminding them to be gracious and helpful, respectful and mannerly. Even if your teen’s “houseguest manners” aren’t quite polished (yet), it’s okay. No one expects perfection. As long as they go out of their way to be an easy houseguest who doesn’t leave the host(s) exhausted from their stay, they’ll likely be invited back with open arms.
Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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