Hosting family over the holidays gives you a chance to spend time with loved ones and share in festive traditions. However, the holidays—particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas—are also known for inciting family squabbles and stirring up anxiety. Whether you are hosting a special holiday event or sharing your home with out-of-town family members, there are some simple tips from Patty Peck Honda that can help you lower the stress level and make everyone feel at home.

Keep everyone warm and cozy

In most parts of the country, the winter holidays come with a chill in the air. Instead of cranking up the thermostat, try setting out throw blankets and serving up warm drinks. Decorative holiday throws make your home more festive. They can also be draped around cold shoulders or tucked around seated guests. Warm apple cider in a crock pot can serve guests all day, while packets of hot chocolate or tea on the counter invite people to make themselves a soothing drink whenever they’d like.

Stock up on snacks and simple meals

Tensions can run high when blood sugar is low. Setting out snacks (or showing people where to find them) will help prevent the between-meal hunger which can lead to cranky guests. Find out if anyone has food allergies and do your best to find snacks that are safe for everyone. If out-of-town family is staying with you during the holidays, stock up on simple meal items like cereal, frozen waffles, soups, sandwiches, and frozen vegetables.

Plan a flexible schedule

As the host, you may feel responsible for setting the holiday itinerary. However, tricky family dynamics can easily trump your best-laid plans. To keep the peace while hosting, plan events with a gentle hand and incorporate others whenever possible. Potluck dinners are a great way to help everyone feel included while also dividing up the responsibility. Also, keep in mind that out-of-town family members may have their own plans for how to spend their time. Talk to them about their plans before the visit.

Be aware of the past, focus on the present

During the holidays, families tend to reminisce about the past. That can be fine in small doses, but looking back too much has some potential pitfalls. Reminiscing can be unsettling when it reminds people of unpleasant changes in the family (such as divorce or death). It can also be depressing for those who are feeling tired of the same old stories and jokes. Don’t forget that personal perspective can make a big difference as well. What you remember as the good old days may have been an unhappy time for someone else.

Create a relaxed atmosphere

Hosting family over the holidays doesn’t have to be stressful. You can help ease tensions by creating an inviting atmosphere with soft holiday music, warm lighting, and appealing aromas. It may sound simplistic, but people do respond emotionally to their environment. Setting the stage for a peaceful holiday may not guarantee the end of family squabbles, but it can help everyone stay in a more relaxed and happy mood.