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Since the 1980s, the percentage of Americans living in multigenerational households has been on the rise. As recently as 2014, nearly one-fifth of Americans were living in homes with two or more generations under one roof. In addition to elderly parents moving in with their children, baby boomers are increasingly seeing their adult children return to their family homes. In both the U.S. and Canada, over a third of adults under the age of 34 now live with their parents; in Europe, nearly half of those under 29 still live with Mom and Pop.
Whether you plan to open your home to an elderly parent or a financially-struggling relative, the decision to invite family members into your living space is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Though adapting to new housemates can be difficult at first, clear and thoughtful communication will better ensure that your household will remain a happy one.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Before agreeing to a move-in, it is valuable to weigh the potential benefits and consequences of establishing a unified household. Naturally, most families benefit financially from sharing a single roof. Studies have shown that multigenerational households are far less likely to live in poverty than families dwelling separately. When healthy boundaries are established, sharing a home with parents or children can also boost happiness and a sense of family intimacy. Adults might, for example, have more opportunities to get involved in the lives of their children or grandchildren. On the other hand, toxic behaviors and festering conflicts have the potential to tear families apart. It is important to take the health of your family dynamic into account before committing to a long-term change in your living arrangement.
Discuss the Long-Term Future
Before letting a relative move in, it is important to discuss long-term plans. An elderly parent, for instance, might live with you until you are no longer able to offer them sufficient care. If your unemployed child is temporarily moving back in with you, consider setting up a timeline leading towards their independence. Be sure to formally clarify whether or not this new living arrangement is permanent or temporary. If it is not permanent, establish the terms and conditions surrounding your relative’s stay and ultimate departure.
Establish Household Rules & Roles
Though it might make for some difficult discussions, it is important to establish a set of ground rules for all members of the household. Make clear the responsibilities your family member is expected to take on in your home. Which chores must be completed on a weekly or monthly basis? Though you might feel silly discussing such topics, it is also important to establish basic household rules regarding noise levels, curfews, substance use, and the presence of guests and overnight visitors in the home. Finding common ground ahead of time will lead to fewer conflicts and misunderstandings down the road.
Frankly Discuss Finances & Compensation
Regardless of the financial situation your family member is in, it is important to discuss the ways in which they’ll be contributing to your household. If rent is to be formally paid, how much will it be? What is included in the price of rent? When is it due? If no rent is to be paid, is the family member expected to cook, clean, or tend to other members of the household as an informal means of paying for room and board? If you’re not accepting formal rent payments, it is particularly critical to delineate the means and manner in which you expect your relative to support the household. By dealing with the uncomfortable subject of “quid pro quo” before the move-in date, things are guaranteed to run more smoothly for all.
Build Appropriate Boundaries
When living under one roof, it can be easy to lose sight of healthy personal boundaries. You might find yourself nagging your adult son as though he were still a teenager, for instance. Your adult daughter, on the other hand, might assume that you’re fine with babysitting your grandchild every afternoon, not realizing that doing so is reducing the time you can invest in your own personal hobbies. Physical boundaries are important, too. Your relative’s room in your home, for instance, should likely remain a private space unless otherwise specified. Though it’s often best to let minor transgressions slide, making your boundaries clear remains an important part of maintaining a healthy family dynamic. All family members can and should vocalize their concerns regarding household rules and personal boundaries. Maintaining open lines of communication will help you keep the peace within your home.
Planning and communication are crucial to establishing a conflict-free multigenerational household. Consider holding monthly family meetings to discuss any disagreements or conflicts that might arise as a result of your new living arrangement. In doing so, you’ll be creating a happy home where all family members feel loved, respected, and heard.
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