Multigenerational living refers to households with members from more than two generations living under the same roof. The number of Americans living in this type of situation continues to ride as it hits a record 64 million Americans living in multigenerational households, and the reasons for doing so are many; for example, living in a multigenerational household can strengthen your finances.
Like any living situation, there are things to consider or implement to ensure a smooth-running household. By taking the steps below, you can make a multigenerational household work for you and your family.
Boundaries are important for any shared space. For example, if you are raising your children, and your parents live in the same space, they may, intentionally or not, and in ways subtle and not-so-subtle, undermine your own parenting. They may try to instill their own beliefs in your children and discipline your children as they did you. Even though this behavior is usually the product of good intentions, and sometimes can actually be helpful, how your children are raised is ultimately up to you. Have a conversation with other adults in the house and talk to them about what is okay to do and what is not (e.g. punishment, what the kids are allowed to do vs not do, etc.).
For a more simple and common example, If you want areas to be private, you need to set this boundary early on. When you set precedents at the beginning, it makes expectations more clear, and it helps everyone to avoid unnecessary drama later on.
Communication is crucial for a functioning household, and this is especially true in a multi-generational household. It is important to plan and note chores, responsibilities, shared finances, private space, and shared space. It’s even more important to communicate such things with all of the family members living in the area to ensure that all voices are heard and that expectations are understood. Leaving thoughts or expectations unsaid can lead to resentment and overall dysfunction within the household.
Aim to set up a recurring meeting (weekly, monthly, annually) to talk about how things are going for everyone under the roof. Address any issues that people are having, and come up with compromises to help eliminate said issues.
There are certain things that you may need to do to your home in order to make the home comfortable for all members. This could be minor changes like moving the couch or rearranging a room, but they could also be larger changes like knocking down a wall or adding an additional room. Since you are sharing a space with different age groups, you will want to consider creating an aging-accessible home.
When you are reconfiguring your home, leave downstairs rooms to older family members, and leave doorways, hallways, and walkways wide and obstacle-free. Consider things like railings, handrails, and grab bars for difficult areas like the bathroom, bedroom, or stairs. As time goes on, new issues may arise, and you may reassess the configuration of your home. Be sure to make the common areas (living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom) accessible by everyone. While it may be hard to please everyone with your home configuration, there are certain things that you can do to ensure that the household is a viable living space for all occupants.
Moving in with your family can seem like an extended family vacation, but it is important to divide up chores and responsibilities. Create a list of all the different household responsibilities, and set up a time for all family members to sit down and hash out who will be responsible for what. While it could prove difficult trying to make things 100% even, you should aim to divvy up the responsibilities as evenly as you can.
It can be difficult to keep track of who has done what, so it could be helpful to create a “chores and responsibilities” chart in order to hold family members accountable. Unless your family members are okay with doing the same chores and responsibilities forever, you should attempt to change up who does what from time to time so that one person isn’t stuck doing the most difficult, dreaded, or time-consuming household responsibility.
Similar to dividing up chores, you will also need to determine how you are going to handle your household finances. When you share a household, everyone should consider how the different housing expenses (rent/mortgage, insurance, utilities, food) will be split, and who is initially responsible for paying each expense.
List out all the different costs of living in the household — this should include what the rent or mortgage is, the insurance required (homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, mortgage insurance), and the different utilities the household has (water, gas, electricity, sewage, Wi-Fi, trash, telephone, cable). You should also list out when the bills are due, and how much they typically cost. Once you have a better understanding of all the financial responsibilities in the household, devise a plan for who pays what, and how to keep finances even as utilities fluctuate throughout the year.
One of the reasons that some choose to live in multigenerational households is so that people can be with their parents as they are aging and need assistance. This could be as simple as medication management, or comparable to what a certified nursing assistant (CNA) does daily. At first, this can seem manageable, but over time, this can be emotionally exhausting, so you may want to look into getting help with care. You can look for a caregiver, CNA, or home health aid (HHA), or you can brush up CNA skills, and become certified in order to fill in the role of a CNA for home care yourself.
When you live with other people — especially family members — sharing a household can bring its fair share of challenges and stressors. It is important to take time for yourself and focus on your mental health. There are many ways to take care of your mental health — this includes:
When you live with other people, you should look for commonalities and shared interests to make living together feel less like you are just roommates. Have conversations, ask about interests or hobbies, and look for ways that you and your family members can do things outside of living together. If you both like to golf, schedule a time to go out to the driving range or play nine holes. This can help relieve stress or tension in the household.
Seniors can struggle with social isolation, so it is exceedingly important to find ways to connect and mitigate these effects.
You should make it a priority to be a respectful, courteous roommate to your family. If you just shifted towards multigenerational living, be patient and considerate of feelings, space, and changes in routine. You should be respectful towards parenting styles, personal beliefs, and other varying personal household preferences. Staying mindful of others’ needs, feelings, and preferences is crucial for a functional family dynamic.
Although multigenerational living has its share of challenges from time to time, it is important to enjoy the experience while it lasts. Many individuals don’t get to see their extended family on a daily basis, so be sure to create unique opportunities for time together. Set up specified nights for family time, and relish in wholesome fun while living together.
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