In the past 30 years there has been a striking increase in adults ages 25 to 34 living in multi-generational households: 11% in 1980 and 23.6% in 2012.
Many of these younger adults are returning to their Baby Boomer parents’ households after college and a few years into their careers. Some of them may even bring spouses and children of their own into the mix. This can put added stress on all members of the family.
I actually fell into that statistic nicely. When I was 25, my husband and our newborn baby moved to my hometown and into my parents’ house. We ended up staying for three years, and we made it work.
Whether you’re an adult child moving back home, or a parent welcoming back your adult children (and maybe even grandchildren) into your once-empty nest, make a New Year’s resolution to improve your multi-generational household by following these five tips.
The most important step to laying the foundation of your living arrangements is setting the structure. You and your family need to decide if you are living as one collaborative family unit, two separate units, or some combination of both. This includes scheduling for daily life, grocery shopping, divvying chores, and disciplining children, if applicable. Be clear about what each of you wants.
Setting boundaries will help you enforce the agreed upon structure you’ve set. These can be everything from which bedrooms everyone will occupy or who gets to use the living room to watch her shows to how much space is set aside in the fridge. Especially in tight spaces, each person having enough room to call her own will help keep the structure in place.
Boundaries will not work unless everyone agrees to abide by them. Adult children who are moving home need to understand that their parents will always want to parent them, regardless of age. Older parents need to recognize their adult children have become used to parenting themselves. Respecting each family member’s authority and opinion will go miles to keeping peace.
Sometimes the adult children might want to curl up on the sofa and sip coffee without Mom chatting. Or maybe Mom wants a date night with Dad without explaining to the children or being volunteered for babysitting duty. That’s okay everyone needs her own time and space alone, and you certainly don’t have to share every aspect of your lives, just because you may be sharing a house.
On the flip side, one of the best things about living in a multi-generational household is the little moments in the day where you can share time and space and just enjoy each other’s company. Some of my favorite times from living with my parents were when my children could walk down to my mom’s room and just talk. Now that we don’t have those moments anymore, it’s easy to see how special they truly were.