In a 2013 report, the United States Census Bureau stated that there are more than 4.3 million multi-generational households, which account for 5.6 percent of family households in the United States. Generally this type of family consists of an older adult, their grown child and one or more grand children. Families with an older relative for whom they are caring, also constitute a multi-generational family.
Families often find themselves with more than one generation under the same roof due to economics or lack of housing. It is easier for several generations to share expenses and this often allows for people to escape the poverty level. My family recently joined the ranks of those living in a multi-generation family home. Rather than experiencing an empty nest, our nest has expanded. Our home now consists of me and my husband, our grown daughter and her husband,our grand daughter and our older son who became unemployed. Our family of two suddenly became a family of six. While there are benefits to sharing a home, there are also pitfalls. We have discovered that a few tips make living as one big happy family easier.
- Discuss boundaries, rules and expectations from the beginning. It may even help to write some down and display where everyone can see. This also includes making a chore list. Mom shouldn’t have to cook all the meals, with a grown child and spouse who can assist. Having this discussion before hand helps to keep the lines of communication open
- Child reading might be a problem in a multi-generational family. As most of these homes, include a child, it is important to realize that this is the grown child’s child and they probably have different parenting styles and rules than we ourselves had as parents. While they might appreciate advice, it is important to keep parenting opinions or help to ourselves. Only provide assistance or advice if asked. Otherwise, trust that you raised your child, they are grown and know what is best for their own child.
- Set up a financial agreement. Most homes with more than one generation have multiple incomes and it is important to talk about household finances and decide how bills be divided up. We have found that it is easier to give each member one bill to pay, rather than asking for a percentage of their paychecks. For example, our son pays the lights, while our daughter and her husband pay the cable and phone.
- Discussing bills, brings up groceries and meals. Some multi generation families chose to let everyone cook for themselves because of conflicting schedules. We have found that it works better to eat the main meal of the day, supper, as a family. We make a list of who cooks on which night and who cleans up. This makes meal time easier and enjoy and more enjoyable. This if course leaves room for people to buy their own separate meals for lunches or breakfasts. Another good tip is to label food that won’t be eaten together as a family. People know this food is hands off!
- Above all, we create individual time and couple time. Our house isn’t that large, so finding space and alone time can be a challenge. Alone time is accomplished several ways. Couples go out on date nights, while everyone else,’holds down the fort’. We also honor closed doors. A closed door in our house means the person or couple needs alone time. We also have a TV in each bedroom. While some would disagree with this idea, it allows everyone to have their own TV shows or movies to watch as a couple or alone.
Whether you find yourself housing grown children or an aging parent, you qualify as a multi-generational family. With a few tips, several generations can live together peacefully and reap the benefits of being in a close extended family.