Did you know your grandparents growing up? Like, did you really know them? One of my biggest regrets is never having really known my grandparents. I would have loved to listen to my grandmother sing while she cooked her famous stew and I wish I could have cozied up next to my grandfather while he smoked his pipe and shared stories about his Hungarian parents. I didn’t have the opportunity to know my grandparents in a deeply personal way, which is why I am so passionate about creating opportunities for my son to have a rich exposure to his four grandparents. He’s a lucky one, with four healthy and happy grandparents pouring into his life on a weekly basis.
While we are not living in a household where my son coexists with his grandparents, it is becoming more commonplace for multigenerational families to live under one roof. While the ethos of the great American Dream has previously been one of independence and achievement apart from one’s kin, it seems that more and more people are embracing the support of family to pursue those dreams and achieve success. Though some may find that combining grandparents and grandchildren under one roof can lead to family friction and a lack of personal space, the benefits can outweigh perceived drawbacks. Not only is it a financially optimal alternative to living separately, there are other incentives as well – shared chores, built-in childcare, irreplaceable family bonding and a solution for elderly isolation. Could this lifestyle approach be an ideal solution for next-generation living, where everybody gets what they want?
It’s most important that everyone feels safe, secure and loved in their living environment. With some up-front communication and a little deliberate planning, everyone can win at life while living under the same roof. Here’s how:
PREPARE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT
With the grandparents, parents and children all living in the same household, it’s important to make sure the home is set up to accommodate everyone’s safety needs. Ensure that there are baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs for the littlest tots. And if there are stairs, is it easily accessible for the elderly to get to the main living areas of the home? Addressing these issues on the front end will guarantee a safe living environment for everyone living in the home.
CREATE SPACE FOR EVERYONE
One of the most important things about a multigenerational family living together is making sure that everyone has space to be themselves. Creating intentional areas in the home so that each family member has an established bit of real estate for both work and hobbies is integral to each member’s happiness. Creating a space for studying, reading and TV watching will help everyone remain focused on their priorities while still being able to relax.
Once the physical space in the home is set up, host a family conference to discuss expectations and household rules. Will the grandparents babysit the grandchildren? If so, discuss when and how often. Will everyone in the family pitch in with cooking? If so, establish a meal calendar so everyone knows his or her responsibility. This would also be a good time to discuss cleaning, taking out the trash, lawn care and the dividing of household expenses. Making sure that each concern is addressed and that each family member is heard is the most important part of these family meetings.
When living in a multigenerational home, there is often a lot of talking and sharing and interacting in the main living areas of the home. These can be some of the most fun and funny memory makers of living together! But it’s equally as important to give everyone space and privacy to be comfortable and recharge. Adhere to established routines and respect each other’s personal space and routines. If a bedroom door is closed at 9 p.m., assume that they have turned in for the night. Respecting each member’s personal timeline and personal space will invite a lot of love and laughter during the times when the family is gathered together.
BE FLEXIBLE AND GRACIOUS
Living in a household with family members can be wonderful and, at times, challenging. If friction occurs, remember to be flexible and gracious. Focus on the reasons why you chose to coexist under one roof and reflect on the benefits of extended family bonding. The shared experiences and deepened multigenerational relationships are worth more than getting what you want in the moment.
While it may seem unconventional to have so many people living under one roof, the rise in the multigenerational family unit showcases the beautiful benefits of coexisting. Once healthy boundaries are established and physical space is respected, there is an opportunity for three generations to live together in harmony.