As of April 2018 at least 64 million people live in multi-generational households in the US alone (Source). People with children are undoubtedly among them. Parenting can be hard at the best of times but adding into this the stress of living with your parents can be life altering.
With increasing costs of living and stagnant wages it’s likely that even more of us will become members of multi-generational households before the end of the decade. Managing parenting and living with family can be difficult but doable and here are some tips and tricks for making it work.
1. Lay out the rules from the beginning
If you know that you don’t want anyone else than you to discipline your children, then great, let them know! If you want them to discipline them if you’re not available then great, let them know that!
Be sure that all the adults in the house know what is expected of the children. For example, since my son is a picky eater if he doesn’t eat his dinner then he isn’t allowed to have snacks or dessert before bedtime. I make sure that everyone else in the house is aware that he is not allowed to have them. My son knows that my dad or my grandma are apt to give him a cookie or chips if he asks but when I tell them not to they won’t.
It is more important than ever when you live in a multi-generational household that everyone is on the same page regarding the kids.
2. Establish boundaries
This is important for everyone in the house. At the end of the day we all need a space where we can relax and unwind, especially when you live in a multi-generational household. If you’re lucky enough to have a separate space from your parents (or in-laws) then make sure that everyone knows what areas, you’d like to remain private.
Or even what times you’d prefer they not enter your space.
If you’re not that lucky then don’t be afraid to spend some alone time in your room. You’re not being rude for wanting some personal space.
Also, make sure your kid(s) are able to have some time to themselves as well. My son loves nothing more after a long day than to sit on my bed and eat dinner and watch a show. This gives him some time to just be by himself and relax. (And he usually eats dinner way better unsupervised, go figure).
And make sure that they know what areas are off limits to them and where they’re allowed to play. This will cut down on any unintended tension from little Johnny leaving his toys on grandpa’s favorite chair.
3. Speak your mind
Now I know that for some of us (me) confronting our parents (or in-laws) can be nerve-wracking. But if they’re doing something that you don’t like, especially toward your child, then it’s important to say so.
When you’re living in a multi-generational household it is important to air your grievances in an effective yet non-confrontational way. You don’t need to go into the conversation ready for an argument, treat it as a discussion instead. Remember at the end of the day you’re still living in their home, so respect that.
This is so important because with so many people under one roof and so many different opinions unaired grievances can easily turn into resentment or anger. By being upfront about something that bothers you hopefully you can avoid unnecessary arguments.
But remember, this is a two-way street. So, if you tell them what’s bothering you be prepared to listen to what’s bothering them!
Also remember that if things start to get heated don’t be afraid to walk away. Then return to the conversation with a clear mind and calm heart.
4. Have adult conversations away from the kids
Above I mentioned that you should try to avoid arguments as much as possible, and that’s true. But there may be times where an arguments is imminent because one or both sides are angry.
If it comes to this make sure that you move this away from the kids.
Any adult conversations should be held when the children are not present. Set aside a time where the adults can talk without little ears overhearing. Nap time or after bed time are good times for this.
When you live in a multi-generational household there will inevitably be times where you need to have a conversation that isn’t appropriate for the children to hear. This may be about money, rules, a disagreement, or even vacation.
This way you can ensure that they don’t hear anything that they shouldn’t and if the situation does escalate they won’t here mom and dad fighting with grandma and grandpa.
5. Contribute to the house
Your parents (or in-laws) may or may not expect you to pay rent but that doesn’t mean this should be viewed as a free hotel. Make sure your kids know that they need to be respectful of grandma and grandpa’s house.
They should be expected to do everything at grandma and grandpa’s house that they would do if it were your own house. Make sure their toys are picked up, their dishes are put in the sink or the dishwasher, and their rooms are picked up.
Respect the sacrifice they’re making. If they don’t expect you to pay rent then find other ways to contribute, cook dinner, do the dishes, do laundry, or go grocery shopping. And if they do expect you to pay rent, or other bills, be on time with them, as you would if they were your landlords and not your parents.
Letting you return home, especially with children in tow can be a financial burden for your parents, especially if they have already retired. Be mindful of this fact and do what you can to lessen that burden.
A huge bonus to living in a multi-generational household is that you can all split the costs of the bills. This leaves everyone with extra money at the end of the day to do with what they wish.
6. Respect their home and their ways
By this I mean don’t expect things to be the same as they would be if you were in your own home.
There may be a lot of things that they do differently than you do. You don’t want to go into their home and completely disrupt their routine or way of life. For example, at our house the adults often eat dinner on the late side, like 7-8, which is way too late for C most nights. So, I’ll often make C dinner earlier, so he can eat at a reasonable time and the rest of us can still eat when we want to.
Another big rub for me has always been my uncle watching tv. The issue is that the living room (where he watches tv) is right next to my son’s room and he watches tv at an extremely loud volume. You can hear the tv perfectly clear in his room with the door closed, over his music and a fan.
It’s a bit excessive but we have made it work. He’s learned to not watch it quite as loud, and when he forgets a simple reminder does wonders.
7. Don’t take advantage
When you live in a multi-generational household you may have a built-in babysitter. Grandparents are usually extremely eager to watch their grandchildren, even if they do live with them. And because of this is can be easy to take that for granted.
Don’t expect them to watch your children. Make sure that they know you appreciate them watching your children. It’s so easy to just assume that they will they watch them that we can forget to thank them for doing so.
Respect the fact that they may not always be able to or want to watch your kids. If this happens it is important to have a back-up sitter. Will it be weird if they come in your house and your parents (or in-laws) are there? Possibly. But your kids are the priority, not any awkwardness that may ensure.
8. Grandparent Time
Your kids have the special opportunity to see their grandparents every day because they live in a multi-generational household.
Despite this, it is important that everyone makes time to do things together. It can be something as simple as watching a movie together or eating dinner together. Or you can plan a vacation together!
At the end of the day it’s not as important what you’re doing as it is that the whole family does it together. Take advantage of having their grandparents so close while you can and nurture the relationship.
This doesn’t have to be a daily thing by any means, but it helps to build that relationship between your kids and their grandparents. Just because they see them daily it doesn’t always mean they spend quality time together, by planning a few activities for everyone it ensures that they can.
9. Family Time
While it is extremely important for your kids to spend time with their grandparents it’s more important for you and your kids to spend quality time together.
Living in small quarters can easily lead to tension between you and your parents (or in-laws) especially if you feel like they’re undermining your authority. So, make sure that you take the time to spend time with just you and your kids.
Go to dinner with just your kids, take them to the park, or even to the movies. Whatever it is just make sure that you’re spending time with them without anyone else present. Your kids need to know that you still love them and even if there’s tension between you and their grandparents you still have time for them.
10. Set a routine
Kids need a routine. It’s important for them to know when things are happening and when they need to do what they need to do.
Your parent’s (or in-laws) routine may be vastly different than your family’s. But your kids are your priority, so it is important that you and your family have their own routine that is specific to their needs.
Make sure that your kids are waking, eating and sleeping at reasonable times, times that work for your family. You know what your kids need and when they need them so make sure that they happen when they need to.
You can work around your parents routine, but you don’t need to work within it if it doesn’t work for your family.
At the end of the day parenting is hard. When you add the stress of cramped quarters and a multi-generational household it can become completely chaotic.
Also, you all live in the house together and share your spaces accordingly. And most importantly, remember that you’re all family and you love each other.
Leave a comment below!
And tell me about your experiences with living in a multi-generational household. Or tell me if you think you could do so.
Or share your stories about a time that you and your parents or in-laws disagreed and how you managed that!
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