Many people who today are in their 50s or 60s recall making room for grandparents in their childhood home. In today's high-cost housing market the concept of the multi-generation household is being reconsidered and revamped.
Planning and candid communication are keys to implementing a successful arrangement with benefits for everyone.
Areas where understanding needs to be developed fall loosely into three categories:
Financial: Will costs be shared? Who pays for what?
Work: What are the work-sharing arrangements for housekeeping?
Children: More than 90 percent of multifamily households have minor children. If child care is necessary, will there be a hired caretaker? What about transportation to and from school? Where will the caretaker take care of the children?
Shedding long-held concepts of parent-progeny relationships will not be effortless, but worthwhile change and growth never is. Mutual respect and consideration for each member of the combined household is fundamental.
When the host home is that of the older parents, they will do well to remember that the child moving in is grown up, no longer seeking rules or advice. Adopting a stance that these additions to your household are your beloved (albeit paying) guests and dear friends will be a guide to appropriate responses.
The family moving in should respect long-established customs of the home. If this home never housed a pet, for example, do not expect to bring in two Siberian huskies and a parrot.
The underlying give-and-take of the adults will do much to reduce tensions as everyone snuggles or bulldozes into the new situation. Raising and living with minor children takes energy, but it is energizing as well. Grandparents have completed their child-rearing job; now they should wait to be asked for advice.
Any arrangement that seeks to take up where the relationship left off at ages 22 and 44 is naive. These grown-up children have faced crises and made decisions without seeking parental approval. Before the generations consider sharing shelter and lives they must first accept the certainty of changes. It is time to lay aside the parent-child concept and view each other as adult friends.
While the new living conditions will have many advantages, there is one frequent disadvantage. When four or five occupy a space formerly filled by two, crowding is a major consideration. Creative rethinking about the best use of available space, and schedules, may help surmount what might otherwise seem intolerable. There's a difference between inconvenient and impossible.
High priority should be given to everyone's privacy. This includes children, of course. Food preferences, guests, and electronic distractions can enhance the environment rather than impinge when they are handled with love and a sense of humor. The kids can be persuaded to turn off rock at 10:30 if Grandma can forgo Lawrence Welk at dinner.
The bonuses of an extended family can outweigh the minuses. Better housing for less money is not to be disregarded, but the housing pales in the face of the rich gains of being surrounded by loved ones. The advantages of an extra car , on-premises child care for unexpected delays, and house care during vacations can ease day-to-day challenges.
On a higher plane, consider the additional companionship, the wisdom and experience of an older generation coupled with the excitement of younger household members, and the stimulation of new and old ideas. Much is said today about support groups; fortunate are those whose first line of support in joy or crisis is within one's own household.