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More and more older Americans are moving back in with their kids—and their grandkids. Approximately 49 million Americans, or about 16% of the total population, live in a household with two adult generations as of 2008, according to the Pew Research Center. And the number is likely to be higher now—as the economic crash has led many people to lose jobs and homes.
A household that includes many generations can be great for everyone. Kids get valuable time with their grandparents, parents may get much-needed help with childcare, and grandparents are less isolated. However, this kind of living arrangement can also come with challenges. Here are a few tips for keeping the experience positive—and minimizing conflict.
Be sure your home is ready
Are your hallways wide enough to accommodate a walker? Is your bathroom fall-safe, and do you have a walk-in shower? Is there a ground-floor bedroom or apartment for grandma and grandpa? Are there night lights in the hallways to help guide the way to the bathroom? It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to overhaul your home in preparation for an older family member to move in—but you may want to give some thought to making your home safer.
See Also: How to Remodel Your Home and Stay as Long as Possible
Set expectations early
Your elderly parents may love spending time with the grandkids—but they may not be willing to provide childcare at the drop of a hat, any time you need it. Discuss how cooking will work, household chores, and how the house will generally be run. This can help you pinpoint areas of friction early.
See Also: Find Senior Independent Living
Make sure everyone has some privacy
With another generation living in the house, your home life will likely get crowded. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare apartment or bedroom for the grandparents, it’s the best situation—but not everyone is. Be sure your kids have some space they can call their own, and your grandparents do too—even if it’s just a small area of a larger room.
Put heirlooms in storage if needed
You only have so much room in your house, and you may not have room for some of the treasured furniture and other heirlooms a grandparent may want to hang onto. Sometimes it’s worth it to spend the money on a storage facility rather than having to put new furniture in your house or asking a grandparent to give up something special.
Discuss noise levels
It’s likely that in a multigenerational household, your house will get louder—and differences in noise levels will bother some family members. Maybe it’s a hard-of-hearing grandparent watching television with the volume up, or a teenager with loud music. Either way, have a conversation about when it is and isn’t okay to turn the volume up in the house.
Stay out of childrearing
If you’re the grandparent moving in with a child and grandchildren, it can be tempting to try to get involved in childrearing—giving advice, stepping in, and maybe even counteracting rules your child has set for the grandchildren if you feel they’re unfair. Don’t. Childrearing can be a source of conflict, and it’s important to step back and let your child and his or her spouse be the primary child-rearer. Have a conversation with your child and the spouse about the rules of the house for the kids—and make sure you honor them.
It’s not easy living in a multigenerational household. Compromises must be made everywhere, but if you’re careful to respect everyone’s needs—including your own—it can be a good experience. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open, and hopefully you can minimize conflict.