When we wrote about the resurgence of shared living arrangements in Middle Class Lifeboat, we pointed out that shared family homes have long been a common way of life throughout most of human history. We Homo sapiens have been a tribal species throughout most of our existence. Only in recent history has the nuclear family or single-person household become a predominant living arrangement. Even in recent times, grandparents and single relatives often came to live with other family members. The norm was that extended families would live together or nearby one another. In the nineteenth century, for example, before the decline of the family farm and the exodus of young adults into the city to find jobs, it was customary for a family to buy land where all the adult members would establish their households.
Now the pendulum has swung, largely due to the need to reduce expenses. A new study by Ohio State sociologist Zhenchao Qian found sharp increases in the number of young adults living with their parents, saying “The surprise mostly is that it’s increasing for every group.”
The desire for closer relationships factors into more adults are living with their parents. Sandy Banks in her column in the Los Angeles Times cited surveys suggesting “that more than three-quarters of young adults who live at home are satisfied with the arrangement and say they have good relationships with their parents.”
If you’re thinking about or already have a multi-generational family, here are some tips:
Living with one’s kids or one’s parents is not for everyone! Some parents and some kids are more difficult to live with than others or simply have personalities that don’t mesh. So if the idea of living with a grown child or parent doesn’t appeal to you, don’t do it.
Get money issues straight. Will kids or older parents pay rent? Contribute to household expenses? Live rent free but help out with household chores? Let grown kids or parents propose how they want to handle their contribution, and make sure everyone is satisfied with, and committed to, the arrangements. Otherwise resentments are guaranteed to arise.
Be sure you can accept and accommodate each other’s lifestyles. It works best when parents and kids both treat each other as grown adults and behave as grown adults. Granted, habitual ways within a family may die hard. But living together will present fewer problems if you treat each other as you would another adult whom you’re not related to. For example, would you assume another grown adult would do your laundry every week without your offering to do something in exchange? Would you feel free to tell another grown adult how to live his or her life?
Talk this decision to live together through with others in the household, as well as significant others in one’s life, such as boyfriends and girlfriends. Everyone close to you will be affected by this decision.
Don’t expect your new living arrangement to be conflict free. Conflicts are inevitable from time to time. To prevent them from becoming problems, though, keep lines of communication open. Don’t let slights or unpleasant feelings pile up. Find mutually agreed-upon ways to resolve inevitable conflicts and disagreements.
If you think we can help, we offer counseling.
Comments and questions on the substance of this blogs are welcome. If you have other questions about this website, please contact me directly for a consulting appointment.