If you’re considering moving in with extended family, you’re not alone. The number of families residing in a multigenerational household in America has nearly quadrupled over the past decade, according to a recent study from Generations United. They estimate that 66.7 million adults ages 18 and older live with three or more generations of relatives. In recent years, prolonged unemployment, young adults home from shuttered colleges, and other pandemic-related life changes have resulted in even more multigenerational households.
The fact that this type of living arrangement is on the rise is not surprising when you consider the benefits, such as shared expenses, reduced loneliness, and help with childcare and eldercare. While living with extended family can offer both emotional and financial benefits, it can also come with some challenges—many of which might surprise you.
Rosemary Ruela has firsthand experience living in a multigenerational household. After arriving in the U.S., Ruela’s paternal grandparents bought a house for their extended family until her parents could buy one of their own. Later, when her maternal grandfather died, the family opened their doors to her grandmother, who resided with them until her passing. Ruela says she feels fortunate they had that time with her grandmother. “She cooked for us, told us stories, sang us songs, and took care of my brother and me,” remembers Ruela.
Too Much Togetherness
While sharing a home can facilitate bonding, it can also be a bit “smothering,” says Ruela. Families that reside together will want to figure out how to enable privacy for all. Ideally, each generation could have their own zone, with a minimum of a personal bathroom and bedroom, or perhaps a private in-law suite. For instance, growing up, Ruela’s family each had their own floor of the home. When that’s not possible, consider adding pocket doors, or sliding barn doors (available on Amazon) or curtains for separation.
Plentiful Unsolicited Advice
Grandma thinks the little ones have too much screen time, and everyone thinks she needs to get out of the house more. Opinions are plentiful among different generations, but there’s no one right way to run a household or raise children. Setting emotional boundaries is just as crucial as creating physical ones.
Family members must come together to decide who’s responsible for what decisions and to communicate their needs and expectations. Agree to share opinions only when asked, especially when it comes to personal choices. Speak up early and clearly to avoid tension and hurt feelings later.