Dealing with life in a multi-generational home

If you are living with your adult children and their children, you are keeping up with the current lifestyle trend. According to Pew Research Center, more than 18 percent of the population (some 57 million people in the U.S.) lives in an inter-generational home, also known as the sandwich generation. That figure has doubled in the past 35 years.

When it comes to living with parents, an unwritten but iron-clad agreement had been in place for many years. When one gets to be 18, your free room and board is over and it’s time to depart the daily living scene. One takes the following road or a combination of the choices: go to college, find a job, rent a small space to live, lease a car, or maybe get married, take on a mortgage, start a family or whatever, but leave your home of the past. Yet today, more millennials are opting for extended stay in Mom and Dad’s home.

In 2012, 22.6 million or 36 percent of all millennials (ages 18 to 31) were living with their parents. The delaying of marriage for this group has greatly contributed to this increase. The other factors are huge college debt and the difficulty of finding work that will provide sufficient monies for them to move out and support themselves. Other adult children who were once on their own at 18 are returning at a growing rate due to divorce, loss of adequate paying jobs, finding a job that has growth potential to help with college loans and other debts and aging parents that need physical help to stay in their current home as opposed to the high costs of assisted living.

Some advantages of joining the sandwich generation are:

•Cut living costs — somewhat accelerated from the 2005 great recession

•Provide care — have the time and ability to care for one another on a daily basis

•Learn from each other — opportunity to rally get to know each other and able to pass on valuable lessons to the younger generation

•Support from divorce — offering a safe and secure home to heal wounds

•Death of a spouse — help with building a new and productive life without the former partner

•Loss of former home — help with rebuilding credit and daily moral support to overcome the loss of prior home

•Loss of job — strength from family with a planned effort to replace same

I am sure there are more; however, this list covers many situations that I am personally familiar with, and I am sure you know of such family situations. Generational families that are making living together work basically follow the following guidelines:

•Keeping lines of communication open — Have regular conversations about how each party feels about living together. Make sure all in the family are able to freely share their thoughts.

•Respect each other’s privacy and independence — establish some physical boundaries so family members can have their own space

•Establish rules of the house — make sure all understand the rules and systems as to how the home is to function

•Agree on realistic ways to share house costs — establish a budget for operational expenses and breakdown payments from those parties able to contribute to those expenses.

•If a temporary living condition exists, make sure all understand the situation to protect the time frame involved

•If children are involved, make sure the parents are giving the final direction — it’s important that the children know that their parents are directing their life. Grandparents play an important role in the reinforcement of this rule.

•Plan time for family fun together — the day to day routine can be a challenge for all, so take some time to enjoy each other in a different setting

•With life becoming more difficult each year, we need to be aware of the living arrangements that many families live with under one roof. They need our support with encouraging words and actions when it is appropriate.

The fast-paced lifestyle has changed this situation dramatically over the past decades of families living together. I believe this trend of multi-generational living together will accelerate in the coming years. Are you doing your part to support the needs of those in your family circle?

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.