Home Sweet Multigenerational Home

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If you live in a home with adults from more than one generation, you’re far from alone. A 2016 study by the Pew Research Center found a record 64 million people living in multigenerational homes. That’s 20 percent of the U.S. population, a number that has almost doubled since 1980. The trend for multigenerational housing is expected to continue growing across all socio-economic groups.

There are many financial benefits to sharing a house with extended family members. You don’t have to spend money on airfare to visit grandparents when they live under the same roof. There are more adults available to help with childcare and elder care. A multigenerational home can also be a safety net for family members who are out of work or between jobs.

Unfortunately, setting up housekeeping with extended family has its challenges. The friction of day-to-day living can have an impact on family relationships unless you set some boundaries. Here are some tips to ease the transition into living with several generations under the same roof.

Take Care of the Basics
Before you move in together, an open discussion about boundaries and routines can help avoid tension down the road. Grandparents and adult children should come to an agreement about who disciplines children in the family and who makes decisions about them. Part of your planning should include creation of a household budget. Decide how you’ll pay bills, whether from a shared checking account or by dividing them up among adult family members. Each adult’s contribution should be agreed upon and put in writing to avoid future conflicts.

Organize the Space
Giving everyone in the household some private space can help ease family tension. The ideal situation is a separate entrance and kitchen for grandparents or a so-called “granny flat” that is a separate unit. Not every household has the luxury of that much space, but giving everyone a room where they can close the door can help keep the peace.

Divide and Conquer Chores
Every member of the household should be able to make some contribution when it comes to chores like grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry. The best solution is when everyone gets to pick what they’ll do and everything gets done, but you may need to create a chore chart for the tasks that no wants. You may also want to work out ways for family members with less money to contribute more time for childcare or housecleaning.

Keep Communication Open
Frequent family meetings and discussions can keep small grievances from becoming big problems. Many families benefit from the establishment of house rules that can cover everything from overnight guests for adult children to mealtime etiquette. When different generations have different expectations, open communication is the key to negotiating a compromise.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
There can be a lot of drama when relatives decide to live together. Go with the flow and try not to worry about small irritations, even if you’re in the difficult position of being a parent living with your own parents. Avoid assuming outgrown roles from childhood, such as adult parents interfering in the lives of their adult children. Remember that family relationships are there for the long term and try not to let what may be a short-term living arrangement become a barrier to closeness.

Make Time for Family
Don’t forget to set aside time for special family gatherings, even though you all live together. Grandparents can also try to do things on their own to give parents and young children time alone together or offer to watch the children while parents have a date night.

Creating Living Space for Extended Families
The shift toward multigenerational housing is being noticed by homebuilders, who are offering new floorplans with separate living spaces for adult kids returning home and older family members who still value their independence. New home builders recognize that living with extended family is easier when adults have access to more private space. Besides separate entrances, some new homes have private bathrooms, kitchenettes and private patios. Separate temperature controls are another great feature for separate living quarters.
If you’re not in the market for a new home to make room for extended family, remodeling is another option. An unfinished basement or entertainment room can be turned into a suite with kitchen and bathroom. Building an addition is another way to create more living space. As long as local building codes are followed, adding living space can increase your home’s value. Other remodeling projects, such as making the kitchen and bathrooms more functional, can improve the multigenerational living experience. Even a small remodeling project such as adding a second entrance can give a grandparent or young college graduate a much-appreciated sense of privacy. ■

Sources: pewresearch.org, forbes.com, aarp.com and curbed.com.