Multigenerational Family Life Today

Published February 17, 2021
Multi generational family is posing on the couch

There are ample pros and cons to living in a multigenerational arrangement. Before you decide if this is the best way of life for you, consider all the perks and the possible setbacks that may come up with multigenerational living.

Multigenerational Living Is on the Rise

While multigenerational living has been commonplace for years, especially in certain cultures, this family arrangement is on the rise like never before. It is estimated that roughly 20% of the United States population currently resides under a single roof. Why the spike in this living trend?

  • The current economy often requires more than one (or two) household paychecks.
  • Grown children (often referred to as "boomerang children") are moving back in with their parents for varying reasons.
  • Aging parents are living longer and wishing to live out their elderly years in a family home.

Pros to Multigenerational Living

Living under the same roof as other familial generations comes with many enriching benefits.

Relieving Financial Stress

Many people are discovering that a single paycheck no longer meets the needs of themselves or their families. Because of current economic conditions and growing financial strain, grown children are moving back in with their parents so that they can save up money while living under their childhood roof. Middle-aged people with children of their own are also shacking up with aging parents, combining resources, and trying to make ends meet.

Share Household Duties

Everyone has heard the saying: "It takes a village," and living in a "village" makes things far easier in many respects. When several adults spanning generations share a household, the duties can be spread out. In nuclear families, mom and dad work, take care of all household duties, and raise the children. In multigenerational households, mom and dad can focus on their careers and bring in money, while grandma and grandpa take care of the children and other daily duties.

In homes containing a grown child and parents, there are three adults to cover finances and help with household tasks such as yard maintenance, cooking and cleaning.

Grandfather playing piano with his granddaughter and son

Exposure to Grandparents

Often, grandparents are enriching to young children's lives. They add a layer of love and guidance to families that only they can provide. Having them be a part of your kids' lives full time can be a true benefit for your offspring. So long as everyone is on a similar page with rules and lifestyle and everyone understands the role that they play in a child's life, including grandparents in children's' upbringing can be a beautiful and beneficial thing.

Little girl and her grandparents having fun

Better Cultural Connection for Children

Many cultures, such as Mexican, and certain African and Asian cultures, have placed emphasis on multigenerational living for centuries. It is a heavily embedded component of their culture and a great benefit to the children in the home. If grandparents still follow their cultural traditions, they can infuse the home and the children's lives with those cultural aspects. The older generation can teach children about cultural cooking, holidays, traditions and stories so that kids are well rounded, embracing Americanized ways and ways of their family's homeland.

Multi generational family dining in living room

Cons to Multigenerational Living

Life with grandma and grandpa won't be all sunshine and roses. Considering the generational gaps in this particular living arrangement, conflicts are bound to arise. The honeymoon period can wear off and challenges can pop up in multigenerational living.

Blurring of Boundaries

With many cooks in the kitchen, boundaries can become blurred in multigenerational family settings. This is particularly true when parents and grandparents live together and share in the upbringing of the children. Everyone often has the kids' best interests at heart, but sometimes it can be a challenge for grandparents to step back and allow the parents to raise the children how they feel is best. When many adults are sharing a space, it's essential to set boundaries. If parents don't want their kids disciplined by grandparents, this needs to be said. If parents want their kids to follow specific dietary rules, this also needs to be clearly stated.

Spatial boundaries might also have to be created. If you don't want Grandma and Grandpa in your bedroom or bathroom, tell them! If you prefer to do your own laundry, then make this clear.

No Privacy

Getting a bit of privacy while living with parents and children is a challenge. Having kids in the room to your left and parents in the room to your right might cause strain in even the strongest marriage. It's important to carve out time for spouses to connect and communicate without interference from others. For grown children living with parents, privacy needs may also come up from time to time. Parents sometimes struggle to recognize that their child is a full-fledged adult and now requires the same privacy needs as themselves. Discussing privacy issues in multigenerational families is key to functionality.

Parents and children all working from home

Conflicts With Selling or Moving

What happens when one set of adults wants to sell the home jointly purchased or move away? A difference in opinion regarding moving can cause tension within any family. Families who jointly purchase homes should communicate present and future plans upfront and openly. If a move needs to happen, adults in the living arrangement will benefit from setting emotions aside and progressing with a move or house sale as if it were a business transaction.

Varying Schedules

Grown kids might have a completely different schedule compared to their parents. They might stay up late and sleep until 11 am, while their parents might rise early and be in bed by 8 pm. Homes with grandparents, parents, and young kids could also face conflicts with varying schedules. When everyone is on a different schedule, it's important to be respectful of all people living under the roof. It's equally important to communicate issues with schedules. Sit down with your family and talk about aspects of varying schedules that are bothering you.

Mother and grandmother fighting with little boy

Tips to Make It Work

Living under the same roof as your children and your aging parents is going to be a challenge at times, but it is possible for everyone to pleasantly co-exist under one roof These tips can help ease the stresses of multigenerational family life.

Communicate Often

Talk about everything! Before living together, sit down and have a family meeting. Discuss finances, responsibilities, and privacy boundaries. Hold monthly meetings to check in with each other, update everyone on current or upcoming financials or events, and give everyone a chance to share any needs or concerns.

Find Shared Hobbies and Interests

Identify hobbies or interests that everyone in the family can be a part of. If everyone enjoys cooking, hold Sunday dinners together. If most family members appreciate nature and the outdoors, camp together, hike together, or garden together. While each person in the household will have independent interests, there is a good chance that some activities will be enjoyed by everyone. Bond over common interests.

Grandfather, father and son surfing

Clearly Define Responsibilities and Expectations

Every person in the home will have a different set of responsibilities. Make sure everybody knows which responsibilities are theirs. Write everything out and post duties in a communal space if need be. It's also important to set expectations and see them for what they are worth. If you know that your mother is not Mary Poppins, don't expect her to suddenly become someone she can't be or never has been. If your grown son has never scrubbed a bathroom in his life, expecting him to suddenly be spic-n-span is only going to disappoint you. Expectations have to remain realistic.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Having independence and privacy while living in a multigenerational arrangement is essential, but never forget that this type of living style is all about the team. Everyone living under one single roof has to know their role and their place, have respect for all family members, and be key contributors in some way to the household. View the arrangement with a team approach, everyone plays a different part on the team and everyone is equally important to the team's success!

Multigenerational Family Life Today