Tips For Living With Multiple Generations Under One Roof

Tim Watt  |  February 15, 2013

The most traditional family living scenario is two generations under one roof - parents and children. Adding one more generation - especially when it's just one additional person - may not seem like a big deal, but generational gaps can change a family dynamic dramatically, especially when roles have shifted and a younger generation is caring for an older one.

While every family is different, there are some universal tips that could ease the transition to a three-generation household. 

Understand and acknowledge the imbalance of power
When raising children, parents undoubtedly have the power. But what about when there are two sets of parents and children? Psychologist Joshua Coleman told U.S. News and World Report that the owners of the house tend to have a stronger position of control, and are more set in their ways about how they want a household run. However, an elderly parent who is suddenly living with an adult child might still feel as though he or she should have the utmost say in how things are done.

The key to settling this dispute is talking things through before the move. 

"It's always easier to brainstorm potential conflicts beforehand than to try to create new rules or boundaries afterwards," Coleman told the news outlet.

Prepare for the differences
Having a senior loved one living in the home can be a joyous time for the family, but no matter what, it will require changes in lifestyle. The Family Caregiver Alliance recommends families meet before the move to discuss how they will accommodate bed and nap times, eating patterns, household chores, social calendars and other lifestyle preferences among all members of the family.

The owner of the house, which is typically the adult "child" who is also raising a family, should also take time before the move to establish how much time he or she is willing to commit to caring for the senior loved one. It's easy for this individual to get caught between caring for the children and caring for a senior, which is why the people in this role are often called the "sandwich generation."

To prevent caregiver burnout, this member of the family should determine how much time and energy he or she is able to spend providing care to the senior and children, considering factors like work schedules, social calendars and activities like going to the gym. If it seems like these changes will leave a caregiver with little time for him or herself, it's a good idea to consider options like respite care at a senior living community or adult day care for extra support down the road.