4 Strategies to Make Multi-Generational Living Work

by TTMK on August 22, 2013 · 4 comments

The following post is by staff writer Melissa Batai

You’ve likely heard of multi-generational living.  This type of living arrangement has grandparents, parents, and kids all living under one roof, and it’s common in many parts of the world including Asian countries as well as India.  While you may have respected others who live this way, you may have thought, “No way!” for your own family.

As Americans, we tend to value our independence and prefer to live on our own.  (Some would even argue that we isolate ourselves.)

However, there are many benefits of multi-generational living, especially for the Sandwich Generation.

  • If both parents work, the grandparents might agree to help by driving kids to athletic activities or by cooking meals.
  • Both grandparents and parents can reduce their living expenses by sharing utilities and housing costs with one another.
  • Grandkids have the pleasure of growing up with their grandparents, and as a result may be closer to their grandparents.

With that said, multigenerational living isn’t for everyone.  If you have a difficult relationship with your parents or your in-laws, this probably isn’t a living situation you’d want to consider.

Even if you do have a good relationship, living together is bound to create some friction.  However, there are ways you can minimize this and reap the benefits of multi-generational living.

1.  Make sure everyone has their own space.  If you can, remodel your home or buy a home that has a separate space for the grandparents.  Ideally, they would have their own bedroom, kitchen and living room, even if it’s smaller than the main living area.

For years, my grandparents lived on my parents’ lot in a 5th wheel trailer.  They were only steps away from our house, but they had their own place to cook their meals, decorate, and live as they wished.  They still joined us for meals and came over every day, but each family had its own living space, which is important for family harmony.

2.  Hold your tongue.  While there are bound to be situations that annoy you, try to hold your tongue unless they are important.

My grandpa used to come over and watch TV at our house sometimes.  He would blare the TV so loud, it hurt all of our ears.  Still, my mom never said anything, so we kids learned to respect grandpa and let the little things slide.  If my mom had criticized him, we may have been more likely to do the same.

3.  Have open discussions.  When there are bigger issues, both the parents and grandparents must be willing to sit down and talk with one another openly and honestly.  This will help keep the relationship solid and smooth.

4.  Don’t take advantage of one another.  Don’t let too many chores fall on any one individual.  Every member of the household should pull their own weight.

My grandma was a nurturer at heart, and if she had her way, she’d do our dishes every single day.  However, my mom made sure I did our dinner dishes immediately after the meal so grandma wouldn’t feel obligated to do them herself.  She still found plenty of opportunities to clean up, but we made sure to do things ourselves, too.

My Questions for You

Would you consider multi-generational living or is it just too out there for you?

Have you lived in a multi-generational living setting?  If so, how did it work out?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Edward Antrobus August 22, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Multi-generational living is nothing new to my family. After my dad lost his job and the house we were living in as a fringe benefit in the late 80’s we moved in with my grandparents and lived there for 2 years. later, during my senior year of high school, my other grandfather had heart surgery and wasn’t allowed to climb the stairs to his apartment. So he wound up living with us for 8 months. Just recently, he broke his hip and it looks like he is out of that apartment and in with my mother for good.


TTMK August 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Edward – sorry he had that injury. That’s really a good example of how multi-generational living can be a need sometimes.


Andrew@LivingRichCheaply August 24, 2013 at 9:27 am

My parents immigrated here so this is not unusual for immigrants. I grew up in a house with my family on one floor, my uncle, aunt, 2 cousins on a floor and my grandparents. Luckily it was a 2 family house. Having enough space and not taking advantage of each other definitely helps. However, it can be difficult when you’re married and your parents are nearby…even a 2 family house: see Everybody Loves Raymond. I think the grandmother in that show is a good representation of mother in laws…good intentions but meddles…


TTMK August 28, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Andrew I think those are wise words. Living with a mother-in-law is probably tough for a lot of folks, even if she has very good intentions!


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