Having Your Own Space When Sharing Theirs

By Olivia Pitkenthly

Grandparents living with grandchildren is becoming more and more common due to financial strain, health issues and the desire for closeness. From 1980 to 2008, the number of U.S. households with at least two adult generations increased from 12 to 16 percent.

The decision to move in with your children and grandchildren may or may not be in your control. It may have been financially impossible for you to live on your own, or you may want to be closer to your family. Whatever the case may be, it’s important for all of you to live in harmony.

Discuss your expectations

Have an open and frank discussion with your children. Will you be expected to contribute to the household bills? If so, how much? What about cleaning, cooking and child care? By communicating your expectations, you help avoid any future confusion or awkwardness.

Karen Hoffman Turner is a licensed psychologist, wife and mother of three teenage daughters. Her mother moved in two years ago and although she is not required to pay any bills or do any chores, she chooses to do so because she wants to contribute to the family. “My mom cooks and cleans for us, her choice,” said Turner. “She feels like she needs to do something to help us. We all are working and going to school, so her presence helps our household function better.”

Your space is your own

Most likely, when you move in with your children, you are downsizing from a larger space and won’t be able to take much with you. However, it’s important that you identify your space as yours alone. Let your children and grandchildren know that this is your private room and to respect your belongings. Decorate your room to make it feel like yours, especially if the rest of the house isn’t to your taste. We all need a place to bring us comfort and security — let your personality dictate the décor.

Keep your own schedule

Just because your living arrangements are changing, doesn’t mean your life has to. Continue to attend to your commitments, such as volunteer work, church, exercise groups, etc. Having your own schedule will help you maintain your independence and individuality.

Continue to connect socially

Meeting friends for coffee or dinner, chatting with your new neighbors and engaging in new activities should still be on your social calendar. Let your family know that sometimes you’d like to have a friend or two over for dinner.

“My mom lives her own life and we live ours,” said Turner. “She does not expect us to be with her during every single outing, and she also invites us to her things too. It’s a great balance.”

Respect boundaries

There may be some parenting techniques that your children use that you think is off-the-wall, but remember that parenthood was new to you at some point, too. Just like you did, your children are navigating their way through this parenting thing. Use your role as the grandparent to provide support and love to all family members.

Cherish family moments

Take advantage of the closeness and continue to make happy memories with your loved ones. Focus on the advantages of all of you living under one roof. “Although it was a transition, we all have benefited from my mom living with us,” said Turner. “And she has benefited by feeling included, safe and taken care of.”

Looking for more info? For personal stories, case studies, and expert quotes, check out “When Your Parent Moves In: Every Adult Child’s Guide to Living with an Aging Parent” by David Horgan and Shira Block.