Almost all homes are multigenerational, most commonly with parents and children living together. Some households also include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or a mix of it all. Whether out of necessity or the desire to be closer with family, more and more people are living in multigenerational households now more than ever.
When different ages, expectations, and lifestyles are intermixed within a functioning household, it’s easy to see how conflicts can occur. The important thing to remember when these situations arise is to approach it with an open mind and understanding of generational differences.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Amongst the household, there should be an basic rule that everyone must do their own part to keep the home functioning as well as be considerate of everyone else who lives there. Doing your part may mean chipping in financially or taking on certain household chores. In an effort to respect the other members of the home, always be considerate of individual privacy as well as keeping common areas clean and accessible.
As the eldest of a home, it’s easy to expect authority and respect from everyone else living there. However, keeping in mind the way times and lifestyles have changed and evolved is ever important. Instilling your routine habits and opinions onto other generations within the household will likely not prove successful. What works for you may not work for everyone else.
If your child or grandchild has a living habit that bothers you, withhold from getting upset about their behavior at first. Instead, try to understand why they do what they do. What’s the benefit? What’s the purpose? Generations live and function differently, as new fads come and go. Be willing to hear what they have to say before jumping the gun.
Communicating and Understanding Others’ Lifestyles
My experience with multigenerational living is when my whole family joins together for a couple weeks during the summer in our same rented beach house. I’d be lying if I said that each moment was filled with sunshine and rainbows. While we had our fun and look forward to our time every year, there’s always moments of misunderstanding caused by intergenerational divide.
For example, we only have one TV in the house where we stay, so when we put something on, we try to make sure everyone will enjoy it. However, my mom, sister, and I have a show, a guilty pleasure, if you will, that we watch every week, and we refuse to miss it. Yes, it’s The Bachelor (or The Bachelorette). Naturally, we always put it on the TV Monday night at 8 p.m., even if we’re at the beach house.
After years and years of my grandfather mocking us and driving himself, and the rest of us, crazy thinking about the stupidity of the show, we decided to explain to him why we take an interest in such a corny reality TV show. We recognize how fake and staged the show is, but we like investing in the different relationships and rooting for our favorite contestant. Plus, it gives my sister, my mom, and I something to bond over. Although my grandpa will never turn on The Bachelor on his own, he now understands why we make time for it each week. From now on, he’ll either politely leave the room when the show comes on or he’ll sit quietly without making any remarks. Definitely a more peaceful environment!
Understanding people’s habits and lifestyles is a two-way street. You can’t expect respect from other people within the home if you don’t give it. While my grandpa was willing to learn about the way I live, it was my turn to do the same.
One of my biggest pet peeves while living at the beach house is the dynamic of my grandparents’ relationship. My nana labors in the kitchen to make my grandpa’s every meal, and when he’s finished eating, she’s the one found doing his dishes. I always questioned how this was fair. Isn’t Grandpa capable of making his own toast in the morning?
I used to always stand up for my nana and question why my grandpa didn’t do more for himself, since he’s quite capable. But, their relationship dates back to a different time period, one that I had not lived in and sometimes feels foreign to me. After standing up for my nana so many times, she finally explained to me that this is how their relationship works. While she does most of the household work, including cooking and cleaning, my grandpa takes care of her in other ways. And besides, she enjoys cooking and making food she knows he likes.
Gaining New Insight Into Relationship Dynamics
After this conversation, my eyes were completely opened. I gained insight into my grandparents’ relationship and was able to understand why they behaved the way they did. While their dynamic would never work for me, I no longer grow upset or become vocal when I witness some of their interactions. All it took was a simple conversation to clear the air and become more informed.
Living in a multigenerational household can get tricky and complicated. Certain scenarios may take more understanding and open-mindedness than others, but the payoff is worth it. While conflicts may arise, the potential reward and happiness of living close-knit with your family is worth taking the extra steps to maintain a smoothly functioning household.
Have you ever lived or are currently living in a multigenerational household? Do you have wisdom to pass along? Share Your Story!
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