wikiHow to Function In a Multigenerational Household

Many families around the world live in multigenerational households, which are defined as spanning 3 and even 4 generations. They are especially common in developing countries that consider multiple generations in the home as the norm, but it is also becoming more common in developed nations, like the United States. Rising costs of real estate, healthcare and childcare make more families consider joining forces across generations. Each generation, however, introduces a new set of potential complications, which must be addressed in order for a multigenerational household to function and thrive.


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    Know WHY this arrangement is in place. Every living arrangement has its benefits and drawbacks, and in order for it to work, the benefits must be recognized and outweigh the drawbacks. When the going gets tough, remembering why you've chosen to live in a multigenerational household will help to cope with any conflicts that may arise. Some of the reasons families choose to live together are:
    • Money. Loss of a job or unexpected expenses, like divorce or death in the family.
    • A big move, where one family unit lives with another family unit or member who is already in the area until they can become familiar with the area and establish their own home.
    • A desire to live in an area with high costs. By having more family members live in a single house, the family can afford a nicer, larger house in a better neighborhood and with better schools.
    • Working parents who prefer to have their own family members care for their children instead of strangers.
    • Elderly relatives who need to be looked after by family instead of home care services.
    • An emphasis on preserving religious beliefs and customs.
    • Unexpected circumstances, such as a debilitating injury, heart problems, or an incurable disease. An extended family living situation can provide a helpful cushion if and when such circumstances arise.
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    Discuss the the different circumstances with your family so that everyone is on the same page as to why you are living together. If it's a temporary situation, let your family know what your situation is.
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    Define the responsibilities surrounding those who need to be cared for.
    • Does anyone in the family have health issues that need to be addressed, such as an elderly parent needing special care, or a child with learning disabilities?
    • If their care is home based, which of the other family members are primarily responsible for this care?
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    Discuss boundaries as a group, as they must be respected by each household member, from the youngest to the eldest.
    • Address your concerns about privacy. It can be hard to have privacy in this living situation. Make sure everyone understands the importance of privacy, and have consequences for anyone who invades anyone's privacy in any way, whether it's the Internet, your diary, going through personal belongings, and even listening in on phone calls.
    • Part of maintaining boundaries is each member of the family knowing that giving advice, especially when it comes to problems or arguments by a married couple within the house, should only be given "if asked for." Never get into the middle of a couple's argument unless it's a case of abuse.
    • Set physical boundaries. Some people have more "physical" personalities than others. Let your family know about your concerns about physical violence and/or inappropriate touching.
    • Set acoustic boundaries. It's likely that at least one person in the house will enjoy hearing loud music or even television. Tell those who want loud music or television to use headphones.
    • Set bathroom rules. Some people are more accepting about using the bathroom at the same time than others. Have locks on the bathroom doors to prevent accidental interruptions and embarrassments.
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    Let parents raise their own children. If the adults do not remain mindful of each other's rights and responsibilities, homework can sometimes be a source of discord in the house. What causes problems is a non-parent adult's sense of how far they should be allowed to go in deciding what is best for children. It's especially important for tell your parents and grandparents, as well as other family members not to counteract the rules you've set for your own children .
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    Decide ahead of time who will be responsible for paying bills, and stick to this to the best of your ability. Of course, there are times when the unforeseen happens. If all the adult members work together, most problems can be resolved.
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    Call a family meeting if there is a problem you think needs discussing. If it is a more personal problem, take the other family member aside and discuss it quietly. As mentioned earlier, there should be a time and a place where any family member can have privacy. It is under those circumstances that many personal problems can be addressed and resolved before they erupt into a major conflict.
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    Spend quality time together as a family.
    • Have one day and/or night a week of fun for everyone.


  • Any household can have fighting and arguing, and it's especially true in multigenerational households. When this happens, have everyone cool off and calm down before continuing to discuss any disagreements.

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