Moving In With Adult Children

By Sharon Naylor

May 21, 2010 5 min read

At one time in your life, you faced the adjustment of having your children move out of your house, and now life has presented you with a new transition: You're moving in with them .

According to a recent report by the societal study group Pew Research Center, about 1 in 5 adults 65 or older lives in a multi-generational household. In 2008, an estimated 49 million Americans (16 percent of the population) lived in family households that consisted of at least two adult generations. Twenty years ago, the total was 28 million, or 12 percent of the population. Many retirees are choosing or are resigned to move in with their adult kids and perhaps their grandkids.

The reasons are many, including unemployment, loss of retirement money in this economy, widowhood, illness or just wanting to be closer to grandchildren or free of an expensive home in an expensive state with rising tax rates. Living alone, in isolation, has been proved to be a health risk. Moving into a lively and vibrant home, especially one with grandchildren, boosts one's mood and healthy hormones.

Whatever your reasons for joining the 1 in 5 who moves in with the kids, you need to make a positive transition that works for all of you. Susan Newman, author of "Under One Roof Again: All Grown Up and (Re)learning to Live Together Happily," says, "You decide whether your entry into the home will be positive or negative." Here are Newman's tips on how you can turn this transition into a treat for all:

--Ask how you can help. "It's important to realize that your wish to help could be seen as your taking over, so don't rearrange the kitchen drawers to make things more organized and more streamlined," Newman says. Ask your adult child and his/her spouse what you can do to contribute to the function of the household. Can you contribute money toward the household expenses? How much can you afford to give? Can you help with any household chores? Your being present could be just the relief they need with those weekly chores that ate up their weekends.

--Set up your own space. "Talk with them about how you'll arrange your own living space," Newman says, such as whether you may paint or decorate the bedroom that's been prepared for you. "Also discuss how you'll arrange for your own space in the kitchen, such as where you'll store your cooking pans and colander. Meet with them to talk about what you'd like to bring into their household, and accept that they may not have room enough for their own possessions, let alone so many of yours. In the end, possessions are just possessions, and in a month, you won't miss your own set of utensils." Talk about storage space in the basement, garage or attic or prices for off-site storage establishments.

--Give them time to go out. Respect your son or daughter and his/her partner as a couple, and offer to baby-sit the kids or the pets so that they can go out for date nights -- dinners alone, to see a movie or play, etc. They may not have been able to do this on a regular basis for years. Your presence, then, can be a boon for their relationship.

--Be considerate with your pet. "Talk with them ahead of time to ask permission to bring your pet in the first place, and ask them for the parameters they want you to set," Newman says.

--Foster a relationship with your son- or daughter-in-law. This is a great opportunity for you to get to know him/her better or strengthen an already close relationship by expressing interest in his/her hobbies and preferences. Work on establishing a mutually respectful friendship with the most important person in your adult child's life.

--Rise above strife with your child's spouse or partner. Perhaps he/she didn't make a great impression on you years ago. Perhaps you've had your problems in the past. Maybe he/she is really irritating. "Find a way to get along with this person," Newman advises. "Be the bigger person and teach yourself to ignore the things that bother you." Adopt your grandchildren's favorite phrase: Whatever.

"Consider the pressures that your adult child is under," Newman says. "It's not easy to have a parent move into the home and change the dynamic of the household in small ways, let alone larger ones. It will take a period of adjustment, of trial and error, of learning how best to get along with one another." And with those efforts made, you're all on your way to what can be a golden opportunity to spend more quality time together, share family holidays and memories, and enrich the lives of your grandkids while they enrich yours, as well.

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