Family and Relationships

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When Parents Move in With Adult Children

June 12, 2009
by Lindsey Chapman
Due to old age, health trouble, financial instability or something else, many parents are moving in with their adult children. Though transitioning to a two- or three-generation household can be tricky, the tips in this article will help smooth the process.

Intergenerational Families

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Not long ago, it was fairly common to find multiple generations of a family living together under one roof, and it’s becoming a popular way to live once again. According to The Des Moines Register, 2.3 million parents lived with their adult children in 2000, compared with about 3.6 million in 2007.

“One of the side effects of the economic contraction is that Americans are about to rediscover the virtues of three-generation households,” Forbes.com writes. 

Society is changing. People are living longer, and often with fewer assets. To make ends meet, an increasing number of family members are moving in together.

Housing Arrangements

Before parents move in with their adult children, it’s important to first make sure there’s space for everyone. Sometimes, parents and children sell their current residences and combine their funds to buy a more suitable home that fits everyone’s needs. In other instances, people simply remodel their home or add on an extra suite of rooms with a separate entrance.

Remember to check zoning restrictions in your neighborhood to ensure such changes to homes are permitted.

Families should also work out the legalities of home ownership. For example, Forbes.com advises against joint home ownership because financial and estate matters can get complicated later on.

Recognize Potential Problems Early

A U.S. News & World Report article advises that it's important to establish ground rules before parents move in with their children. Children and parents should address what issues are, and are not, up for discussion in their new living situation, such as dating lives, parenting styles or political views. Also cover day-to-day routines, such as the division of household chores, whether meals will be taken together or separately, and how each generation will maintain separate social lives.

Dr. Gloria Gutman, a professor of gerontology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, told Bankrate.com that she even recommends that adult children and parents take the step of putting their rules in writing.

Working out these issues can yield great results. Joshua Coleman, psychologist and author of “When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along,” said to U.S. News & World Report, “There is a high potential for conflict, but there is a good potential for increased closeness.”

When Health Problems Are Involved

Taking care of a parent with a serious health issue can be a high-intensity situation for all parties involved. For Linda Ginn, who cares for her mother, a woman with dementia, the task hasn’t been easy. “It’s been a labor of love, but it’s a stressful love,” Ginn said in The Des Moines Register article. “It took us almost a year to really get into a routine.”

Helping an elderly parent requires some very critical decision making and planning. “It’s not as easy as ‘Come on in and move in,’” Anne Peters, a franchise owner of Home Instead Senior Care in West Des Moines told the paper. “It’s about making smart decisions and planning for those different scenarios that might come up.”

Think About the Benefits

Despite the hurdles adult children may face when their parents move back in, the living situation can have its benefits, U.S. News & World Report pointed out. Grandparents could help with childcare needs, or contribute to paying a household’s bills.

“We will probably see more of parents moving in with their children to combine households to cut down on costs,” Susan Newman, author of “Nobody’s Baby Now: Reinventing Your Adult Relationship With Your Mother and Father,” explained. “If you have a positive relationship with your parents and your spouse and children get along with your parents, economically it seems like it would make good sense.”
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