Spiraling house prices, job-cuts and the increased cost of living has seen couples struggling to make ends meet. Sometimes, to get that all-important boost and to help couples back onto their feet; parents welcome their now adult offspring back into their childhood homes. With three generations under one roof, things can get pretty crowded and potentially heated. With this in mind, we’ve put together A Modern-Day Survival Guide For 3G Families.
Setting the boundaries
Relationships are complex and sooner or later, it is likely that you’ll disagree over something. To ensure everyone understands what they can and cannot do, it is important to set boundaries.
So what are some of the key topics?
Household Chores / Tidiness: Shoes left where people can trip over them or leaving all the washing up and wiping down to one member of the household will trigger feelings of being taken for granted and feeling the situation is unfair.
Stress: Work, illness, finances and a lack of free time can make for a potent stress cocktail. It’s important to remember that more often than not, your family has contributed little to this and generally support you. So what if he didn’t put the toilet seat down? Let it go…
Children: What are children allowed to touch? To what extent are Grandparents allowed to reprimand their grandchildren? Sleeping patterns and feeding habits all also need to be discussed.
Money: It is important to discuss finances early on. Contributions to groceries, rent and other such outgoings need to be considered. For more information, look to sites such as moneyadviceservice.org.uk and moneysavingexpert.com to determine the most cost-effective and fair allocation of money.
Privacy: It is important to allow for both couples’ personal time and space. Sex is an essential part of a healthy functioning relationship between partners. If one couple is always expecting the attention of another couple or decides to sort the laundry directly outside another’s room; relationships can be strained. Once or twice a week, if it is possible, take the family out somewhere to allow the other couple some privacy.
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Free time: The expectations at work and the toll of modern life can render young parents exhausted – especially if they are having sleepless nights. Although Grandparents should not take over the role of parent; offering to take a baby out for a couple of hours is a small mercy that could make all the difference to a couple’s life. Life is made smoother and more palatable with sleep. Do not also be tempted to fall into the trap of debating who had things harder? The only result of this discussion is to bring further stress to the couple. They will not suddenly see the light and become more gracious and grateful about their current situation.
Consideration for others: As simple as it sounds, talking over someone’s favourite programme is likely to prickle their skin.
Borrowing without permission: You should always, always ask! No, ‘I’ll put it back straight after using it’ and then forgetting. Also on the no-no list would be chewing others pens, using others hairbrushes or borrowing clothes.
Tip: Learn whose belongings are whose. This goes especially for garments such as underwear!
Rules are rules!
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Can shoes be worn in the house? Are you allowed to eat food in the lounge? Whose responsibility is it to? These are the sorts of questions that need to be addressed in the early days, and preferably before moving into shared accommodation. It may seem like these are small and insignificant considerations, but it’s often the small things that get people riled and is the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak…
Tip: Try to consider each person’s welfare and come to a compromise. This includes your neighbours either side. E.g. No loud music after 9pm.
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Family Planner / Calendar
Organising meals, car sharing and keeping track of appointments is all easily solved via the use of a family planner. It is easy to commit to Uncle Bert’s birthday three months in advance and then forget, booking yourself in for a dentist appointment. With a family planner, you’re able to mark ‘keep clear’ days and know who is in for meals and who is out for the night.
Tip: Sticky notes are a great way of communicating too. E.g. “We’re out of milk, I’ll pick some up on the way back from work” to prevent the same item being bought twice.
Courtesy goes a long way when sharing homes. If your plans do change, it’s worth texting whoever is making the meal that night to let them know that you will be out. Adding, “I hope you’re having a great day!” or words to that effect also emphasises appreciation of others in the house and aids in keeping relationships harmonious.
The old-fashioned type! Is James in? No? It’s at that moment when you’re asked to pass on a message that there’s not a pen or pad of paper in sight.
Tip: Keep a pot of pens and a notepad by the phone.
One all-to-common frustration is when you have taken the time to prepare a nice lunch or meal for yourself or your child and another member of the family has mistakenly taken it. This happen even more so with ingredients. Someone makes themselves an omelette and suddenly you have no eggs left to bake that cake you’ve been meaning to make. By designating shelves, the chance of this happening is significantly reduced.
Tip: Labels are great for identifying ‘do not touch’ items.
Whose turn it is to use the washing machine? Designating days for couples is a good idea so that everything does not get left to the weekend.
Everyone should pitch in. Decide which jobs can be designated to each person.
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Never move something that does not belong to you without having asked first, unless there is an inherent risk. So, straighteners that have been left on – yes, turn them off and place them somewhere where no-one is likely to burn themselves and where it cannot damage the house.
Tip: It’s a good idea to have a designated box for things that need putting away or sorting so other family members can find things easily without them getting lost.
Know your boundaries
“How much do you get paid?”
Money is a sensitive subject for people. Whereas you might discuss how much you can afford to contribute in relation to your earnings; you should not be asking how much your parents earn, if they have been kind enough to agree to house you.
“Oh that’s just like your condition, isn’t it, John?”
If someone has confided in you with a health condition or some other private family affair; it is not then your right to treat this like public information.
“Isn’t it about time you two were married?”
This is a personal matter between couples. What some parents and onlookers fail to consider is that sometimes one person in the relationship may indeed wish for the other to marry them and your comments are constantly rubbing salt in their wounds.
“Are you sure you should be?” “Shouldn’t you”
Some advice can be useful, such as “this is a great nappy cream”, but constant questioning of modern methods can appear to be undermining and even accusatory. By prefacing all your conversations with “When you were a baby, we used to…” implies that the parents are not doing things right or they are foolish for doing what they think is safe and what may have even been advised. So what if you don’t think that the baby monitor is necessary? If it gives new parents peace of mind, then it’s not your place to offer an opinion that is only designed to mock their practises.
Yes, your children may now be young adults with a family of their own, but this does not mean that since you are sharing a house that they now wish for intimate details of their parents’ love life. This equally applies for them. If your parents have been considerate enough to have agreed to house you; do not be tempted to bond by talking about sex. Even if they do not mind, your partner certainly would.
“When are you planning your next baby?”
This is a very personal question and one that should only be discussed with ones partner. Even though a couple may be in a shared house, it does not give the other occupants the right to voice their opinion on something so personal. Respecting the fact that they are still adults is more likely to gain a couples trust so that they may volunteer information to you. Equally, the couple has to realise the impact adding to their family may have on the rest of the household. In this case, couples may wish to talk to their parent and discuss potential options, feelings and finances.
A new baby can be very exciting, but do not assume that the reason behind Emily having gained a few extra pounds or having turned down a glass of wine on more than one occasion is because she is pregnant. Voicing this thought will only result in her self-confidence being knocked or, if the case were to be true, you may have pre-empted their announcement, spoiling their special moment. It’s a tricky one if you’re worried about space and sharing a house with a new baby, but it is usually the case that the couple has a well-thought-out plan and would not wish to impose. In any case, you would still have time to discuss housing and other related topics once the pregnancy has been announced on their terms.
Electronics / Family Night
Modern day has seen an increase it the use of technology. If a member of your family has an important conference call, their needs come above your children’s desire to Facebook or Instagram. Equally, you should ask before downloading or uploading certain items that may cause the internet to cut-out for others.
During the time living with your parents, it is important that you acknowledge their existence and maintain a good relationship with them. Electronic games can be very tempting for children and adults. Choosing one night of the week for to play a good old fashioned board game, chat, go for a walk or partake in other such activities is healthy and advisable.
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Conflict is inevitable when sharing your space with someone – so goes the adage ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. To reduce the likelihood of arguing with one another, it is important that you do the following…
Handle the situation with diplomacy: Gentle reminders can be effective. If however they fail, attempt to discuss the situation calmly.
Keep wording clean: Even if someone starts to curse and swear; you do not need to sink to their level. Remain the composed, reasonable adult in the situation and set an example children could follow.
Talking pillows / Writing things down: Some families find turn taking difficult without a physical signal. Writing things down also means that time needs to be taken to consider why they are so upset about a situation. It also condenses the amount that can be said, so reduces the likelihood of below the belt comments.
To mediate or not to mediate: Dragging in bystanders can make for very awkward and unfair situations. If you cannot resolve your dispute, attempt to discuss it with an impartial figure such as a church minister or someone who is not going to be dragged into the situation and who will offer fair, experienced advice.
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Sometimes, a house is simply not big enough to home ever-expanding families. University fees, salary cuts and the rocketing cost of living has seen couples have little in the way of options other than to live at home with their parents. Generations are often opting to combine their finances and are selling houses that were previously their family homes in favour of bigger properties in a closer proximity to local schools and their catchment areas. Young couples are also looking to open accounts such as the new Help to Buy ISA, which rewards first-time buyers for saving and may enable them to buy their own property.
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