Generations Living Together: Communicating, Coexisting, & Creating a Healthy Routine
Intergenerational living is an important aspect of many families’ lives. Just as generations are full of complex detail and homes each have their own dynamic, bringing the two together under one roof can be a beautifully complicated thing. Keep reading to learn more about what you can do to set healthy boundaries in and around your family home.
Listen and Communicate
It can be easy for voices to get lost in the mix with a wide range of ages and cultures living in one place. Perhaps one family member has a different primary language than another, or certain generations hold more influence in how things get done. This leaves a door open for important information, plans, emotions, and health events to get lost in the shuffle. The two most important aspects of encouraging healthy communication are recognizing that everyone has a voice and dynamic role in the family and listening to one another.
The old cliche, “too many cooks in the kitchen” may never be truer. The connotation of your relationships will depend on open communication, an effort to break boundaries that silence traditionally taboo topics, and working to recognize where your voice doesn’t belong just as much as understanding where it does. For some families, this might look like setting boundaries between grandparents and parents when it comes to who’s raising the child (setting expectations, teaching respect, determining discipline) and discussing who’s meant to simply nurture loving, extended relationships.
For others, it may look like holding a family meeting and giving each child an opportunity to share how their day went or planning intentional one-on-one time with kids to explore their personal relationships and hobbies. All of this will go a long way in developing how communication works in your home and can set a positive precedent of understanding for the times when life can become challenging.
Move Beyond Coexisting
Balancing privacy with relationship building is important in any bustling household, and it can be easy to fall into the lull of a routine without spending real quality time together. To move beyond coexisting is to set aside moments for your family to just have fun. Horizon Goodwill’s Whole Family Center is specifically designed to bring generations together in a healthy, neutral environment. And, with our Adolescent Clubhouse available for ages 11 – 16, your teens and tweens will have a supportive space for navigating relationships, mental health, and schoolwork.
Spending this time together can be pivotal for your relationships and gives everyone something to look forward to amidst the craziness of life and routines. It can also be a great way to fill the gap between your eldest and youngest family members. There might always be natural disparities in culture and tradition, but fostering a loving connection, first can go a long way in bridging those differences and will encourage mutual understanding, growth, and appreciation.
What’s more, intentional time together doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. It can mean a library visit for new stories to read together, extended bedtimes for card games, or fun outside in the fresh air. There are options for every lifestyle and plenty of new things for your family to try!
Create a Healthy Routine
Perhaps the strongest sentiment shared across generations is that we want the one after ours to be healthier, stronger, and more capable. People raise their children with the goal of being better, but that’s an easy blanket term to use when “better” can mean something different for everyone. Some people want to raise children who are physically healthier than they were raised. Others aim to beat cycles of addiction or focus on the financial provision. And others still may be determined to give their children a sense of community that they lacked. Whatever that looks like for your family, you’re not alone. In fact, you have generations of wisdom at your disposal.
Routines are vital for intergenerational living because they provide the structure that children grow from and practical organization that adults can maintain. In other words, routines are a big contributor to fulfilling your family’s needs, individually and collectively. These systems can be multi-faceted, too. Whether you’re juggling bathroom times for school, work, and home care or focusing on long-term goals, it’s important to take the time to find what works for your family. Consider dividing your day by one of the three Ts: time, task, and transportation. Time could mean that one adult covers morning routines while another covers the night. Task coverage might designate people to cook dinner while the kids finish their chores. And transportation by car or bus can help navigate multiple drop-offs, afterschool programs, and work schedules.
The best catalyst for a healthy, long-term routine is education. Literacy – reading, financial, emotional – will be pivotal to your goals. Between the normal school year, resources like those that the Whole Family Center provides, and life learning, your family can be an intergenerational success story.
But what does life learning mean? Every family member needs to know the experiences of those generations that came before them, not to reinforce guilt but to understand intentions and bolster a sense of unity. It’s also vital that everyone is involved in major moments for your household. Maybe you’re setting financial goals and determining your family’s ability to afford a home. This is an opportunity – where age-appropriate – to be transparent about the process and what financial stepping stones look like for different people.
For other families, sharing moments could mean actively seeking affordable therapy to bridge any remaining gaps in understanding, communication, or your household’s relationship with your surrounding community. And for others, it could be a simple emphasis on time spent reading with loved ones, peers, and tutors to emphasize learning and comprehension as fun, uplifting activities that will transform the future of your family.