The Issue: Changes and Challenges…Moving in with Grandparents

My adult daughter and her two children are going through a change in their lives and need to move in with us for awhile.  Any tips on helping all of us adjust to this temporary living situation?

Life is full of changes and challenges.  Sometimes, it takes a few steps backwards to move forward.  With today’s economy, relationship issues, aging parents and just the ups and downs of daily life, you never know when you might find yourself moving in with family or having family move in with you.  Even temporarily, this calls for careful planning and a large dose of diplomacy.

Since you posed the question, we’re going to focus on your daughter and her children moving into your home. First, realize that the biggest change for you might be the addition of a lot of personal belongings – toys, books, clothes, bikes – to your household space as well as an increased level of activity.  Both of these can impact the more subdued daily lifestyle you have come to appreciate.

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You’ll most likely feel changes in your routine, household organization and budget.

 

Start by clearing some floor and closet space as well as storage space.  They’ll need room for their personal belongings to be organized.  Dirty clothes hampers, shelves for toys and books and plastic storage containers and even folding tables can help contain their belongings.

Consider these more subtle changes and how you can address them:

  1. Be prepared for increased frequency of dishwasher and washing machine loads.  Use paper plates and cups at least once a day and develop a ‘schedule’ for who launders clothes and when.
  2. Set aside a corner of the family or living room, where children can have easy access to some of their toys and belongings.  That will help them feel less like ‘guests’.  Children will feel the disruption in their lives just like adults.
  3. Their food preferences may vary from yours. Clear some shelves in your fridge and kitchen cabinets or counter space to accommodate their choices.
  4. Children should be given chores to help with the regular household tasks.  Collecting trash or dirty clothes for laundry, setting the table for dinner and carrying in/putting away groceries all can be assigned based on your grands’ ages.
  5. Daily and weekly expenditures will increase with additional food costs, laundry and dishwasher loads, lights and heat or air conditioning.  Depending on how long they will be living with you, it is reasonable to ask for some financial contributions.  If that is not feasible, perhaps your daughter and grandchildren can take over some of the daily chores and give you a break from mowing the lawn, raking leaves, washing floors, vacuuming rugs and even cooking some daily meals.

Everyone needs some peace and quiet. Your daughter and grandchildren will need some space and time to themselves; so will you!  Make your own plans at least weekly with friends or even just running errands, while they enjoy some time alone in your home.  Your daughter probably would appreciate sleeping in late at least occasionally or some time away from her children.  Not having her own house (and, thus, her own space) can be offset by you offering to take the grands for a special outing – bike riding, nature walk, trip to the library or mall or to see a movie.  Or give her a weekly break from parenting to be with her own friends.

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You could call this ‘stuff, noise and routines”.

Anytime two households combine (especially when children are involved), these things can be an issue for the closest of families…be it on vacation or living together. Parents living with children at home often have very different expectations and tolerances than do emptynesters. Kids’ stuff seems to have a way of taking over space and Grand’s stuff may not be kid-friendly or kid-proof. The subject of noise is going to require some discussion and patience on everyone’s part.  In a time of change and transition, maintaining children’s routines can be extra important for the comfort and stress of both parent and child. Grands have their own routines that are now influenced by their new roommates.

Roles and Rules

When combining households you need to consider each other’s rules – the parent’s rules for the children and the Grand’s rules for their house (which may not be the same!!).  Roles and boundaries can be confusing, when an adult child with children moves in with their parents. My best advice would be to ASK how you can help each other:  When does the parent want/need help with the children?  What can the parent and grandchildren do to help Grand?

Space

Everyone is going to need physical and emotional space of their own. This means a place to put things and sleeping and play space, in addition to having time for each nuclear family on their own (the adult child and her children/the Grands.  Finding a balance of time all together; time for each family; and time with others is going to take communication.

And that’s the most critical part: Communicate, communicate, communicate. And then check in to communicate some more! Find a way that works for you…family meetings, notes, texts, coffee breaks.  It’s going to be trial and error, so expect that! But, there are also going to be great opportunities for bonding and making lasting memories, so enjoy that as well.

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Aside from all of the changes and adjustments, don’t overlook the benefits!

You will get to spend time daily with your grands – and your daughter – getting to know them and their interests and actively participate in their lives … unlike when you or they just visit for a few days.  You could gain a bike riding companion; a photography partner or a book lover; a game enthusiast; or an appreciative audience for trying new recipes.  How about establishing a family game night or a make your own pizza night to build camaraderie and ensure fun, group activities?

Take advantage of the ‘company’ you now have in your daily life, enjoying activities like these:

  • Ask them to join you on nature walks.
  • Have them help design/build a birdhouse and together learn to identify the breeds that feed there.
  • Set up a large puzzle on a table and let everyone in the house help figure out which pieces go where.
  • Organize weekly family night meals with everyone making a recipe or trying new ethnic foods.
  • Plan a ‘make your own pizza’ night or regular game nights.
  • Share in getting-ready-for-bed routines, including baths and reading bedtime stories.
  • Get up early and join your grands for breakfast.
  • Develop a ‘Welcome home from school/work’ routine to help everyone de-stress from their day, while transitioning back into life at your home.

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To sum up…

Talk about expectations and needs before the move if possible,

Check in frequently to see how it’s going.

Give each other space; enjoy each other’s company; and have PATIENCE with everyone (including yourself). 

And recognize the benefits that can come from ‘living in the same space’!


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About Remy Agee and Blair Selby

Blair Selby is currently 'a parent in training' by her preschooler. In her former life, she taught preschool; facilitated parenting groups; and sometimes even slept in. Remy Agee, 'Gam ' and 'Grandma', a GRAND featured columnist on school readiness, continues to learn about life and this amazing world from her five grandchildren and about today's parenting from their parents.