Baby Boomers are joining the ranks of the Sandwich Generation in droves, with multi-generational households on the rise. As the children of Boomers struggle with a financial trifecta of the still sagging economy, high student loan debt and underemployment, many Millennials are returning to the nest as Boomerang Kids. At the same time, Boomers’ aging parents are feeling a financial pinch as their retirement incomes dwindle, causing some to make changes in their housing. Boomers who had dreamed about enjoying an empty nest may instead find themselves hosting their parents and children at the same time.
With economic challenges facing all three generations, the hassles and tensions of living together can create stresses that put everyone over the top. But there can also be a positive aspect to sharing a home when plans are discussed ahead of time and boundaries are honored. The three generations can support each other by allocating household responsibilities as well as financial expenses. And many young adults are willingly pitching in to help care for their grandparents – today nearly one-fourth of all caregivers are Millennials.
Here are some steps to take before creating your family sandwich:
Schedule regular family meetings. Begin to set guidelines and hash out details before your parents or children move back home. Each person can weigh in on his or her wants and needs. Then begin to set up areas where compromises can be made.
Respect your children and parents. Look at the situation from the perspective of other family members as you work to understand their positions. Use the techniques of active listening and sending I-messages even if you don’t agree with their reasoning.
Delineate everyone’s responsibilities, chores and financial input. Clarify and gain consensus about making the tasks equitable so that no one feels exploited. Put any absolute deal breakers out on the table so they can be discussed in detail.
Set boundaries to secure privacy. Living in a shared space can be tricky so you’ll need to be creative about how to maintain some private time and space. You may find that, in the close environment, old issues around power or dependency can resurface,
Be flexible. Have a Plan B ready for when disagreements surface about the blueprint you’ve created. New conflicts may arise over unsolicited advice, perceptions of an imbalance of power or how to handle delicate issues.
Focus on gratitude. Enjoy the unique opportunity you have to see your parents and children in a different light. By bonding in a cooperative arrangement, you can resolve past misunderstandings, create new memories, and support each other.
Learn more about the challenges and rewards of multi-generational living at the KNX Sandwich Generation Forum in the Los Angeles area. And look for us there at the panel on Boomerang Kids, where we’ll be participating.