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04 June 2010

Three generations under one roof

Granny is all very well for ten days a year at Easter on the farm, but here under your roof? How will you survive?

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As if it isn't bad enough that you have to cope with your own parents, you have just found out that Granny is moving in as well. Granny is all very well for ten days a year at Easter on the farm, but here under your roof? How will you survive?

This is a reality for more and more households worldwide, as inflation bites into peoples' retirement savings. Three-generation households are becoming more and more commonplace.

But how do you deal on a day-to-day basis with Granny and her ideas from just after the Second World War?

Coping strategies
Try and think what she is feeling. She has had to give up her own home and move into someone else's, where the rules and the routine might be very different to what she has been used to for the last forty years. She feels uncertain and possibly insecure and is also trying to find her feet. You are not the only one having to adapt to a new situation.

Talk to your parents. Before she moves in, have a discussion about things like house rules and discipline. You need to know who is in a decision-making role as far as you are concerned. What happens if your mother says you can go to the movies on Thursday night and Granny says no?

Agree on a truce. Accept that generations think differently. You might find Granny's clothing style hilarious – she probably feels the same way about you. Agree on a truce – you will say nothing about her blue hair, if she says nothing about your purple streaks.

Try and be considerate. If your music or friends bother her, come to some agreement about when it is OK for you to listen to your music or entertain your friends. Warn her in advance if you have invited people over, so she has the option to plan ahead if she wants to. Living together under one roof requires compromises – from both sides.

Don't get involved in slinging matches. Be firm, but kind – shouting and screaming will just make you look volatile and undependable. Say what you want to say, but getting worked up will count against you.

Find something you enjoy doing together. Maybe you both like Westerns, or playing cards – make a time every week in which you do something together. It could be enjoyable and form a basis for a pleasant relationship between you.

Remember adults also have problems. Just as stressful as you sometimes find your parents, remember that they also have their own problems with their parents. Old conflicts, uncertainties and issues cast long shadows, and they are going to raise their ugly heads again now that you are all living under one roof. Try and stay out of it.

Have a healthy outlet. Do sport, see friends, do things outside of the home. Don't brood in your room, as you will only make yourself unhappy.

Have a laugh. Grandparents can sometimes be difficult and interfering – humour them, don't be rude, but don't allow them to rule your life. Don't forget the power of a good joke.

Get the chores done together. Each person in a household has to make some sort of contribution in terms of household chores. Do something together with Granny, like washing up on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or washing and ironing. The cameraderie of a joint task might be just what you need to smooth over any speed wobbles in your relationship.

(Health24, updated June 2010)

 
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