As a new grandparent, moving in with an adult son or daughter to help raise a new baby can be an enriching experience for you and your extended family, if you can make sure your presence doesn’t place stress on their household.
While it’s easy to get through a weekend as a guest in someone else’s home, living there full-time is much more difficult, says Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, a psychologist based in the Chicago area. Disagreements that can be ignored during a short visit likely will need to be addressed.
Before you decide to make such a move, it’s important to be sure that you and your adult child discuss what your role in the household will be. Make sure you know what the expectations are.
Working as a Team
When parents and grandparents are able to work together to raise children, the result can be an enriching experience for everyone involved, says Dr. John DeGarmo, an educator and the founder of The Foster Care Institute in Atlanta. Grandparents often bring a wealth of experience and wisdom to child-rearing. Because they’ve already raised children of their own, they can provide important advice and support for new parents.
If both of the new parents work outside of the home, having a family member present to help raise a baby makes it more likely that the child will receive adequate attention and care, says DeGarmo. This is especially important if your child is a working single parent. Having someone they know and trust to help care for their child can relieve some of the pressure that a working parent often feels.
Prepare to be the best team member you can be by understanding the latest birth and baby-related norms and tips.
Forming Strong Bonds
Another benefit from a multigenerational living arrangement is that the grandchildren and their grandparents often are able to form strong and lasting bonds, says Lombardo. “A lot of good things can occur,” she says. “You become closer as a family when you spend more time together. If children see their grandparents only once a year, it’s hard to have a close relationship.”
Also, parents who receive advice from their own parents are likely to make better parenting decisions, says Marcia Ryan, a counselor and parenting coach in Quincy, Illinois. “It really does take a village to raise a child,” she says. “You can bounce ideas off each other. If a situation comes up that the parents don’t know how to deal with, they have the support of the grandparents.”
Having more frequent exposure to their grandparents helps children gain a better understanding of the world and how much it has changed since their grandparents were young, says Ryan. One of the important roles a grandparent plays is to enrich their grandchildren’s lives is by sharing stories about their own past.
Children learn from their grandparents that there was a time when there were no computers or smartphones. They also may gain a better appreciation for activities that don’t involve being connected to the internet, such as reading books and spending time outdoors.
Merging family lives is never easy, Ryan says. If you’re accustomed to running your own home, becoming part of someone else’s household may be a challenge. To successfully bond with your adult child—and his or her spouse or partner, if they have one—there will need to be compromise on both sides when disputes arise. For example, if there’s only one television, you may need to negotiate when you get to watch your favorite programs. Give and take is important when living in a multigenerational situation.
“You’ll need to negotiate,” says Ryan. “It can’t be your way all of the time.”
Be sure to have an open dialogue about household duties. As Ryan asks, “Who will do the cooking? Who will do the cleaning and laundry?” And you don’t want to end up feeling that you’re left in charge of the grandchildren more than was originally agreed upon.
One of your jobs as a live-in grandparent is to avoid taking sides when your grandchild’s parents have disputes. “Make sure you are supportive and not judgmental,” Ryan says.
If you frequently side with your adult child, their spouse or partner may come to see you as disruptive to the marriage. Recognize that you are a guest in their home. Your role is to help the parent raise your grandchild, not to intervene in their personal lives. “If there is a lot of arguing, it can lead to more stress in everyone’s lives,” Lombardo says.
To make sure your situation remains positive, Lombardo suggests holding weekly family meetings to discuss how things are going and to work out differences calmly.
Determining Financial Responsibilities
A growing number of grandparents are living with their adult children. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2014 a record 60.6 million people, or nearly 20% of the population in America, lived with multiple generations.
Before you move in with your adult child’s family, it’s important to have a discussion about financial responsibilities, says DeGarmo. You will need to work out how much you are going to contribute for such things as groceries, mortgage payments, and utilities.
Sharing expenses “certainly can be a huge source of stress,” says Lombardo. “Figuring things out before you move in is going to be key.” Talking about finances may be uncomfortable, but it can help you avoid misunderstandings later on. For example, you may feel that the time you spend taking care of your grandchild compensates your adult child for any added expenses you create for the household. If your child, or your child’s spouse or partner, doesn’t feel the same way, there could be problems.
Following the Parents’ Rules
In order to have a successful partnership between grandparents and parents, it’s important to establish some ground rules, Lombardo says. “When there are two parenting styles, there can be conflicts,” she says. “Before this happens, there are rules that people [need to] agree to.”
Typically, if there is a disagreement over how the child should be raised, it is the parent who has the final say, Lombardo says. If there is some aspect of their parenting that grandparents don’t agree with, “they should bring it up to the parents in a respectful way, as opposed to going behind their backs and doing what they want with the child.” If you can’t persuade your child and their spouse or partner to follow your advice, you should graciously accept their decision, she says.
Sometimes grandparents have trouble saying “no,” but children need to have consistent rules to live by, says Ryan. It’s a mistake for grandparents to have a separate set of rules that children follow only when their parents aren’t home. This confuses the children and causes conflict between the grandparents and the parents.
Deciding When It’s Time to Go
In order to avoid any misunderstandings, be sure to talk about how long you would intend to live with your child’s family. Perhaps you want to stay only until the grandchild is out of diapers. In some cases, a grandparent may want to live with their adult child’s family permanently. To avoid hurt feelings, this should be worked out before you move in, Ryan says.
Because you can’t know how well you will get along with your child — and his or her spouse or partner, if they have one — until you actually move in, you may want to begin with a trial period of several weeks, Lombardo suggests.
If things don’t work out during your trial stay, you will able to leave amicably on your planned departure date and keep your relationships intact, Lombardo says. “Have the understanding between all parties that, if this doesn’t work out, feelings are not going to be hurt.”
Providing Unconditional Love
To grow up to be happy and well adjusted, children need to spend plenty of time with loving and nurturing adults. This is a role that is tailor-made for grandparents, who often have more time than parents to spend with children. If you can adjust to living with an adult child and their spouse or partner, you will have the opportunity to play a very important role in the life of your grandchild, says DeGarmo.
“The more family members who provide unconditional love, the better off the child will be,” he says. “A lot of good things can occur.”
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