October 14 – Our Families: Multi-generation Homes

The Decline of the Empty Nest

Vital Sign Religious Freedom

A Psychology Today article from February 2019 said more adult children are coming back home to live with their parents, and it is becoming common. The article pre-dates the onset of the COVID pandemic. According to an analysis of census data conducted by the Pew Research Center, “living with a parent is the most common young adult living arrangement for the first time on record.”

Another 2019 study conducted by CNBC reported that student loan debt, rising housing costs, low wages, and the skyrocketing cost of living were all reasons commonly given for why young Americans are becoming known as “boomerangers.”

A study by Forbes in 2022 showed that nearly a third (32 percent) of young adults moved back home with their parents during the pandemic—and most still live there. Fifty-one percent of those who returned home said it was out of necessity. They found that 86 percent of parents would let their adult children move back in, or have previously done so, and most (73 percent) would not charge them rent. However, more than half of parents say their kids have a job, help pay for groceries and other household bills, and assist with chores like cooking and cleaning.

When young adults “boomerang,” there is an opportunity to strengthen family bonds, but there is a similar chance of conflict between generationally-different adults. Focus on the Family states that a family meeting—often more than one—is needed to discuss mutual expectations and establish house rules. They recommend beginning by setting boundaries. Things like overnight guests, language, drugs or alcohol, and sleeping and bathing habits are often sources of conflict. Disappointment and disagreements occur when expectations are not met, and both sides need to be clear about what those expectations are.

Focus of the Family also says that parents should trust their adult children to make wise choices. Parents should also resist the impulse to give advice unless asked.  Keeping the lines of communication open is key, and everyone on both sides needs to understand and practice grace.

There is another group of young adults living with parents, and they are being referred to as the “sandwich” generation. In this case, it is elderly parents who move in with their adult children, now being called upon to care for aging parents as well as their own families. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, in 2016, prior to the pandemic, 5.3 million adults aged 65 and older lived in another person’s household with 3.4 million living with their adult children. The number increased during the pandemic. The financial strain of an insufficient fixed income is one reason aging parents move in with their adult children.

For this group, family conversations are also necessary and include some of the same issues: physical space, rules of the house, finances, division of labor, privacy, and timing—and how long the situation will last. Mutual respect, communication, empathy, forgiveness, and grace are essential to maintaining a healthy environment for everyone.

In each situation, if conflict arises, seeking professional counseling early is recommended. For young adults who are just “failing to launch,” special help, such as a life coach, could help to motivate them to set a direction.

An article from Senior Safety Advice suggests that it may not be as easy to get elderly parents to “move along.” Among their suggestions are listening to understand, not forcing things, treating them like adults, giving them some control, involving them in research for change, and giving them time to process the idea.

The role of a parent never stops, it only changes with time. Deuteronomy 4:9 says, “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” Again, in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, read this, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them  when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

Likewise, there is no age limit to the Biblical command to honor one’s parents. As the apostle Paul writes, quoting from Exodus, “Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (Ephesians 6:2-3).

How then should we pray? 

  • For individuals and families around the country who are dealing with the challenges of inflation, rising interest rates, and housing issues.
  • For administration officials and judges as the legalities of the federal student loan forgiveness plan are weighed.
  • For U.S. officials who will determine the Social Security cost of living increase.
  • For families with mixed adult generations living together to show mutual respect, love, and compassion for one another.
  • For parents to be wise testimonies to the ways of the Lord in their lives before their children and grandchildren.
  • For elderly family members who are relying on their adult children in varied capacities to be considerate and show gratitude.

See previous Pray 7 daily featured readings.

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