The Pew Research Center released a report Monday from its Social and Demographic Trends project that confirms what many of us have seen and been living through: We Americans are moving in with extended families at a staggering rate.
“Without public debate or fanfare, large numbers of Americans enacted their own anti-poverty program in the depths of the Great Recession: They moved in with relatives. This helped fuel the largest increase in the number of Americans living in multi-generational households in modern history,” say Rakesh Kochhar and D’Vera Cohn, authors of the report.
The explosion is fueled most by the return migration of young adults age 25-34. More than one-in-five lived in multi-generational households in 2009. The Pew report focuses on how the trend has helped these adults and their parents get through this relentless financial gloom. The flip side is that the solution is causing its own relentless test of family bonds.
Among those 25-34 years old are two distinct populations: There’s younger, frustrated unemployed or underemployed children moving back home with parents who often have their own financial troubles. And, there’s parents of young children — stressed, over-extended and sleep-deprived parents who may have confused children and resistant spouses in tow. The Waltons, it’s not.
I wrote about this phenomenon this summer when the census first revealed the breadth of the migration. In that post Fairfax therapist Meredith Gelman offered tips on how family units can navigate the dicey situation. Her advice in a nutshell: Communicate as much as possible and find ways to re-group.
The post also drew a number of comments from adults who had endured the situation and offered their own advice. A few suggested speak honestly, sometimes brutally, with family members about expectations and contributions. My favorite, and the one that could apply to anyone living with another person, let alone 4.3 people (which is the average size of the multi-generational family Pew studied) is to seek private space.
From the commenter: “One way to get some privacy and ‘regroup’ time on a daily … basis is to declare early bedtime. This is a tactful way to withdraw from a noisy, busy living room. Most people respect a closed bedroom door after 8p.m. or so. … Even if the whole family is sharing just a [bedroom], it might make sense to gather in this way for homework and hang time. The ‘host’ family will appreciate the lull in the action as well...
Get up and out in the a.m. to feel productive and a ‘part of the world.’ Join a job search group, exercise with people (not just solo runs) and use evening private time to enforce some family autonomy. These tips worked for me, I stayed fit and got extra rest as a benefit. It helped, it really helped.”
Have you or are you living with parents or adult children out of necessity? What issues have emerged? What are your coping mechanisms?