December 13, 2010
Home Instead Senior Care worked with Matthew Kaplan Ph.D., Penn State Intergenerational Programs extension specialist, to develop these tips for the multigenerational family.
- Take a family partnership perspective. Everyone needs to be informed and to give input into the arrangements.
- Set expectations right away. People understand it's not just what they get out of it, but how they fit into the family.
- Ask for help. Engage your children in responsibilities around the home and make it clear to adult siblings that you expect them to be involved. If extended family members will not help with respite care, arrange for a professional caregiver service.
- Make family unity key. Routines, rituals and traditions help draw the family unit together. Plan a family movie or game night or take a walk together.
- Find threads of common interest and build on those to develop deeper relationships. Focus on activities that provide simple ways to generate a common bond, such as ethnic cooking, family history, health or wellness.
- Keep lines of communication open. Recognize the importance of "my time" and "our time." Try to take everyone's needs into account. Visit www.4070talk.com for more information about bridging the communication gap between seniors and their boomer children.
- Distinguish between private space and shared space. Shared space should be stocked with material inviting for all ages and items that could stimulate discussion, such as a child's project or "brag book" of photos. Make clear rules regarding the private spaces set aside for each member of the household.
"The main challenge of a multigenerational family is navigating individual needs and family needs," Kaplan noted.
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