A Dutch proverb advises, “A happy new home is one where you can’t see the smoke from your parents’ chimney.”
When families today choose to live close to each other, establishing guidelines before a move can improve the chances that the arrangement will be a happy one for all.
“As this comes together, I recommend a meeting with everyone, to talk about how they’re going to be respectful, how they’re going to share,” said Susan Newman, author of “Under One Roof Again: All Grown Up and (Re)Learning to Live Together Happily.”
It doesn’t matter what rules a family sets, Newman stresses, only that they’re agreed to in advance so patterns can be established that suit all the parties.
Communal meals are often a plus for families that live close; spelling out how shopping and cooking chores will be handled and food costs shared can prevent conflict from erupting. It’s also critical to clarify how families will visit each other, including whether spontaneous drop-ins will be welcome, Newman added.
Grandchildren are often the driving force when parents and grandparents decide to establish nearby residences. But differing expectations about behavior and discipline can emerge as a source of conflict.
Living nearby can raise long-standing issues in families, Newman warned.
“You want to be careful not to go back into your parent-child roles. Let go of old hurts,” she said. “Stay away from sensitive topics; all families have them. Learn when to press and when to let go — it will help keep the relationship smooth.”