Senior Parenting: A New Look at Communal Living

Dec 2nd, 2010 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

A Facebook message came recently indicating appreciation for our article on “Communal Living.” The author, a dear colleague from career days, had come to realize that with the impending move home of an older daughter, it would, as a matter of fact, introduce “communal living” among adults in their home.

In the face of economic upheaval and high unemployment, such a phenomenon is not unusual. It is not just that the “kids are moving back home,” it is that the culture has seen a seismic shift.

In this environment, perhaps it is more appropriate to characterize a new paradigm.

Treating and accepting our “kids” as adults is a wiser, more functional way to enter into a communal living arrangement. The rules need to be changed, clarified and consistently followed. Parents expecting to have a “child” reclaim his/her old room and move in as if nothing is different is ridiculous. It also potentially introduces an explosive dynamic.  Parents would probably be wise to look at the ‘return of an adult child’s household’ as an experience in communal living, not a ‘kid moving back home to live with Mom and Dad’.

So here are some worthy, perhaps worthwhile, considerations.

  • An early on discussion, before any agreement or invitation has been requested or extended, of the implications of such an idea needs to occur;
  • Within that discussion (who is taking notes here?) should be a frank laying out of expectations;
  • Expectations need to be specific, not vague, agreed to, not casually, but emphatically; this includes child not ‘answering to’ parent and vice versa, schedules, radio/television/CD player noise, and many other obscure but important issues that will need to be addressed;
  • The subjects of employment, household duties and requirements, contributions to expenses, rules of the house, receiving and entertaining guests, vehicle use, respect for routines of each, etc. need to be clarified;
  • Early on, set a specific date for review of the household agreements; know that they can be changed, added to or eliminated as needed and agreed to by all involved; circumstances may dictate how this is handled;
  • If there are children or pets coming along, clarify how each of these will be managed and cared for;
  • If the financial situation is such that an allowance may be called for, decide on the limits and boundaries and repayment of same;
  • Where conflict over old divisions is introduced, find a way for waving a flag and reaching settlement;
  • Use of the land-line telephone (if present) will require rules and limits; cell phone use should probably be limited to whomever is responsible for the phone;
  • When unanticipated expenses arise, have an agreement, just as with the allowance, for managing that;
  • Depending on age of the “child” check out insurance coverage and availability. Limit parental liability in so far as possible.
  • Abide by the “RULE OF “NO SUPRISES.”

There are probably more and other matters which will require your consideration and inclusion. Just don’t assume that a hug and a warm greeting will cover all the things that may come up. Include hugging and affirmations of affection. But stay with the rule of  “no surprises.”

Thanks to Beth Kozan for the inspiration to write this blog!



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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dirk Wolbers and AlzDallas, Sharon Shaw Elrod. Sharon Shaw Elrod said: Senior Parenting: A New Look at Communal Living: A Facebook message came recently indicating appreciation for ou… http://bit.ly/gnimBD [...]

  2. Senior Parenting: A New Look at Communal Living | Senior Citizen ……

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

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