As much as you love your family, the idea of living together under the same roof may seem daunting. How will you all survive sharing the two bathrooms in the home, will you eat together and who will clean the kitchen? All of these questions and more may be running through your head. However, with strong communication and set expectations, you will find that instead of the experience being one to fear, it can be one that brings you closer to your family than you ever thought possible.
Before Living Together
Have the tough discussions and establish ground rules before you live with one another. Sit down together and make a list of daily household chores and routines and discuss expectations surrounding each of them. For example, if your parents move in with you, will you cook for them every single night, or only once a week? Also, discuss finances. Money can be a significant source of contention among families, so avoid conflict down the road and talk about division of rent or mortgage and bills associated with living together beforehand.
Utilize strong communication skills whenever you talk with your housemates in both formal family meetings and informal interactions throughout the day. Psychologist Clifford Lazarus writes to be direct, say what you mean and avoid "dancing around the subject," in his article published in Psychology Today. If you aren't happy with your father leaving his dirty underwear lying around, tell him. It's unfair to expect him to know that his behavior bothers you if you don't tell him in a direct and respectful manner.
Set a time at least once a week, even if for a few minutes over tea or coffee, where you all sit down and have a family meeting. Include the youngest members of your household because it's important that they see your family communicate and also have a forum where their voices are heard. Discuss what is going well with living together and what could be better. Family meetings allow everyone to express feelings in a safe environment and ensure things won't fester. Doing so reduces the chances an issue will boil up until it becomes an explosive argument. In addition, use a family meeting to establish a procedure for when conflicts arise. Ideally, this plan should include a way to immediately diffuse the situation and then re-discuss the problem in a controlled family meeting.
Build strong relationships with your family to reduce the chances of conflicts while living with each other. Plan activities to do with one another both in and outside of the home. Try doing something novel together because that can bring individuals closer as you build new memories together. Therefore, book a hot air balloon ride for all family members living in your household. If an elderly parent is housebound, select an activity like playing board games that can be done all together in your home. This still allows you to further bond with your family member without the need to leave the house.
Taking Time for You
Schedule activities throughout the week that are just for your benefit. It's not only okay to do things alone, but healthy as well. Sometimes a quick trip to the store is all you need to recoup before going back to a house full of family. The Mayo Clinic states that a massage does wonders for improving your physical and mental health, so schedule an appointment to try that hot stone massage you have always wanted to experience. No matter the activity, if your overall stress level is reduced, you are less likely to let the "little things" bother you and this puts you in a better frame of mind to live with your loved ones in harmony.
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