Housing family members for extended period can create tension
Dear Dr. LeCrone:
I live in a small town with very few employment opportunities because of a recent plant closure. Many of my family members worked at the plant and soon won’t have a roof over their heads.
My home has more space than I need, and several family members have asked to move in with me. Please give me your thoughts on this matter.
-A Reader in Michigan
The prolonged economic recession has given rise to many changes in our culture. Dealing with these changes can present real challenges for individuals and families.
One of these changes is that more than one family may be living under the same roof. Many stresses can occur in these situations of communal living arrangements. The homeowner or primary occupant may need help in making this unplanned group experience successful, or at least tolerable.
• As in most relationship issues, developing a healthy dialogue between participants is essential.
Don’t hesitate to discuss your feelings, including those that you may feel awkward about expressing. Clarify your expectations for invited guests very plainly, and consider putting these requirements into writing.
• It is useful to discuss the boundaries of situations such as this. How long do your guests expect to stay? Is this only a temporary stop-gap measure until they can find a more permanent alternative, or are they expecting this to be a long-term living arrangement?
If you feel they are vague and unrealistic about their plans, clarify things immediately to avoid future misunderstandings.
• Establish ground rules you can be comfortable with. Coming and going at odd hours, smoking, leaving dirty dishes in the sink, telephone calls late at night, loud noise and entertaining guests when inconvenient for you are examples of things that need to be understood from the beginning.
• Sharing expenses is a wise arrangement, if at all possible. A guest with a part-time job, who may not be able to afford his own place to live, can pay the host for his share of the overhead. Without some sort of contribution, lodgers may become unwanted squatters.
• Set up a meeting every week or two to discuss how you view the arrangement, and make adjustments accordingly.
Again, don’t be timid about expressing your feelings. Keeping communication open and having a dialogue between you and your family guests can forestall many of the problems you may face.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright © 2010