The kids are running around like crazy. The baby is screaming, and you’re about ready to pull your hair out. And on top of everything, you’re making room for one more: your parent or in-law.
Three generations under one roof can be a lot, but it’s not uncommon. More than 60 million Americans live in multigenerational homes — households with two or more generations of adults over age 25. About 28 million Americans live in homes with three or more generations — for example, grandparents, adult children, and grandchildren.
With so many people and several generations living in your household, your stress could easily hit the ceiling.
Here’s the thing: high stress levels can take a major toll on your health. This can be made even worse if you’re so focused on caring for those around you that you forget yourself.
Not sure how to stay sane in all of this? Follow these tips to hold on to your sanity when you have three generations under one roof:
Make Your Expectations Known — and Be Firm About Them
It’s your home, and you’re used to running it in a certain way. While you may need to make a few adjustments or accommodations when your parent moves in, you don’t need to throw your household rules out the window, either.
Even if it seems obvious to you, your parent might not know what your expectations are, or totally understand them. Be clear upfront. Have a sit down with the family to discuss what you expect. If you keep the kitchen spotless all day, every day, but Mom leaves dirty dishes in the sink, tell her that you expect her to wash her dishes as soon as she’s done with them. If she doesn’t listen, tell her again. It might seem a little strange to be so firm with someone who raised you.
But if you don’t, you’re going to end up stewing about it. That could lead to an argument or underlying tension that goes unaddressed — and neither of these is good for your sanity.
That Being Said …
You need to make reasonable expectations. For example, if your dad is a smoker, telling him that he has to quit smoking tomorrow probably won’t get you very far. Smoking is an addiction, and it’s not something most people can stop in a day.
However, you could say that if he moves in, he needs to start the quitting process and give him a deadline. Remind him that you’ll be there for him the whole way and support him through it. If you really don’t feel like you can get him to stop, you can request that he at least not smoke in the house or near your kids.
You Do You
We’ll keep this one short and simple: Whether it’s doing jigsaw puzzles, taking piano lessons, or filling your online shopping cart, keep on doing the things you love. Crowbar it into your schedule if you have to. These activities can be relaxing, and giving them up could make you grow resentful.
If you’re exhausted from playing Caregiver Extraordinaire, exercise may seem like the last thing on your mind. However, physical activity doesn’t just keep your body in shape — it also improves mental health and lowers stress levels.
You don’t need to go crazy at the gym or train for a marathon. Simply taking brisk walks can give you the health benefits you need, including improved cholesterol, blood pressure, and mood.
While the American Heart Association recommends getting about 30 minutes of physical activity each day, you don’t need to do it all at once. You can get the same benefits from breaking that up into two or three 10- to 15-minute walks.
Get the Family Moving
You might need time by yourself, and walking or exercising gives you the perfect opportunity for getting that alone time. But once in a while, it may be a good idea to grab the rest of the family.
Here’s how it goes:
- You’re taking care of your family
- It’s easier to take care of your family when they’re in good health
- Exercise improves health
- When everyone is healthy, it’s less stress on you
If you really need exercise to be “me time,” at least make sure to encourage everyone to get their daily dose of physical activity.
Get in Touch with Your Spiritual Side
Spirituality is different for every person. It’s about finding what’s important to you, your purpose for the current situation, and developing your personal set of values. Spirituality can come in the form of prayer or religion, but it can also come from nature, journaling, art, or music.
One of the most common ways to find spirituality is meditation. You can practice meditation whenever, however, and wherever you want. It can be a half hour of silent self-reflection every morning, softly repeating a calming word to yourself in the middle of a crowded bus, practicing Tai Chi (a form of Chinese martial arts that focuses on deep breathing) — there isn’t just one correct method.
The Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has been shown to provide relief from stress. The emotional benefits can include:
- Building stress management skills
- Increasing self-awareness
- Increasing tolerance and patience
- Focusing on the present
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Reducing depression and anxiety
Regardless of how you define it, spirituality can improve your mental health by giving you a sense of purpose and helping you remember that the world doesn’t rest on your shoulders. You can’t control everything in life, and that’s okay.
Be Mindful of What Your Parent Is Going Through
For years, your parent was the head of the household. They raised you, taught you, and were the respected authority. When they move in with you, they’re still your parent, and still deserve that respect. But their role is reversed, and that can be difficult for them.
If they’re moving in for financial or health reasons, they may be embarrassed that they can’t be as independent as before. The nagging, complaining, or other drive-you-nuts comments might just be them adjusting to relying on someone who once relied on them.
Take a moment to put yourself in their shoes before you get too frustrated.
Focus on the Good Things
They might drive you insane sometimes, but having your parent around can also be beneficial for the whole family. You have someone else to help around the house or with babysitting, your children get to spend a lot of quality time with their grandparents, and everyone in the house can grow closer as a family.
Also, keep reminding yourself why you did this in the first place. Remember that you had a good reason for taking in Mom or Dad. You are helping them live easier as they get older, and repaying them for taking care of you. You’re doing a good deed. And while they may not say it, your generosity and kindness means the world to them.
Sometimes, it takes more than a few quick walks or a meditation break to get a grasp on your mental health. If you need professional help to manage stress, call the Stormont Vail Behavioral Health Center at (785) 270-4600.