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We Are Family: Navigating Living with Extended Family pt.2

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Co-habitating with extended family rarely goes as expected. But there are some steps you can take to help it go as smoothly as possible and preserve your sanity when you open your home.

Here are five points my sister and I discussed before her family of four stayed with my family of four in our home for two weeks. I also asked friends who have had family stay with them what they recommend.

1. Set a reasonable start date and end date for the arrangement. It’s never a good idea to allow someone to move in with you and not have an idea of how long they will be sharing the roof over your head. There are few things worse than having a slug on your sofa for an indeterminate amount of time. If a particular date can’t be settled on for the end of your hospitality, then make sure goals are clearly identified at the forefront. Also make sure your guests have a plan for how any goals will be reached. Does your family member need to get back on their feet? Or are they just in limbo and waiting for a new job to start or a new home to be ready? Being able to label the nature of the help you are giving will make the arrangement go better. Check in regularly to make sure the milestones are being achieved, and readjust as needed.

2. Outline expectations of what house guests will be responsible for. Are they going to be paying rent? Will they contribute to the household by doing chores or buying groceries? Set this up ahead of time, so everyone is in the know and no one is left wondering if they are taking advantage or being taken advantage of. If needed, write it up in a personal contract type of format so it is in black and white. Nothing can ruin a relationship faster than having misunderstandings and misgivings.

3. Designate a sleep space for your house guest(s), and a bathroom they should use. Also make sure they have clean towels and linens to use. If you don’t have a guest room, let Uncle Ted sleep on the sofa bed, or in your son’s room. Show them how to, and allow them use of your appliances so they can do their laundry or make coffee in the morning. Make sure adults have semi-privacy for when they are sleeping.

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