the sage connection

Why I love intergenerational families


I love all things intergenerational – hobbies, projects, friends and, of course, family.

One the of main reasons I feel this way is because of what I can learn from these multigenerational contacts.

From my elders I can learn history, patience and sometimes true wisdom. From the very young I can see, again, the magic of the colors of a butterfly’s wings, feel the joy that comes from dancing in the rain and receive hugs that can heal everything that is wrong in my world.

Teens can bring to my attention issues I have been unaware of and the changing times can be explained and clarified by the age groups in-between young and middle aged.

To me, perception is the most interesting part of the different ages. The way we can all look at the same thing, person or action and come away with different impressions; sometimes enlightening, sometimes frustrating, but always with the option to accept, ignore or reject.

Age is definitely a big part of this – teenagers process very differently than their 20- and 30-year-old counterparts and shifts occur again when middle age sets in.

So, what happens when you put several different age groups in the same household?  With or without a pandemic, it makes for interesting times.

If you are a senior member of the household, you may find the beauty of cursive handwriting has been replaced by a few letters typed into a phone or computer, in no particular order, that spell nothing, and yet are understood by all of the other age groups.

You may also learn the art of conversation has been replaced by television reality shows, streaming computer and/or phone programs and headphones that guarantee no one will hear a word that was said.

The younger children may feel they have no say over anything important, such as when bedtime occurs, how much television is allowed, or if homework has to be done before or after they have after dinner.

Teenagers may be dealing with outside issues like bullying, the lack of a boy or girlfriend, gangs that are pushing them to become members or just the fact that no one in the household understands anything…

That leaves the soon-to-be seniors, most often referred to as the “sandwich generation.” Parents of varying ages of children and teenagers that now include aging parents in their households, some with physical or emotional needs.

Adding to their already full plates, both parents may work outside the home. Single parents may have more than one job.

Yet it is vital for all the members of the family to have their own outside friends and interests.

While all of these things matter to the make-up of these intergenerational families, the common denominator in these households is control – or more often the lack thereof.

So how do we make it work? Communication is the key and listening, really listening, is the answer.

Grandparents and parents can discuss problems and issues concerning the children, but parents must have the final word.

If the problems or issues concern the aging parents, their habits, comfort levels, mental and physical abilities must be considered, and outcomes determined by the parents and grandparents together.

The upside of intergenerational families is many of the older members of the household can be a great help – driving the children to their games, dance lessons, and play dates. Lending a sympathetic ear to an unhappy child while supporting decisions made by the parents, helping with shopping, meal preparations and supervision of the children when needed.

It can and does work all over the world. We’ve got this.

Kathleen Anderson writes this column each week.  Contact her at or post your comment below. 


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