What About The Kids?

This post is part of Multi Family Living Mondays, a series of articles on co-housing and multi-family living.

After the
guest post at Money Saving Mom last week, one of the concerns that briefly came up in the comments was the risk of exposing your children to abuse by living with other people. I wanted to respond to that concern, as well as expand the discussion to include other kid-related matters.

To begin with, I’ll just repeat what I’ve said many times: BEFORE making the choice to live with additional people, thoroughly consider the health, safety, and general well-being of your family. Be wise, take precautions, do your homework. Additionally, if there is a history of abuse in your life or family that may affect your relational judgment, please seek appropriate counsel and maintain necessary boundaries!

That said, I don’t think that living closely with others needs to be viewed as inherently dangerous*. Just because you live with someone, though, doesn’t mean that you blindly trust in all areas. Your kids are still your kids – be alert, communicate with them, keep an eye out for signs of struggle. As their parent, you are responsible to know how they are coping with the change in lifestyle, to find ways to help them adjust, and if necessary, remove your family from a situation that is harmful or unhealthy.

Try to be aware of:
-How your child is feeling about the living situation
-How your child interacts with other children and adults – are they aggressive, shut down, thriving, fearful, angry, clingy, happy?
-Your child’s ability to express themselves honestly to you

A lot of this may depend on age and personality, but you are their only advocate, make sure that you hear them and that they know they are heard.

Trying to plan for children’s needs can be tricky. It’s important to consider safety, privacy, and storage, and remember that kids’ needs change a lot more quickly than adults’ needs do, so think ahead. Parents in traditional, single-family living situations have a lot to keep up with just watching their own children change and develop – combining households and adding people compounds this.

Practical things to consider in sharing housing when there are kids involved:
-Does everyone have kids, or just one couple?
-If there is a childless couple, are they ready to adapt to life with kids – bedtimes, toys, messes, safety, etc.?
-How wide is the range of ages or developmental stages?
-Where will they sleep, eat, and play?

Sharing housing with other adults or another family has some great advantages for kids, though, so don’t despair!

A few that come to mind are:
- Extra babysitters (or babysitting exchangers) and role models
- Close friendships with other children, who may become like siblings
- Sharing supplies and streamlining systems for similarly aged children
- Opportunities to develop social and communication skills and deep, special relationships with other adults

*Specifically concerning the possibility of abuse, in some ways, living with others may reduce that likelihood – by having other trusted people around watching, listening, and caring and by having alternatives to leaving your children in the care of people you don’t know or trust as well.

What do you think? Did I forget something? Let me know in the comments!


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