Mind Your Manners: When family members become roommates ...

Are you the parent of a child that left home and is now back sharing space? Are you that millennial that made the choice to move back home or in with another relative due to a job relocation or because you temporarily need housing? Regardless of the situation, it is important to set up boundaries before move in day. Don't assume that you will get along or that everything will work itself out. Having family members as housemates takes open communication, compromise and caring courtesy.

A good roommate:

- is open and honest about their living habits.

- understands that their house habits may not gel with others.

- chips in and does their fair share of housekeeping.

- listens when there is conflict or disagreement and seeks first to understand rather than be understood.

- Is assertive, not demanding.

It is important to keep in mind whose house it is and who is getting the helping hand. If it isn't your house, and you aren't being charged to stay there, be grateful for a roof over your head and running water. This is no time to be demanding or picky. If you are paying rent and/or your fair share of utilities, take time to have a weekly check-in to see how each of you are feeling about the arrangement. Don't wait until there's a blow-up over unwashed dishes or wet towels on the bathroom floor!

These are common areas of concern between family member housemates. Recognize and deal with them ahead of time:

- Borrowing a car or money.

- What are considered "private" and "shared" spaces?

- What time will you be coming and going? Consider noise level.

- What if you want an overnight guest? Determine the rules ahead of time, not the night they walk in the door.

- What chores will be split and when? Once a week? Once a month?

Peggy and Anna Post, Emily Posts' descendants, share that there are three "War Zones" in every home that you need to watch out for with housemates:

- The Kitchen: challenges almost always involve a dirty sink and dishes.

- The Bathroom: where does one leave their accessories and hopefully not all over the counter.

- The Living room: TV time and noise level.

Success roommates demonstrate patience, understanding and open communication to maintain a healthy relationship when sharing space.

Diane Massey is director and founder of Berkshire School of Etiquette & Business Protocol. She trained at the American School of Protocol in Atlanta, Ga. Her sought-after seminars empower individuals with the knowledge and skills of modern day etiquette to take action personally and professionally with confidence and courtesy, in a spirit of cooperation and awareness of others, every day in every way. www.berkshireschoolofetiquette.com.


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