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all living together
Share a House in Italy  all living together
INTERGENERATIONAL RELATIONS
PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS
by Caterina Borghini and Anna Finocchietti - Psychologists-Psychotherapists
FROM FAMILY TO FAMILIES

The great cultural and social transformations which, starting from the post-war period, have characterised western society, have also had a series of repercussions on demographic trends.

A silent revolution has been generated in less than twenty years in the majority of European countries: the generational exchange is no longer guaranteed, the number of marriages has dropped, separations and divorces are on the rise, de facto relationships are now a widespread reality, and births out of wedlock have increased considerably.

The prolongation of life expectancy and the higher number of elderly citizens who often live alone and not always with adequate economic resources also pose new challenges to be faced in this evolving situation.

Indeed, the rapid changes in the concrete facts seem to have happened more rapidly than those occurring in the social and cultural context, with consequent difficulties in finding appropriate responses to the emerging needs.

It therefore appears necessary to find a definition, or rather, a re-definition of the concept of family that includes the entire emotional system of at least three generations and considers the psychological, emotional and relational needs that each generation expresses at specific times in their life cycles requiring social, economic and emotional support.
Events exist that characterise the life cycle of the family and represent "critical factors" that call for a sort of re-adaptation of the usual methods of functioning of the family system, in the absence of which suffering is caused.

The critical events can be predictable and chosen (the birth of children, leaving home of offspring); predictable and not chosen (death); not predictable and chosen (separation); not predictable and not chosen (traumatic events, unexpected fortune or misfortune).

The critical event causes a transferral, and crisis means separation. There is the transferral from one condition to another that requires new action-reaction modes and implies transitional steps that involve various generations (grandparents, parents, children).

The issues related to transitions are therefore directly connected to the three-generational aspect as well as to social aspects.
The multiG. reality can facilitate these transitions that the various family models have to cope with.
INTERGENERATIONAL COEXISTENCE AS A SUPPORT IN THE FAMILY CHANGE PROCESSES

We shall consider several moments of transition or forms of the family system in order to better understand which essential requirements they express and which resources can be implemented to reduce critical issues that generate suffering within the entire family system.


The birth of children

The birth of a child is a "critical event" par excellence, the new arrival sees the entering onto the scene of a new generation and turns the couple into a "triad". They pass from being just "husband and wife" to also being "parents"; consequently a redefinition of the family relations is necessary with a new distribution of roles.

From a psychological point of view, the couple must adjust their own relationship to include parenting aspects such as care, growth, and education of the child. However, the relationship with the previous generation and with the families of origin of the new parents also changes. The young couple is no longer just a "daughter or son" with respect to the family of origin, instead they jump up a generation so to speak: the caring for the new baby entering into the family becomes an element of intergenerational dialogue.

Issues relating to the social context may make this stage, which is so vital in the life cycle, very problematic for the new parents.
Just think of the precariousness of jobs, the difficulty women have in accessing paid maternity leave, the need to start work again as soon as possible, and the difficulty of accessing nursery schools and their high costs.
In particulate, the woman finds she has to manage her job, take care of her child, respect deadlines, do the housekeeping, and at times, if this is not adequately shared with her husband, it can create a distance between the couple.

The new parents therefore find themselves more frequently having to ask for help from their families of origin, and this necessarily involves a three-generational dimension which, provided the family of origin, meaning the grandparents, are available and not too far away, often implies unexpected problematic issues.

Children are frequently shifted out of their environment at times depending not so much as on their own needs as on the family organisational needs (one day with the maternal grandparents, another with the paternal ones, another with a babysitter or a neighbour), with the result that the rhythms and organisation end up by prevailing over the times and emotional care children need for their development. Otherwise, it may be the grandparents who are subjected to the disruption of continual "shifts" and moving about.

multiG. is able to support this delicate transition via the coexistence of multiple generations, protecting everyone's privacy and autonomy, while facilitating the family reorganisation around the critical event.

The new parents will have more relaxation time to devote to themselves as a couple and to confront each other in their respective roles as mother and father. As we are observing more and more, the assistance of the grandparents who are elderly but still efficient can release energy and resources for improving the quality and quantity of the time the family spend together.

As they get older, the "grandparents" find themselves in the same condition of requiring more care from their children and the form of coexistence such as the one proposed by multiG. undoubtedly facilitates reciprocal support between generations.

The elderly family

During the so-called ‘third age’ of life the critical events mainly entail retirement, the "empty nest" syndrome when the children move away, becoming grandparents, the onset of bodily changes, falling ill, and coming to terms with the death of spouse.
In this stage of life many obligations are still demanded of the elderly: it is essential for them to renew their commitment as a couple, especially after the children have left home and they spend more time together after having concluded their working life; it may be necessary to cope with illness, reduced self-sufficiency, deal with grief after the loss of a spouse, and cultivate memories. In their relationship with their children they are forced to take sort of step backwards, since their children no longer depend on them as they themselves are now parents and this role must be recognised; it is important for the first-generation parents to open their hearts to include daughters and sons-in-law, allowing space in an active manner for the next generation, and offering wisdom and availability in trying to mitigate any generational conflicts.

At a social level, the family should try to achieve cooperative interchanges with the care system, that is, the generation in the middle takes care of the older generation, while the grandparents make themselves available to look after the grandchildren. This is not always possible or easy to achieve for a multitude of reasons, not least that of the logistics involved when the elderly couple or single grandparent live alone. The crisis of the third age is always transformative, however the change may give rise to either growth or physical, emotional and relational decline.
The loneliness of the elderly is a factor of increasing concern since, as reported by several researchers, it can have a devastating impact on the psycho-physical wellbeing of people and involve high human and social costs. However, the rise in the average age of the population, the creation of "extended families", and increasing economic difficulties seem to make it extremely difficult to find a positive answer to this condition.
A logistical situation of greater closeness or actual coexistence in the forms provided by multiG. could represent a valid answer.


Living with grandparents

Compared to the past, today's generation of grandparents of the same age and if in good health, appear to be less elderly. In fact, grandparents now usually lead a dynamic life, taking more care of their appearance, and they have greater cultural opportunities and try to keep up with technology and the use of mobile phones and internet. An increased closeness with their grandchildren obviously encourages this, as it stimulates their curiosity and interest, keeps them up to date, and allows them to cultivate various emotional ties. This results in a better perception of themselves and the social image of the elderly.

Very important in old age is the role of ‘memory' and the ability to talk about oneself, an integrative function that makes it possible to accept one's age with all its problems, but also with all its resources.
Elderly people need to be able to recall in order to reinterpret their own history, heal wounds, and reread in a positive key that which at the time it happened seemed to be a negative experience, in this way looking towards their future with greater peace of mind. Being able to remember and recount, and feeling themselves listened to by the younger generations will make the elderly feel they still have something interesting to tell and this helps them live their own age with greater awareness.
If encounters between grandparents and grandchildren are not just reduced to quick visits or a weekly meal, but instead allow for taking advantage of the availability of spaces and times that are less structured and more frequent as happens with coexistence, or in any case with a logistically close situation, then the rhythms and ways of mutual listening become possible and offer reciprocal benefits.
Indeed, whereas the elderly are “rejuvenated” through contact with young people, this also has many positive aspects for the latter.
La generazione dei nipoti può infatti disporre di un maggior numero di modelli di riferimento.
In fact, in this way the grandchildren will have a greater number of role models. Young children can find in grandparents adults who are always present and available, probably more so than when they were parents. For the grandparents, the relationship with the grandchildren can also represent a sort of "second chance" at a moment in their lives when they have more time for reflection and awareness.
For adolescents, when relations with parents become turbulent, grandparents can act as an emotional anchor as they are less involved in their rebellion and more understanding, which helps them discover and re-evaluate their educational role within the family.
The link between generations is therefore strengthened, a link consisting of deep emotions, closeness and complicity that form the matrix of all relationships that develop throughout life.


Young adults in the family

A phenomenon that has become evident over recent years is that of an increasingly longer permanence of young people in the family of origin.
The difficulties of finding a stable job, the precariousness of work when it can be accessed, and the high costs of living independently mean that young people are often forced to continue living at home with their family of origin even well beyond the age of 30.
Past generations had usually found a job, formed a family and had children by this age; in psychological terms this marked a passage, a significant transition, as we already mentioned above, with respect to the life cycle and needs this expresses at every stage. The fact of young adults leaving home later on can have a negative impact on the family relations.
The housing solutions proposed by multiG. could help overcome these issues by making it easier to leave the family of origin, thus endowing young adults with greater autonomy. These in turn could offer their presence in the housing complex as a resource for the elderly and families with small children.
In the first case in fact, the young adults could give practical help in carrying out tasks that create difficulties for older people, such as the accessing of online services rather than going out to do the shopping. In exchange, the young adults would have lower housing costs.
In the second case of young families with small children, the young adults could contribute to the practical-organisational management of the children.
In both cases, reciprocal support would be created that facilitates daily life and allows for an intergenerational exchange, which, as we have seen, is of fundamental importance for the emotional and relational development of each generation at significant times of the life cycle.

To conclude, we can therefore state that the forms of coexistence such as those proposed by multiG. would foster relations among the generations, making it possible to choose with whom to live and share daily life while at the same time helping to counteract the feelings of loneliness that are becoming increasingly more widespread.


Bibliography
Oliverio Ferraris A., Arrivano i nonni, Rizzoli, 2005
Scabini E., Psicologia sociale della famiglia, Bollati Boringhieri, 1995
Sapio A., (a cura), Famiglie,reti familiari e cohousing, Franco Angeli,2010

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