AARP Eye Center
A few minutes after Vered DeLeeuw saw her daughter hug a friend, she sobbed.
DeLeeuw, 50, had not been vaccinated and her 20-year-old daughter was living with her. Worried about exposing her family to COVID-19, DeLeeuw's daughter had been extra careful, wearing an N95 mask when she traveled home from college by plane, not hugging or kissing family members during the initial quarantine period, and agreeing to social distancing rules as she began to interact with others outside the house.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.
Then one evening DeLeeuw spotted her daughter hugging a friend goodbye.
Protecting yourself from COVID-19 in a multigenerational home
• Discuss risks and concerns. Older adults may perceive COVID-19 threats differently than young adults. Honest, clear communication is critical.
• Express feelings. If you tell your adult child your fears about COVID-19, they are more likely to understand
• Be clear about your social distancing expectations and what you feel comfortable with. Get buy-in from adult children.
• Don't impose strict rules. Work with adult children to come up with restrictions everyone can live with.
"I was shocked, hurt and enraged,” says DeLeeuw, a certified nutrition coach and founder of HealthyRecipes.com. “My loving, kind, responsible daughter, whom I trusted, betrayed my trust and exposed herself — and as a result, exposed us — to that friend's germs."
Right now, more adult children are living with their parents than at almost any time in history. In fact, the number of 18- to 29-year-olds living with their parents has surpassed the peak during the Great Depression. But their different perceptions of risk, pressure from job requirements, and social interaction could put their elders at risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Physical and emotional protection
Vaccine doses are rolling out, but many people remain unvaccinated and COVID-19 is still a threat. People, especially those who are older and at higher risk of complications, continue to try to limit exposure.
Navigating a multigenerational household may be difficult because of the competing needs of those involved, says Wilfred Farquharson IV, director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic at the Stony Brook University Health Sciences Center in New York.
Young adults — especially those who have lived on their own at college, or those who have been forced back after living independently — may struggle with the requirement that they consider the needs of others in the household. The challenge is to protect each other from COVID-19 but also to protect the familial relationship, says Farquharson. Adult children don't want to be treated like young children, with rules imposed on them.
Communication is the key. “Start with the emotion and say, ‘I'm fearful,' ” Farquharson says. “That should automatically reduce the level of defensiveness and the impression that [the parent] is trying to control their movement."
Especially because it relates to health, parents worried that their child's behavior puts them at risk need to be vocal, says Steven Rosenberg, a psychotherapist and behavioral specialist in the Philadelphia area.