Thanks to all those who shared and commented on my post about feeding teenagers. I had a number of readers email me asking questions on how we make all five kids still living at home work. Our house is a good size but it is definitely not huge. We have four bedrooms and two bathrooms (three toilets thankfully!) so there is a lot of sharing and negotiating required by everyone. I like to think that living this way is teaching us all great life and social skills!
For the most part, things work pretty well for us but there have been and I am sure will continue to be issues arising with lack of space, privacy, resources in the house etc. As issues arise they are easily noticeable by the disagreements or unhappiness of members of the family. I try to notice what are one-offs and what are going to be continuing issues. When they are continuing issues we then try and come up with workable solutions as a family that will address them as best as possible. These solutions are generally never perfect and not everyone will be 100% happy with them but it is the best we can do with what we have and everyone accepts that. Below I have listed some example strategies we use to maintain harmony in a large family.
Communal dinner time as much as possible
This is a proactive strategy that I am starting with first as I think it is truly important. There are points when it seems like it is impossible to get the whole family to dinner with all their varying schedules in the house but I approach each meal and mostly plan for everyone to be there. Dinner time has always been a part of the day I look forward to – having the entire family together chatting about our days and a wide variety of topics. While not always perfect, it has generally been a great bonding time for us as a family and I do everything I can to keep it going.
Aiming for a communal dinner time as much as possible helps keep us bonded, knowing what is happening in each others’ days. It is an investment in goodwill and a harmonious time that helps buffer against the negativity that occurs when issues arise as they do with a large family.
We have had a family group chat for many years where we share photos, memes, tiktoks, updates etc. With another adult student in the house last year and the increasingly full schedules of the other kids in the house, we started a second group chat which is purely for logistics and sharing important information. Making sure everyone knows key dates, events, and happenings in the house is key to keeping family harmony. Here are some examples of what we share:
- The person responsible for dinner will put into the chat the night’s meal and the estimated time of dinner. If it is a more traditional plated style meal like meat and veg, then we will ask the older kids if they want a plate kept for them.
- When the older two kids were using the family car quite a bit before they bought their cars, we would put in any times when we needed it so they could make other arrangements if they need to get around at that time.
- We all put in a date and time if we are having people over so everyone is aware of it and we don’t double-book the house.
- I add dates of family functions that I want the kids to attend in advance so they can book out work and their calendars.
- Phil and I will also use this chat to add photos of things we would like the kids to improve on – towels on the bathroom floor for example!
The five kids share one bathroom so without some sort of process and thought the after-dinner shower time can be chaotic. We work on the rule that the first to go to bed gets to have a shower first. This is the two school kids most often and then the older kids work it out amongst themselves. Often this does mean that there are a lot of people showering in a short window of time, so it is accepted that if there are people in the queue you need to be efficient in the shower and not hold up the process.
There are times when some of the kids want to use the bathroom for a longer time (have a bath etc) so they know to let people know this is going to happen and give them an opportunity to jump in quickly so as not to impact plans they may have. Where possible, the parents attempt to stay out of this process and let the kids manage it, only becoming involved if it looks like things might explode!
Morning bathroom time
With work and physical activity, a number of the kids will shower twice a day. The school kids don’t shower in the morning but even with fewer people showering in the morning issues have arisen. The timing can be off and when the school kids want to brush their teeth before they leave for school someone could have just started showering. So the school kids can still brush their teeth before school they have a toothbrush each in our ensuite and go brush their teeth there. They have been used many times and have been a great solution to help keep family harmony in the morning.
Giving each other space
Living with seven people in one place can get a bit much at times for all of us. Thankfully the kids with encouragement have worked out ways to give each other space when they need it. If someone is using the home gym which is also located in the same room as the study desks, the other student will work on the dining table. If someone has taken themselves outside and looks like they want time on their own, they will leave them alone. Phil and I will give up our room if someone needs a quiet space for an online meeting but can’t find it in the house.
If I can see the kids are not picking up on the moods of others in the house I will quietly speak with them one on one and make suggestions on what we can do for the next hour or so to accommodate the situation.
Household organisation and tidyness
Being organised and having the house organised absolutely helps keep family harmony ticking along. Phil has always been great at adding hooks, storage containers, etc so frequently used items have a home and are easy to access and put away. Teaching the kids to do this from a young age really helps. If you are not sure where to start with the basics of home organisation, head to the Start Here page on the blog for some ideas.
I am not even close to a clean freak but I do always try and have the house relatively neat and tidy as it makes a big difference to my stress levels and therefore the overall harmony of the house. I find it is also important to keep a base tidy level because mess begets mess – if the house is messy the kids seem to make it messier! When the house is messy things go missing, things get in the way and it causes unnecessary stress. Part of the nightly routines in our house has always included getting the house ready for the next day with work from the parents and the kids to do this. This is something we still do and it has a positive impact on family harmony.