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The psychology of the home: Family life

PUBLISHED: 12:24 10 July 2015 | UPDATED: 12:24 10 July 2015

Dr Linda Papadopoulos

Dr Linda Papadopoulos

Archant

Having children will disrupt your life – and your house – and then, before you know it, they’re gone, disrupting your life all over again. Some of them are also struggling to fly the nest, creating a whole new range of issues. Here TV psychologist, Dr Linda Papadopoulos, explains the psychology behind family and the home.

Children will take over your house in the same way they take over your lifeChildren will take over your house in the same way they take over your life

I love my children, but they’re destroying my house. How do I make them stop?

I think it’s something that evolves over time. In the early days, just as they do in your life as a whole, kids take over the home and that’s perfectly normal, so you will find that there are crayon drawings on your lovely Le Corbusier sofa. That’s just par for the course, that’s what kids do. They affect your sleep, they affect your eating they affect everything. As a parent you have to accept that that’s the point of having them.

Having said that, as time goes on it is important for kids to have boundaries in the home and know what’s theirs and what’s yours. Spending time making a room for children where they feel comfortable to play or making sure their room is somewhere they feel safe and good about will help keep your rooms distinct because they’ll have a clearer sense of where they’re supposed to be.

I’ve got a grown up child living at home and they’re still acting like a moody teenager. Help!

Try and give adult children living at home as much of their own space as possibleTry and give adult children living at home as much of their own space as possible

I think that those stages of life where kids need to be facing out of the family, rather than facing in to it need to be nurtured by parents, as hard as it is. Just small things like maybe after a certain age not asking what time they’ll be home, or letting them contribute to the house where they can. It’s good to give them a separate space that they can occupy in your house, whether it’s a room or a basement – as much as you can.

Also be honest and talk about how it’s as difficult for you as it is for them. And be aware of when you’re infantilising them when you fall into those “Eat all of your broccoli” moments. It’s really good to be able to say “I’m sorry, I’m just falling into a pattern” if that happens. You have to clock it when it happens, tweak it and move on.

How do we deal with our new empty nest?

Don't turn your kids' bedrooms into a pilates studio without talking to them firstDon't turn your kids' bedrooms into a pilates studio without talking to them first

It’s funny, you see this go both ways. You see these shrines to the kids where the guitar from 8th grade and the action figures haven’t been moved. At the other end of the scale, the bedroom has become the pilates area.

I think the key is when kids leave home it is hugely disruptive and for a lot of people whose kids have been at the centre of their lives, gaining a sense of who you are back, gaining a sense of entitlement over your life and over your home is an important thing. So reclaim that French course that you dropped out of because there wasn’t enough time or take up a new sport or activity. If it means that it’s something that can be reflected in the house then I think that it’s ok.

I would be careful not to go adapting kids rooms immediately into pilates areas. Have that discussion, say “Hey, I want to do this, can we move some stuff here or there?” so it feels like a joint decision but I think it’s important to make your home feel like somewhere that is working for you.

Home ownership is traditionally seen as a milestone on the way to adulthood but it’s now out of reach for many. How do you prove you’re a financial ‘grown up’ if you just can’t afford to buy?

Owning a home is seen as a marker of financial maturity but if it's not within reach people need to find other ways to be autonomousOwning a home is seen as a marker of financial maturity but if it's not within reach people need to find other ways to be autonomous

I think it’s about not buying into the idea that “I can’t be a grown up or an autonomous person unless I’m a homeowner”. For many decades people haven’t been homeowners and have still managed to be adults. You just have to be creative about how you do that.

Establishing autonomy is really important. Financial autonomy is hugely important but maybe it’s not the only kind. For those young people who still have to live at home the key is to try and establish autonomy, whether in the work that you do, in savings you make, or in contributing to the house. We also need to start challenge this idea that home ownership is the only way to financial security or to independence.

Dr Linda has written more about psychology in the home for home insurer Hiscox

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