Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Living with Kids: Cohabitation Agreement

Living with Kids:  Creating a cohabitation agreement between family members

By Melissa Christiansen, MA, LPC Intern and Hailey Innes, MS, LPC Intern,

Supervised by Katrena Hart, MS, LPC Supervisor

Maybe your teenager is a senior this year, and it’s getting harder and harder to agree on times, dates and deadlines.  Or your college aged student or working young adult is productive at school and on the job, but you can’t seem to agree on household chores or use of space.  It’s a new world to be living with a young adult, and having specific conversations about cohabitation can help everyone live peacefully.

Creating a peaceful home requires communication, boundaries, and consistency. The purpose of a cohabitation agreement, co-created by all family members, is to build trust, respect and healthy communication.  Schedule a time for a family meeting so that everyone can have a voice and create a joint plan.

Step 1:  Plan a weekly or monthly meeting.  Have each person make a list of the items that are important to support the purpose (trust, respect, communication).  For example, your teen may want to address curfews, vehicle use, and having friends over for parties.  Parents or caregivers may want to address morning routines, kitchen cleanliness, and laundry. 

Step 2:  Meet and agree on the goals.  The shorter the list, the better – you are all more likely to succeed.

Be clear and concise.

Instead of: “Come home at a reasonable hour because staying out late is disrespectful.”

Say: “I’d like us to agree to be home to be home by 10pm on weeknights and 1AM on weekends, because my sleep is interrupted when someone comes in late and I feel tired/cranky the next day.”

 Step 3: Review the goals—do they each support the cohabitation agreement to build trust, respect and communication?  Ask these questions:

  • Do the goals build trust among family members?
  • Does the agreement cultivate respect and kindness?”
  • Does the agreement encourage open, honest communication?

Step 4:  Compromise is key. Pick your battles – this is about what is best for the family as a whole. Everyone must be willing to let some things go, or compromise in some way.

The cohabitation agreement is a work in progress.  Schedule weekly or monthly meetings to revisit the agreement. Determine what is working, what isn’t, and if any modifications are needed. Acknowledge and reinforce positive experiences and effort from each family member.  Be kind and have fun!



Bridging Harts Institute & Psychotherapy
203 S. Alma St. Suite #300
Allen, TX 75013
T: (972) 562 5002
Email: info@bridgingharts.com


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