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Lessons from a Multigenerational Indian Household

“My favorite part of this past year was when my Grandfather came to live with us.”

I was having a conversation with a 16 year-old named Josh, raised in an Indian household, and was quite surprised to hear the above statement from a teenager.

This conversation came to mind as I read the BBC article published this week entitled, “Why Indians Continue to Live in Joint Families”.

We’ve explored the multigenerational values embedded in Jewish culture but I love to explore these values everywhere they pop up and Indian families are another fascinating example.

Researchers seem a bit baffled by how, as Indian families become more affluent, they are choosing to live as extended family households more often instead of less.

When I met Josh’s father I asked him about why his dad came and lived with the family. He told me that his father has five sons and his 90 year old dad divides his time by moving from one son’s house to the next.

But what he said next really struck me.

“This is showing my children how their mother and I expect to live as we get older.”

There it is. 

Indian families do this deliberately as a part of their family culture and values not only out of necessity. Both the parents and their adult children prefer to live with one another.

This kind of family interdependence is heretical to the religion of individualism we idolize in the West.

Western families believe if you can be independent then you should be independent. It’s better for everyone. In our old age we plan to live and die alone.

But this is a choice influenced by a set of values.

You can choose a different path for your family.

And it begins by confronting the destructive sentiment that, “I just don’t want to be a burden to my children when I’m old.”

In some cultures an elderly family member is the most honored person in the entire extended family.

Siblings negotiate for the privilege of getting to care for them.

In other cultures they are a burden you pray you don’t get stuck with.

The Bible is clear about which culture pleases the Lord (1 Timothy 5:4)

Which kind of culture are you building?

Jeremy

This entry is a part of Jeremy’s Journal, a newsletter Jeremy sends out every Wednesday morning to encourage you on your parenting journey. You can sign up to get them every Wednesday here.

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