Parents and Children Under the Same Roof: Living in Multigenerational Homes

Editor’s note: This content was excerpted from a panel at a marriage retreat for Chinese pastors and their wives. Many Chinese families live in multigenerational homes, with the grandparents actively involved in raising their grandchildren. Chinese culture also places a premium on filial piety and giving elders the proper dignity and respect which they have by virtue of their position. Managing all this can be difficult. Here, three families discuss the challenges and opportunities they have faced as they live together with their parents or in-laws.


Moderator: Since we worship God, we also need to honor our parents. Our panelists have all experienced living with parents and children under the same roof. 

Li Yujing, you have mentioned that there are conflicts living in a family with older and younger people. You are often the peacemaker. You try to be considerate and compromise for others, but your husband tends to not. Are arguments being resolved? Do differences and conflicts present opportunities to change? When you interact with your parents and children, do you notice anything which could help improve your relationships with them?

Li Yujing: Before Zeng Shu started seminary, it was very difficult to communicate with my husband when our family got into conflicts. I would try to talk to him privately, but he wouldn’t listen. In these cases, I would then talk to his parents and try to help them understand each other. During seminary, he matured a lot. However, one significant conflict happened six months prior to his graduation. My mom was staying at our house, so Zeng Shu held back from arguing with his parents for a long time. However, suddenly he couldn’t hold back his anger anymore, and he started to argue with them one night. 

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“When we undergo life’s circumstances, the renewing work of the Holy Spirit prevents our inner corruption from spilling out. In addition, the Holy Spirit is cleansing our hearts from the inside out and removing corruption from within us.

— Pastor Zeng Shu

It was not totally his fault. His parents thought I didn’t like them, but that wasn’t true. I never told him anything bad about them. His dad became very angry, and Zeng Shu and his dad started to fight. It became more and more intense. 

I tried my best to keep my mom calm while my husband and my in-laws were arguing furiously. At that time, we had just finished building our house. Zeng Shu ended up throwing a stool. There is still a mark on our door to this day. It was an intense fight, but after this, I witnessed God’s grace work deeply within him. He realized it, too. After some time, he went back to seminary [in another province]. He used to call on the landline, but after the fight, he only called me on my cell phone. But, as Spring Festival drew near, my in-laws and my husband finally confronted their issues. They all apologized and since then, have gotten along well. 


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Later, they had another small conflict. I teased my husband and said, “Hey, Brother Zeng Shu, you are much better now. Why don’t you throw chairs anymore?” No matter what happened or how bad their arguments were, I would stand to the side and laugh about it. I ask him, “How does this happen?” He knows his own problems now. He can see himself clearly, as if he was looking into a mirror. 

He tries to make people in our house conform to his habits, but God has greatly changed him. Now, when he is about to lose his temper, he realizes it and tries to communicate better. 

Pastor Zeng Shu: In one of his sermons, Dr. Paul Tripp used an illustration of a bottle filled with water. Corruption exists within me, and life circumstances create opportunities for me to act upon my sin. I am grateful that the Holy Spirit sanctifies me. In Dr. Tripp’s illustration, the water within the bottle is our sinful nature. The water in the bottle doesn’t disappear immediately, but the Holy Spirit gives us a cap to seal the bottle. When we undergo life’s circumstances, the renewing work of the Holy Spirit prevents our inner corruption from spilling out. In addition, the Holy Spirit is cleansing our hearts from the inside out and removing corruption from within us. 

Moderator: How do you teach your children to resolve conflict? You two bring different ways of parenting into your marriage because you grew up differently.

Pastor Fan Xi: There is a lot of tension between my parents and us because they aren’t believers. I don’t meet their expectations in a lot of different ways. In addition, we experience a lot of conflicts since my parents’ lifestyle choices and our lifestyle choices affect each other. 

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“Although they recognize that we have struggles, [my parents] also understand we have a different kind of hope. Although we argue, we are ultimately bound together and inseparable. They feel a lot of reassurance. Nowadays, they even praise us in front of other people and tell them that a Christian marriage is truly different.

— Pastor Fan Xi

For example, my parents realized they couldn’t schedule family events on Sundays when I started attending church, since I wouldn’t be able to join them. I always attended church, regardless of my parents’ complaints. They complained that our family wasn’t able to travel or go out together since we always needed to attend church. They finally accepted this change when they realized my wife and I were in complete agreement on the importance of attending church, and they couldn’t change either of our minds. My dad had originally asked my wife to stop attending church. However, she stood firmly by my side. Since my wife and I were on the same page, my parents didn’t have an opportunity to change our decision and accepted this schedule. 

When we got married, my wife and I had a Christian ceremony. My parents attended our wedding and many of their Communist colleagues also attended. They were all shocked when they saw our marriage covenant. They had never seen such a solemn covenant formed between two people. My parents often hear about divorces or bad things which happen within their colleagues’ families and our relatives’ circles, so they were initially worried about my wife and me. In fact, they secretly asked me if my wife would be unfaithful, and I reassured them that she wouldn’t. Now my parents know us better, and don’t worry about our marriage. Although they recognize that we have struggles, they also understand we have a different kind of hope. Although we argue, we are ultimately bound together and inseparable. They feel a lot of reassurance. Nowadays, they even praise us in front of other people and tell them that a Christian marriage is truly different. I think our marriage has had a positive influence on them. 

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“My wife and I are one flesh. For us, this is a clear boundary.

— Pastor Yang Xu

Pastor Yang Xu: My in-laws moved in with us when my wife was pregnant. A very important principle in our relationship is that my wife and I are one flesh. For us, this is a clear boundary. 

My father-in-law is a very nice person, and makes a lot of sacrifices to help others.  He lets us mind our own business. My wife and I also maintain a clear boundary with my in-laws, so we rarely experience difficulties. In all the time we’ve lived together, I don’t think we’ve had any significant problems.  

We have a similar understanding with my children. Our two daughters know that mom and dad are in agreement, and we always stand together. When we parent, we intentionally try to be consistent. It helps that my wife has a strong personality, and no one tries to talk over her while she is speaking. In most situations, my wife and I have set clear boundaries with our parents and children, and are in agreement with each other. 


All names are pseudonyms. Pastor Zeng Shu and his wife Li Yujing are in a large city in eastern China; Pastor Yang Xu and his family are in Beijing; and Pastor Fan Xi and his family live in Shanghai.

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for young families who are living with their parents or in-laws while raising children. Pray that, if their extended families are not believers, they will be able to shine the light of Christ. Pray for patience, wisdom, and mutual grace as they strive to raise their children and honor their parents.

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Further Reading

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The Internal Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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Qingdao: How to Pray
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

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About Chengdu

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About Beijing

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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