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Living with a houseful of teenagers brought me unexpected joy

Donna Francis, 48 explains why socialising with different generations can boost your mood 

Donna Francis
Contributing Editor US
6 days ago
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When my family and I moved to Florida from London almost three years ago, we had a ready made guest list of friends keen to come visit. Sunshine, beach, pool… Not to mention free accommodation! Who can blame them? 

Turns out that first summer, we had a total of sixteen visitors travel from London to stay with us in our house in St Pete Beach. And that was within a four week period! Whilst we absolutely loved having everyone to stay, by the end of the month, my husband and I were exhausted and our social batteries had run dry. That's not to mention the amount of cleaning up and towel and linen washing we were left with. 

So, when my son Oliver asked if his friends could stay with us for two weeks this summer, I pictured the late-nights, endless appetites, and a disrupted routine. Plus, at the same time, I also had two of my own friends coming over from the UK to help me celebrate my birthday, so It would be a houseful to say the least. 

Donna, her family and their houseful of guests
Donna, her family and their houseful of guests

The thought of having four extra teenagers in the house for two weeks, alongside my two teenage sons and my eldest son’s girlfriend, made me feel exhausted. I thought my mindset wasn't ready for it either as I'd just returned from a month-long stay in London caring for my mum who’d had a heart operation. So I was physically and emotionally exhausted. 

I thought that having a houseful of energetic teenagers was the last thing that I needed. But the reality was it was exactly what I needed. Rather than exhaustion, my son's friends brought a joy and energy that lit up my house and created memories that will last a lifetime. 

Teenage joy

Hours larking around the house preceded evenings spent playing cards and pool. We watched England play in the Euros during a rainstorm on our TV outside. Would I have done that had they not been there? Probably not. I would have opted for the easier (and drier!) option of watching it inside. But what fun is in that? 

They joined in my birthday celebrations with such great energy that my adult friends wanted to be part of their gang too. The first on the dance floor and to sing karaoke - we all mixed like no years were between us. It was all so joyous! 

Donna at her birthday with her son and his friends who were the life and soul of her party
Donna at her birthday with her son and his friends who were the life and soul of her party

Having this younger energy in the house gave me and my husband a deepened appreciation of our own teenage sons too. It made me realise how lucky I am to have my boys, how important it is to cherish them and to create these memories. 

They helped me rediscover joy in the silly things. Who knew a leaf blower would be a great way of waking each other up in the morning? Or that riding around Target in a motorised trolley would bring so many LOLs. Stupid, yes... but so so funny! Observing the fun and watching their friendships grow and bond made me feel content and fulfilled. 

MORE FROM DONNA: How I'm learning to love my 'meno belly'

These powerful and positive emotions that intergenerational relationships can bring are recognised by the experts and numerous studies show how socialising with people outside of your age group can not only improve your physical health and quality of life, but they can also provide the younger ones mentorship and greater self-esteem too.

Having a houseful of teenagers brought Donna unexpected joy
Having a houseful of teenagers left an indelible mark on Donna and her family

A study by the University of Illinois  found that when older adults are involved with younger generations, there are benefits to everyone involved. Older adults represent great role models offering perspectives on history, tradition and helping them solve problems better too. 

Positive influence

I'm not sure how much history we taught our younger guests but I’d like to think that my husband and I offered some positive influence over the teens - even if it was just by teaching them the basics of sorting their clothes for  washing!  

And while the younger ones taught me new skills such as how to play poker, although it has to be said that I never won any games, I returned the favour by asking the girls to help me review some beauty products on my Instagram which they’d never done before and loved. 

By the end of their holiday, I realised that the experience of having my son's friends living in the house for two weeks left an indelible mark on all of us. I have received some lovely messages of thanks from all of them and we have even created a WhatsApp group where we have been sharing lots of wonderful pictures and memories. 

Yes, the house is quieter and more peaceful, but the joy has lingered. Hosting my son's friends wasn't just about accommodating guests; it was about embracing fun and finding happiness in unexpected places. 

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