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July is Sandwich Generation Month, a chance to pay tribute to adult children who are juggling the demands of raising kids while taking care of aging parents. The number of Americans 65 and older is projected to increase from 40 million in 2010 to over 88 million by 2050, doubling the ranks of those experiencing this stressful combination of responsibilities.
We expect to take care of our growing children. After all, isn’t that part of the parenting job description? Even after the last kid moves out and we are settling into the empty nest, if one of them drops out of college, loses their job or separates from a partner, we let them come home. But with ailing parents it can be even more complicated.
From time to time, we all feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. But for the sandwich generation, that’s especially true. The stress, guilt and exhaustion that come from trying to keep so many balls in the air can be overwhelming. One goal of Sandwich Generation Month is to raise awareness. Here are some tips so you don’t have to cope with all the demands by yourself:
Encourage your parents’ independence. Identify what they really need you to do and what they can do for themselves. Have respect for their experience and wisdom as they make decisions and take responsibility. Step back so they do as much as they can for themselves.
Find professionals to help you out. Put this into place ahead of time if you live far away or before there is a crisis. Do your parents need the support of a geriatric case manager? Learn about health care advocates, geriatric assessments, specific gerontologists, in-home help and continuum of care.
There are community resources available. Take advantage of them. Home health and companion companies help with chores such as cooking, cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping. And adult day care centers encourage supervised time for your parents to socialize while you get a break.
Caregiver groups can be a lifesaver for you. These consist of others who are in the sandwich generation and understand exactly what your life is like. Led by a group facilitator, you’ll get support, information, suggestions. You may even laugh a little as you share experiences.
You are more prepared than you think. Look back and track the strengths that have worked for you in the past when you have faced difficult circumstances. For the comfort and wellbeing of you and your parents, put them into play now.
Your attitude and behavior impact the challenges. Recognize the emotional shifts you need to make as well. Talk to friends who are having similar problems with their parents. Seeing the situation from another perspective can normalize your reactions, help you prioritize the issues and ease the transition.
Take note of the changes your family is experiencing. Remain sensitive to what your parents are going through. And come to terms with your own feelings of frustration, anger, sadness or loss. Address unfinished business with your siblings, resolve the issues and get them involved.
Pay attention to your own needs. As you assume greater responsibility for your parents’ care, make nurturing yourself a priority. Renewal gives you more energy and resilience. You’ll find that being positive and centered - emotionally stronger - you‘re more ready to meet the challenges.
These can be very stressful times in your life. Rely on your coping strengths when you take smaller steps than you would like. Through acts of kindness you’ll bring greater joy and richness into your parents’ lives. When you spend intentional time with them relish their appreciation, which you deserve. And savor the power of the example that you set as your own children watch how you support their grandparents.
© Her Mentor Center, 2012
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are consultants in family dynamics. If you‘re coping with stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law, they have solutions. Log on to [Link Removed] for practical tips & learn about “Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm.”
2012 College Graduates are Moving Back Home
This year over 1.75 million college students walked across the stage to pick up their diplomas. Seniors everywhere were excited to graduate as parents were thinking about words of wisdom to impart. With the scarcity of jobs and school loans due, it's going to be harder than ever for these kidults to engage in adult roles. If your brand new graduates are boomeranging back home, here's some practical insight to share with them:
Face uncertainty with a positive attitude. You can't change the slow economic recovery but you can have control over how you handle it. You may feel frustrated that you don't have a job or anxious about the future - these reactions are common and normal. Try to face your feelings directly as you explore situations that will work for you.
Take control of your circumstances. It'll help you focus and gain perspective when you spend time identifying your inner strengths and external resources. If you know that what you want is within your reach, keep after it no matter how hard it gets. Be sure to recognize the difference between what you can manage and what you can't.
Turn to those who support you. Family and friends care about you and you can count on them to cheer you on. They'll be there to help because they love you and want you succeed. And remember, as you move ahead, you don't have to do it alone - ask for help whenever you need it.
Make a public commitment. Talk with others about your intentions and you'll create a strong reality that'll motivate you. As you begin to set and reach short term objectives toward longer range goals, you'll become even more determined. Although there may be stumbling blocks along the way, never give up.
Rely on your instincts. Listen to the advice of those you trust. But look inside for answers and find your own voice. Don't jump at money or do what others think you should - define success on your own terms. If you feel you're moving in the direction of where you belong, believe in what you're doing. Emotional discomfort can be an opportunity to grow.
Discover your passion. With our society and the job market in flux, you may have to reorder your priorities for now. Keep busy and try to make a contribution as a volunteer or mentor, where you can use you talents and energy to be of service to others. And tap into your compassion and courage to find a larger purpose.
Increase your capacity for resiliency. At times it may be difficult to maintain composure under trying circumstances. Take one day at a time, and call on your faith or spirituality. Develop strategies to manage stress and build your confidence. Step by step, you'll turn your hopes and dreams into reality.
Your recent grads may not be sure of what road they're on or whether they should have taken it. Perhaps they're having second thoughts: if only I had applied to law school or what if I had majored in engineering? It's common and normal to have ambivalent emotions - the desire to hold on and to let go, excitement as well as fear about the future.
The 20s are still the defining decade of adult life and your kidults are living with an unprecedented amount of uncertainty. Let them know you have their back. Encourage them to reach deep for the resolve to face their situation squarely – in time, they can't help but grow from the challenges.
© 2012, Her Mentor Center
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. is a consultant in family dynamics. Whether you‘re coping with marital stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law, she has practical solutions. Log on to [Link Removed] and sign up for a complimentary eZine ‘Stepping Stones,’ and eBook, “Courage and Lessons Learned: Reaching Your Goals.”
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