A growing number of U.S. adults are joining the Sandwich Generation – caring for their elders while raising children – and it can be very challenging. This month, parenting educator and Piper+ Enza contributor Giselle Baumet shares tips on finding balance in this demanding role, engaging with and supporting your kids as you go, and making time to nurture yourself.
If you care for your parents while raising your children, you’re part of a growing group of adults in the Sandwich Generation.
And to state the obvious, you’re doing a lot.
The Sandwich Generation is a subset of society caring for aging parents while raising your children—a rewarding, yet challenging, place to be. Right now, around 23% of U.S.adults are in the Sandwich Generation. With the rising life expectancy age, more and more will continue join this generation.
Discussing your caregiving role with your children is a significant part of managing this situation.
But so is your self-care. In this article, you’ll learn how to have these crucial conversations and find ways to nurture yourself.
Realistic View of Being in the Sandwich Generation
In many ways, the roles are reversed. While your parent took care of you when you were younger, now it is you taking care of your parent.
But you’re doing this while taking care of and raising children.
Essentially, you’re caring for two entire generations with very different dynamics. And going from being the child of your parent to the caregiver of your parent can be a strange transition for many.
You’re in a role that can be demanding and requires patience, empathy, and understanding. For example, you might have to help your child with homework while ensuring your parent takes their medication, make dinner, and get ready for the next day’s responsibilities.
Ideally, this is meant to be a shared journey. But in many families, most of the responsibility falls on one person. If that’s the case for you, you’ll find this article even more helpful.
13 Tips for Parenting When You’re in the Sandwich Generation
Start a chat with your kids about your new duties. For example, you can say, “Grandma and Grandpa need more help now, just like when you were little, and we’re going to give that help as a family.”
Make sure they know you still love them lots. You can tell them, “Even if I’m busier, I’m still here for you and love you just as much.” This can help them feel more secure while things are changing.
Here are 13 tips on engaging with your child when you’re in the Sandwich Generation that will help your child feel safe and secure while also understanding your responsibilities for your elders.
- Speak honestly: Tell your kids what’s going on. Ensure they know that just like they need you, Grandma and Grandpa also need us to help them.
- Keep it simple: Talk about it in a way your kids can understand. Younger kids might not get the whole health thing, but they can get that people need help when they’re old or sick.
- Help them get it: Ask your kids to put themselves in their grandparents’ shoes. This can help them understand why they might need to help out.
- Let them help decide: If you’ve got a big decision that affects everyone, let your kids have a say. They’ll feel more involved and valued.
- Let them speak up: Give your kids a chance to discuss their feelings. They might have worries or feel like they need to get more attention. Having regular chats where everyone can talk about the situation can help.
- Say thanks: If your kids are helping, tell them you appreciate it. This can keep them motivated to continue helping while also feeling seen.
- Teach them about helping out: This is a great chance to teach your kids the importance of helping out in a family. It takes all members of the family to create a solid foundation.
- Be patient with them: Your kids might not get it right away, and that’s okay. Take the time to answer their questions with kindness and patience.
- Ask only a little: Ensure your kids know they’re not supposed to become full-time carers. They’re still kids, but there are little things they can do to help.
- Model expected behavior: Spending time with grandparents and showing them empathy and understanding shows your child how they should engage within the dynamic.
- Spend one-on-one time: Plan regular fun things with them, like a game night every week, but even more important, be present with them when they need you. These moments show your child they’re still significant to you, even when you’re busy helping their grandparents.
- Keep a routine: A routine as a family can bridge the transition as they notice the change in the family dynamics. While every day may look a little different, create consistency in what you do each day together. Consider creating rituals for this reason, such as setting the table the same way each day, reading time before bedtime, or having outdoor play right before dinner each day.
- Watch for signs of stress: Children may not always express their feelings verbally. Learn to recognize signs of stress. Behavior, mood, sleep patterns, or school performance changes can indicate pressure. And if your child finds the changes difficult, it could be helpful to seek additional support.
Remembering Your Self Care
You’re doing a fantastic job already caring for your parent and raising your child. So, let’s turn to nurturing and caring for your emotional and mental wellness because you’re doing a lot of work as someone in the Sandwich Generation.
Taking care of yourself is imperative. One way to do this is to find time to relax and think about your feelings. For example, you could spend a few minutes meditating or writing in a journal daily. Or you may have a hobby like reading or painting that helps you feel calm.
Taking care of your body is another essential part of self-care. Regular exercise, eating healthy food, and getting enough sleep can help you manage stress and stay emotionally healthy. Try to find an activity you enjoy that can realistically fit into your day, like walking or yoga.
Remember, asking for help and sharing tasks with other family members is okay. You need help to do everything. If you can share some of the responsibilities, you’ll have more time to care for yourself. And it’s okay to say “no” sometimes.
Connecting with others in the same situation can also be helpful. Look for groups or online communities where you can share your experiences and get advice. Knowing you’re not alone makes things feel more manageable.
And finally, remember to treat yourself sometimes. Plan some “me time” to do something you enjoy or to pamper yourself, like a spa day or a short trip. Taking breaks and doing things you want can help you stay emotionally healthy.
Live by the motto that you need to take care of yourself to take care of others.
You are not alone if you are part of the Sandwich Generation – caring for your aging parents while raising your children. About 23% of adults are in this position, and with rising life expectancy, that number is set to grow.
However, caring for two generations can be overwhelming, and discussing caregiving roles with your children is crucial. This article provides tips on communicating with children effectively, maintaining a routine, recognizing signs of stress, and finding ways to nurture yourself.
Connecting with support groups and sharing responsibilities with other family members is highly encouraged. You don’t have to do this alone.
Taking care of yourself through regular exercise, eating healthy food, getting enough sleep, and finding time to relax can help you manage stress and stay emotionally healthy.
Remember, saying “no” and treating yourself sometimes is okay.
Giselle Baumet is a Certified Life Coach, positive parenting educator, herbalist, aromatherapist, hypnotherapist, mental health educator, and more. She is also a Piper + Enza expert contributor. Learn more about her work at gisellebaumet.com.