Sandwich Generation: Raising Teens & Caring for Aging Parents

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Just as our rambunctious toddlers and kids grow into self-sufficient teens, the self sufficiency and health of our parents start to decline. Dads of the sandwich generation are caught between directing a misguided, angsty teenager and helping a parent with diminishing independence. You’ve inescapably fallen into the role of caretaker for your own mom or dad.

 

Defining the Sandwich Generation

One in eight Americans care for aging parents while tending to their own families, according to the Pew Research Center. An estimated 66 million Americans take care of a loved one, while a third are also raising children, reports the National Alliance for Caregiving.

It’s a stressful responsibility that also evokes strong feelings of resentment, guilt and anger. You’re making sacrifices and engaging in 100 percent selflessness that can create serious health problems, self-neglect and exhaustion. The following pointers can help members of the sandwich generation healthily navigate their roles without the detrimental “caregiver syndrome.”

Be Empathetic

Aging seniors with decaying health can fall into depression and moodiness. A sick parent resents their own increased dependency on others. The growing resentment is a two-way street, and your once vibrant parent may resent needing your help just as much as you resent your parent’s reliance on you. During high-stress moments when your emotions are about to implode, try to remember this isn’t ideal for your parent either. Embrace empathy and compassion — inner strength and calmness will follow.

Let Go

Mother and caregiver Mary Novaria wrote on The Huffington Post that she had a romanticized vision of her family’s three generations of women coming together. She fantasized about her and her mother and daughter sipping tea while dishing on “Grey’s Anatomy” and reminiscing in front of the fireplace. Likewise, you may have picture hitting golf balls with your father while teaching your teenager about the rules of the game. Letting go of an idyllic picture of how you imagined your relationship to be with your parent can help alleviate disappointment, resentment and irritation. Your parent is still your parent, and love is unconditional.

Claim Good Days

Parenthood can make a man want to pull a Christopher McCandless and abandon society to live in isolation with nature. Although McCandless met an unfortunate fate in the novel “Into The Wild,” his escape can be a fantasy for a parent. Parenthood is tough, and you have to savor the beautiful moments. A warm hug from a little one before bed can make up for an entire day of temper tantrums, and the same goes for caregiving. Cherish the good days. Avoid feelings of inadequacy with affirmations that you can’t do it all. It’s a balancing act. Use special moments shared with your parent as a reminder that your mom or dad suffering from Parkinson’s, for example, isn’t a burden, but a loved one.

Move Mom or Dad

Moving a parent out of their home can be devastating decision to make. Conversations with a parent about moving into your home or an assisted living community is commonly met with resistance. An aging parent may be even more reluctant to move from their home if they’re moving across country to be near your family for support. So focus on the bright side of things and drive home that a sunny transfer to assisted living community in Mesa, Arizona or elsewhere, could offer a healthy change of scenery..

Have an open conversation as soon as necessary and share honest concerns about your parent’s well-being. Explain that you’re their advocate. Continue to approach the subject in a way that makes your parent feel like they made the choice, rather than being forced into abandoning their home. Ensure your parent that your family is a caregiving team who your mom or dad can count on no matter what.

Verbal Discipline: That Whole Sticks-and-Stones Thing is Wrong

screaming at teens

Dear Mr. Dad: How bad is verbal discipline for kids? My next-door neighbors have a couple of teens and they are constantly yelling at them. Every single day. Not just a little—I’m talking top-of-your-lungs kind of stuff. Besides being really unpleasant to listen to, I’m worried about how that might affect the kids. I see them almost every day and I haven’t noticed any bruises or anything else that might indicate that they’re being hit. Still, should I say something to the parents or just keep my mouth shut?

A: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” is right up there with “Johnny and Julie siting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G….” and “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you” on the list of top annoying (yet endlessly repeated) childhood sayings. It also happens to be completely wrong. Screaming at kids is plenty bad. In fact, a new study has found that yelling at teens may do at least as much long-term damage as hitting.
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Driven to Distraction—and Death

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m worried about my two teenagers. They both have a driver’s license, but even though we’ve talked about the dangers of texting while driving, I suspect they’re doing it anyway. They’re generally smart, responsible young people, but all it takes is one second. What can we do to keep them from making a mistake that could kill them—or someone else?

A: Given that more than 80 percent of teens use a cell phone while driving, you’re absolutely right to be concerned. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for all age groups from 3 to 33. In 2010, distracted drivers were responsible for 6,000 deaths in the US—a fifth of all fatalities. According to a recent study out of Virginia Tech, a driver who’s texting is 23.2 times more likely to be involved in a car accident than someone who either keeps her phone in her pocket or turns it over to a child in the back seat. By contrast, drunk drivers are only eight times more likely to get into accidents.

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Got Teen? Then You’ve Got Sexting Too

If you’ve got a teenager, you can be pretty sure that he or she is sexting. Don’t believe me? Well, according to uknowkids.com, 86% of teens who sext are not caught. So how could you possibly know?

Now that you know what to look for, be sure to check out the infographic on the next page. And consider these other interesting tidbits about your teen’s sexting activity…

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When Adult Children Come Home

My wife and I recently sent our last child off to college. We were ready to sell the house and travel around the country, but our oldest daughter just lost her job and is planning to move back home. How can my wife and I enjoy our retirement but help our daughter at the same time?

One of the biggest risks to adjusting to a child’s leaving is that she might come back. All of us have certain preconceived notions about when major life events are supposed to take place, and we have a social clock that rings at the appropriate time. If the clock doesn’t go off at the right time, we’re likely to feel some stress. Moving out of the house is one of those events, and for most of us, the clock is set for eighteen, which is when the majority of American kids move out.
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How Your Relationships with Your Children Change When They Leave Home

Our daughter is going away to college. On one hand, I’m thrilled that she’s becoming so independent. But we’ve always been very close and I’m worried that our relationship will suffer. Will it?

Well, the day you’ve hoped for and dreaded is finally here. Your child is going to move out. Some researchers have called this the beginning of the "post parental stage," but I think that’s a mistake. Yes, your child is leaving, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to stop being a parent. In fact, you’re just getting started on the longest phase of your fathering experience.
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