How to Care for Your Children and Aging Parents

Do you care for your aging parent? Do you also care for a child at home? This amount of family caregiving is defined as the – Sandwich Generation.

The sandwich generation refers to people who are actively caring for and supporting (financially, physically, and emotionally) their elderly parents, as well as their children at the same time.

As it sounds, this requires a sincere amount of energy, resources, money, patience, and overall a general giving of one’s self.

The impact on your day-to-day life can be overt and covert in how you cope with the challenges.

To help you navigate the common challenges the sandwich generation faces, we have compiled a variety of resources, facts, and practical tips to guide you through the coming weeks and months ahead.

Facts About the Sandwich Generation

  • Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent aged 65+ and are caring for a child.
  • Caring for a child can be considered raising a young child (0-18) or financially supporting an adult (18+).
  • One-in-seven middle-aged adults (about 15%) provide financial support to an aging parent and at least one child.
  • Roughly 66% of family caregivers are women.
  • More than 37% of female family caregivers have children and/or grandchildren under the age of 18 who also live with them.

(Source: Pew Resource Center)

Now that you have a better profile of the sandwich generation and their role as family caregivers, it is important to consider a few core items: how to care for yourself, how your children may react, and how to help your children cope with these challenges.

Top Tips for Caring for An Aging Parent and Your Children

When caring for your parent(s) and child or children, consider the most important rule – care for yourself first! It is the same requirement in the airplane to put your mask on first; otherwise, you won’t have the energy or ability to help others. Consider the following top tips for yourself:

  1. When you need to discuss caregiving topics with your kids, or partner, consider doing so when you are not tired or hungry and emotions are at their highest. Think about the best time of day when you are not distracted and you can comfortably focus on the conversation. Think about where to have the conversation and be ok if you need to pause it until another time.
  2. Make sure to spend one-on-one time with your kids. This time doesn’t need to be more than your regular routine (playground, reading books, playing outside), but it is focused attention that matters the most.
  3. Consider your limits and when you need respite. Hold the boundary and allow yourself a few minutes to recharge and find your focus.
  4. Ask for help, especially when in an emergency. Your children need attention and support. If you have to be with your aging parent, consider having a friend or neighbor help out while you are out.
  5. Pay attention to what your kids are doing. It is easy for your child to help do a few caregiving responsibilities, but this can easily become a sense of burden and stress for them as well. Watch out for any anxiety or stress your child may display.

How Children Can React to Parent Caregivers

If you are caring for your aging parent and your child at home, this can easily create stressors for your kid. This can be for many reasons:

  • Lack of attention because you are focused on your aging parents and work
  • Inability to process emotions such as feeling sad about the changes and their grandparents
  • Concerns for their parent and anxiety about what is happening
  • Feelings of jealousy
  • A desire to help as well but being able to
  • Exposure to aging adults and senior living or senior care centers

These causes of stress are very real and tangible. They are also likely avoidable or treatable. Your child may act out as a result of these feelings.

With that in mind, there are ways to help your child manage and positively, as well as productively process these feelings and grow as a result.

Key Ways to Help Children of the Sandwich Generation

At the foundational level, start with a thank you. If your aging parent lives at home with you and your children, make sure to thank your child for their patience and willingness to help.

It is also important to recognize and acknowledge the sacrifices being made.

In addition to this affirmation, consider the following:

  1. Talk to them! Be open and honest as best you can about what is going on. Consider where your kid is in their development and understanding of what is happening. No matter what, your child is observing the day-to-day activities and will have questions (even if unasked).
  2. Don’t let them sacrifice too much. As a child in the house, they could easily start helping with small activities of daily living. This is a good thing; however, it can easily slip into a stressful sense of responsibility depending on their age.
  3. Find the right balance for their involvement. Do what you can to balance your kids’ involvement in caregiving responsibilities. Consider giving them specific tasks (or chores), so they feel involved.

Your Next Steps

As a parent and a caregiver, you are constantly shifting between blended roles. The challenges are real, and it is important to acknowledge that for yourself.

Remember to talk with your family and loved ones about what is going on. The best first step is open communication.