It’s called the sandwich generation—those who are raising their own children while providing varying levels of care for aging parents. As if the never-ending carousel ride of kids’ activities and providing for basic needs isn’t stressful enough, many parents of young children are also providing support for parents with temporary or chronic health issues.
Reclaiming peace and order for your own life is critical. Here are some tips to help you learn how to handle the obstacles and difficulties that arise, along with letting go of some of the guilt, stress and other energy-draining emotions that pull you down and make you feel defeated and exhausted.
Recognize when your child may (and likely will) act out. They may feel anxious about what’s going on within the family, sad about the changes their grandparents/relatives are experiencing, feeling ignored because your attention is elsewhere, or scared of what’s going to happen. Recognizing that the household stress is the core of their behavior is the first step toward managing that behavior.
Evaluate: is the situation really a crisis? If not, take a deep breath and prioritize the tasks at hand. Don’t be afraid to make yourself a priority on occasion too!
Let go of the guilt. Start each day fresh and know that everything you do today is important and matters, even if it feels you did not scratch off enough tasks from the to-do list. Identify where other members of your family and support system can help - children and parents included! All kids can help in some way. Helping others makes us feel needed and wanted—and that we matter.
Let others help: Say “yes” to offers of help. Don’t assume family members aren’t able or willing to pitch in—ask directly and specifically for what you’d like them to do. Check at your child’s school. School social workers and guidance counselors can be a good resource for finding assistance and services for your child and family. Try reaching out—what’s the worst that could happen? Don’t forget your faith community, social media contacts, etc.
Take a look at what you can let go of. If you’re over-committed, you probably aren’t serving your obligations all that well anyway. Relax your standards—perhaps only temporarily—regarding cooking, cleaning, and other household chores. Your family probably won’t even notice.
Respite: You NEED to take time for yourself to recharge your own batteries. Get together for coffee with a friend, hit the gym, or enjoy some pampering. Check with home health agencies for respite programs. Colleges and universities are another great place to find young people that want work experiences that will prepare them for their future career. Check with pre-med, nursing, or therapy students to provide occasional respite care for your children or parents.
Enjoy activities together--many can be multi-generational: Going to the zoo, taking neighborhood or nature walks, bowling, doing an instructor-led painting activity, taking cooking classes, doing puzzles, having board game nights, or gardening.
As they say, you can’t fill someone else’s cup if your own is empty. Taking care of yourself first can help you pace your way through the most challenging of times.
Call us for details: In Sioux Falls, 605-444-9700. In Rapid City, 605-791-7400.
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