Huffpost Fifty
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Michael S. Broder, Ph.D. Headshot

The Sandwich Generation: When You Are Parenting Your Children and Aging Parents at the Same Time

Posted: Updated:

In my recent article, I discussed some of the common myths that often hold parents back from doing what it takes to help their adult children to launch into independence. Some parents who are still caring for their children as well as their own aging parents are part of what is sometimes referred to as the sandwich generation. Such a situation often comes with various emotional and financial challenges, as modern medicine allows people to live longer, while young adults have a harder time finding jobs. So this scenario is a trend that is likely to continue.

In my experience with helping clients who are caring for their elderly parents, I've noticed that they often have a very difficult time staying motivated. In fact, I discuss many aspects of that all too prevalent stressor called lack of motivation in my new book Stage Climbing: The Shortest Path to Your Highest Potential, because it seems to come up with regard to many aspects of life. In this situation, the best reward you can hope for is normally an intrinsic or internal one, as caring for both your children and parents can be quite stressful for anyone. If this speaks to you, here are three ways to make your role in the sandwich a better and less stressful experience:

Set boundaries with both your children and parents. You can't always jump when someone has a need or a request. Even if you'd like to accommodate everyone, ask yourself if a given request is reasonable or if it's at the expense of your own well-being. You can help others best when you are helping yourself first, so don't neglect your own needs because you're busy caring for others or even worse -- beat yourself up over guilt.

Another way to make the experience a better one is to clarify your attitude about the very roles you've taken on. If you think of it as a burden, you're likely to find the experience fatiguing and overwhelming. Instead, allow yourself to focus on the opportunity to strengthen and complete your relationship with your parents while you still have the chance. Though sometimes the needs of your elderly parent can be excessive, the other side of the coin is gratitude for having your parent in your life. Then, you can see the situation in a different light. This will go a long way toward transcending any need you have for positive reinforcement.

Finally, think about what you'd like your children to learn by your experience. Your children may be likely to base their own attitudes on caring for you later in your life on the way they've watched you handle your parents. So what is that learning experience you'd like to pass on to your children? Think of this as just one more of life's what comes around goes around moments.