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Four Tips For People Navigating Life In The Sandwich Generation

Updated: Mar 14

A grandfather and mother smiling with a young girl. Being sandwiched between two generations of needing care can be hard and Marble Wellness understands that! Marble Wellness is located in STL and specializes in anxiety, depression, life transitions and more!

What is the Sandwich Generation?

It’s the term society has started using for people who are caring for both their kids and their aging parents. As more people live longer, more children are finding themselves turning into caretakers for two generations simultaneously.

It’s a difficult position to be in. Balancing work, school, and family is an overwhelming amount of responsibility to take on. And things get even more complicated when you’re dealing with two generations, both of whom need a lot of support but have very different daily needs.

It’s a draining lifestyle, and sometimes unavoidable, but often something people want to do in spite of the stress. But even if someone’s happy to take care of both their parents and children, it’s important to find a balance between caring for family and caring for themselves. It’s the only way they can love both generations of their family effectively and without running themselves into the ground.

With that balance in mind, here are some tips from a St. Louis Therapist for managing the lifestyle that comes with being part of the Sandwich Generation:

Get Everyone On Board:

It's important to work with your partner, your children, and your parents so everyone knows what's going on, why it's happening, and how things are being managed.

You don’t need to make the kids feel responsible for the caretaking process, but they should know what responsibilities you’re dealing with so they don’t feel under-prioritized. And your parents should know what you have to do and be around for for the kids so they don’t think they aren’t important.

If everyone’s kept on the same page, no one feels left out or disregarded.

Three adult sisters talking on a couch having a serious conversation about duties for taking care of their parents. Marble Wellness is a Counseling practice in STL offering family and individual counseling to help navigate life transitions.

Learn What Support Services You Can Access:

Many organizations provide services specifically designed for caring for both children and aging adults. These organizations can help make sure both parties get everything they need.

This might include daycare or day camps for the kids. There may also be senior citizen programs that care for parents for part of the day. Seniors can take classes and participate in activities at certain senior centers as well. This might be a really good option if your parents need physical support but still like to be active and engaged.

Seniors excessing and stretching at a senior center. Finding support and programs for a loved one can help you manage the stress of being a caregiver for some time. Marble Wellness is a counseling practice that specializes in helping to manage stress, anxiety, depression and more.

Develop A System:

Don't try to do the laundry while making dinner and paying bills; nothing’s going to get done and you’re going to be really stressed. Instead, develop a system that works for you to keep tasks organized and scheduled. Those are sometimes dirty words for some people, but there’s got to be at least a little bit of structure when balancing the needs of three generations (remember, your needs need to be met, too).

Your system should mesh with how your brain works. Maybe it’s a shared Google calendar that the whole family has access to. Maybe you have one giant to-do list and transfer things onto daily lists each evening. And if you can only handle so much organization, at least mark down the critical tasks like paperwork, medications, and appointments. If the critical things are getting done and some other things fall through the cracks because you’re at your limits, at least you know everyone’s basic needs are being met.

A woman at her computer making a family calendar to keep organized and eliminate stress. Marble Wellness is located in West County, MO and offers counseling for anxiety, stress, depression and more!

Understand the Needs of Each Generation:

Even though you are caring for both your kids and your parents, remember who is who and what they each expect of you. If, for instance, you start treating your parents like they’re your children, that will breed a lot of resentment. Your parents may need help with a lot of things, but they took care of you and ran a home for a long time before now. Losing that is hard, and it can be tough for them to hand that position over to their child.

So remember to be sensitive. Try to make things with your parents as collaborative as possible and respect their wants, not just their needs. If you don’t pull control away from them, they may have a better transition into their new stage of life.

If your parents' lives require intense management, try not to let that turn into micromanagement for your kids. Not letting the kids manage whatever they're capable of for their age is just going to add unnecessary stress. Try to remember the needs of each generation, and be sure you're respecting each stage of development.

A child, mother and grandfather spending time together. Being a care taker of your parents and children can cause a lot of stress and depression. Marble Wellness is located in STL and offers counseling for families, couples and individuals. Marble Wellness can see teens, children and adults.

There are so many challenges that come along with being in the Sandwich Generation. You are expected to be there for everyone and accomplish everything. But you are not alone; an entire generation is in the same boat as you. And you don’t have to do it without support. If you can get help from family, friends, or community services, take it.

And don’t neglect caring for yourself in the process.

No one will be okay if you let yourself burn out. Always strive for that balance.

As a Sandwich Generation caretaker, it’s important that you have support for you and not just for your family members. Therapy can be a great way to make sure you are spending time taking care of your own needs and processing your feelings about your new role. If you’d like to find a therapist to help you navigate your family duties and your own self-care, reach out to Marble Wellness. Our team of therapists will help you navigate this stage of your life and find ways for you to stay balanced. Reach out to us and we’ll pair you with someone who can support you as you navigate this stage of your life.

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