Raising children while caring for seniors is a special kind of balancing act. Your elders may feel like they’re in the way while our kids may act out when they sense that you are stressed about the responsibilities. Some reasons why your children might act out are:
Anxiety about changes in the family dynamic
Sadness about the changes they see in their grandparents
Feeling ignored when the parent’s attention is elsewhere
Sensing they’ve been demoted in the family hierarchy
Fear of what might happen in the future
While adults can reason away most of these fears, children do not yet have the same coping mechanisms. As their parents, it’s important to give them the tools to handle change and chaos. Here are some ideas on how to raise children while caring for seniors at home:
Breathe! This may seem obvious, but studies have shown that when someone is stressed, they can forget to breathe. Taking mindful breaths will help increase oxygen to your brain and help you make better decisions.
Say “Yes!” when someone offers to help. Let them take your children and/or your parents for an outing to give you a couple of hours to collect yourself.
Make yourself a priority. It is hard to find the time or the energy but a little self-indulgence each day will help ease the edges of a rough time. Even if it’s just a piece of chocolate, a half-hour soak in the tub, or a call with a trusted friend.
Hire help. Having someone take care of the cleaning, grocery shopping, or other household tasks is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you are putting yourself on the priority list.
Look into institutional help. Often school social workers, guidance counselors, or your faith communities can suggest services to help ease the burdens.
Share your concerns with your children, keeping it age appropriate. Your children will benefit from a solid discussion about what is happening with their grandparent and may even have ideas for how they can help. “Helping” is one way to ease their own fears and give them a sense of control.
Allow your parents to participate in decisions about their care. If appropriate, discuss with them the challenges of a multi-generational family and allow them to help out. Perhaps they are slower at housework, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t or are unwilling to help out.
Source: Empowering Parents
Raising children while caring for seniors
Especially as adults live longer and, for the most part, healthier lives, it is important to help give meaning to those later years.
Eighty-three percent of older adults have expressed a desire to volunteer or perform community service to continue being a viable part of society. Intergenerational programs can help fill a void, both for seniors and youth.
Intergenerational programs offer multiple generations of services at the same location. Examples include retirement communities with on-site childcare and housing for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. The number of single-parent families and the need for parents to work outside of the home continues to rise.
The experience and time that a grandparent or older relative might have to give while parents are working can be a huge benefit. Intergenerational programs can benefit older adults through improved physical and mental health, enhanced socialization, improved sense of self-worth, and increased independence. Those with dementia have experienced lowered levels of agitation, improved attitudes about other generations, and, often, a delayed necessity for entrance into care facilities. Children benefit through enhanced social skills, increased stability, growth in empathy, lower levels of aggressive or anti-social behaviors, and improved academic performance.
It is hard to be sandwiched between two generations. Caught between the family that raised you and the family that you’re raising, but there are a lot of fun ways to make it more meaningful for all of you.
How to Talk with Children about Aging Relatives
- Keep it age appropriate but honest.
- Help them understand that sadness and anger are normal. Offer them appropriate outlets for these feelings.
- If an illness or disease is involved, let them know that no one caused it. Children sometimes think they are to blame.
- Let them help brainstorm fun activities that the family can do together (crafts, music, photo albums, story time).
Source: National Institute on Aging
Activities for Children and Seniors
Take a walk
Feed the birds
Sit on a bench or swing
Listen to music
Look at photo albums
Play board games
Do crafts, paint, or draw
Brush hair or do nails
Source: Alzheimer’s Association
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