Sandwiched between Parents and Children?

Contrary to what many think, the Indian joint family system has not disintegrated in the last 40 years. 82% of adult Indians live with their parents. 80% of elderly widows and widowers live with their children. 

The term sandwich generation is used to refer to individuals who are supporting their aging parents while caring for their own children. This can result in a complex balancing act as they try to meet the needs of multiple generations and manage their own responsibilities and personal life.

There are several benefits of taking care of both parents and children. Research shows that both the grandparents and the grandchildren benefit from being around each other. Grandparents are less lonely, and grandchildren are well cared for. There are often financial benefits like reduced housing expenses. Another important thing is that individuals often feel a sense of purpose and fulfilment by taking care of their loved ones.

Some of the challenges the individuals in the sandwich generation face could be:

  • Financial challenges. Caring for both parents and children can cause a financial strain, especially if the parents don’t have an independent source of income or savings.  
  • Time Management. Juggling demands of their own work, children’s school and their routines, and parent’s care routines can result in overworked individuals with no time for themselves.
  • Emotional and physical stress. Taking care of both children and parents can be physically and emotionally draining.
  • Guilt. The sandwich generation can feel guilty about not meeting completely the needs of either the parents or their children.

Here are some steps to mitigate the challenges:

  • Communication: Having open communication with everyone in the family about needs, expectations and challenges can help. 
  • Organisation: Getting organised with medical appointments, after school activities and meetings will reduce everyday stress.
  • Support: Support from siblings, extended family and community resources can help deal with the challenges.  Sometimes this support needs to be asked for as others might not recognise what you need.
  • Delegation: Both elderly parents and children can help with tasks depending on their age and ability levels. Do include them in taking care of the house and other tasks at home.
  • Self-care: Self-care should be prioritised and can include spending time on exercise, hobbies and activities that bring pleasure. This might not always be easy, but being intentional about it helps. For eg, you can perhaps walk for half an hour every morning or have couple of hours to yourself on the weekend.
  • Talk to a counsellor: Everyone’s challenges are different and what works for one person may not work for another. Do talk to a counsellor if you need support with your individual situation.
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