Many caregivers are part of the "sandwich generation," people who are caring for their aging relatives while raising their own children. Parenting while caregiving presents unique challenges. AARP offers insight into a helping your children adjust to your new role. These tips are mostly for caregivers who move their aging loved ones into their homes, but they also work for caregivers who live apart from their care-receivers.
1. Remember that your children are children first, and helpers second.
Most kids want to be useful, especially if they sense that you are feeling overwhelmed. However, they are still kids: not therapists, not assistants, not responsible adults. If you notice that your child is neglecting her schoolwork or her social life to help you care for an aging loved one, reevaluate her responsibilities. Your kids should have time to be kids, after all.
2. Enlist their help in age-appropriate ways.
You can still find ways for your kids to contribute, of course. An especially responsible teenager might occasionally chauffeur his grandfather to and from medical appointments. A talented young chef could help you adapt recipes for your diabetic mom. And your precocious toddler would be happy to draw or color next to your Great-Aunt while she watches her stories.
3. Focus on the positives--and reward accordingly.
Your children - no matter how mature or responsible - are still children. They are not as capable or knowledgeable as an adult. AARP advises caregivers to reinforce good behavior whenever they see it. If your kids are unable or unwilling (or willing but inept) to help with a caregiving task, remind yourself that they are doing the best they can.
4. Devote some time to just your kids.
Your attention is what your children crave (yes, even teenagers). Children who feel ignored - even if they understand why their parent is busy - suffer in a myriad of ways. If necessary, arrange for a respite caregiver for a weekend or even just an afternoon to spend time together with your kids.
5. Be clear with roles from the beginning.
This point is only touched in the article, but it is important to mention. You are the parent to your children. Their grandparents, while authority figures worthy of respect, should not undermine your parenting decisions. Make this explicitly clear and do not waiver on this point. You'll avoid many arguments from both sides; think, "But Grammy said I could!" and "In my day, we never would've let a boy wear that to school!".
Caregivers face so many challenges, but you must never lose sight of your role as a parent. Using these tips from AARP, you will be better able to cope with the stresses of parenting and caregiving. Your children look up to you, after all. They will take their cues from you!
For more information, visit AARP here