Tips on Helping You and Your Children Cope with Aging Grandparents

As the parents, there can come a time when we must attend to both our kids as well as our own parents.

It’s a painful part of life that all of us experience to watch our parents slow down. That slowing down often means illness, injury, or decline in mental function and this can be very confusing for our own small children. As adults, it’s often difficult for us to accept that our aging parents can no longer do the same things they used to do effortlessly. Cultivating patience becomes a high priority in situations where a condition or illness changes everything.

Because our generation is having children later, we find ourselves in the “sandwich” zone, where we are caring for aging parents and young children at the same time. This comes with a new set of challenges that we are often not prepared for. In the interests of keeping everyone on the same page, the following suggestions can help to alleviate the pressures.

Keep the talks simple and incremental. It’s tempting in these situations to go into a big explanation of why grandma is at the hospital, but simple and age appropriate is better. Kids will likely ask questions and so you can have an ongoing dialog with them. Dole out that information slowly.

Encourage bonding and communication whenever possible. The love that passes between grandparent and grandchild is sacred, but when health or self-sufficiency problems emerge, kids are often extracted from the scene and left feeling very much outside of what is happening. By shoring your kids up with information, we let them in, and if given the chance, they will value every moment they have with their grandparent. Within reason, facilitate that time.

Emphasize helping. Kids will surprise you by rolling up their little sleeves and pitching in, and that solidifies their role in the family unit. This can mean everything from raking the leaves in granddad’s yard to making a card. Letting them contribute however they can is a key piece. In fact, according to the AARP in 2011, eight percent of caregivers for elderly in the U.S. were grandchildren1.

Soak up the good stuff. Research has shown that having multi-generational influences in a household have positive effects for kids. They are less likely to develop ageist ideas, and it can work as a shock absorber, buffering families from conflict and the fall out from disruptive change2. Valuing this connectedness between the generations is something that has sadly fallen out of vogue. Our kids need to understand that our parents lived full and interesting lives way before they came along and that knowledge is very valuable.

We are not going to get it right all the time: there will be moments of unfettered tears, irritability, sorrow, and confusion. These facts of life are very present when someone we love is moving further along the mortal coil. But we can accept these features of the cycle and try to do so with some dignity and awareness that our own children can witness and absorb. Kindness, forgiveness, and staying present are gifts both our children and our parents will appreciate.

 

 

References:

  1. http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-08-2011/grandchild-as-caregiver.html
  2. http://www.legacyproject.org/specialreports/fastfacts.html

 

About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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