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Posted: November 30, 2006

Kids Caught in Caregiving's Shuffle:
7 Tips to Balance Their Life

They are known as the Sandwich Generation, caregivers caught between multiple generations, caring for their aging parents and their children at the same time. As most of them will tell you, caregivers with kids are often torn between the many responsibilities that come with parenting, elder care, and the rest of what is collectively called life. The load is heavy for each generation in this mix.

Though caring for elderly parents or loved ones is probably most taxing for the caregiver, it can also wreak havoc on the caregiver's family, especially young children who need their parents most, or adolescents who – though they'd never admit in so many words – may need them even more.

“There are only so many hours in the day,” explains Susan Cunningham, certified senior advisor and author of Unwrapping the Sandwich Generation: Life Vignettes About Seniors and Their Adult Children. “When you take on the role of caregiver, something's got to give, and unfortunately, it's often the immediate family of the caregiver.”

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Homemade meals, time spent at soccer games, and family outings are examples of what may be the first to go, disrupting the caregiver's family life and the lives of their family. “You automatically nurture your kids and now have to do it with your parents, to make them feel that you still appreciate them as a human being,” says Carol Abaya, a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist on aging issues and editor of the website SandwichGeneration.com.

Naturally, as you spend more time nurturing your loved one, you'll have less time to spend nurturing your children. That’s just a fact.

But caring for your loved one doesn't have to mean lack of care for your kids -- in fact, involving children in the caregiving process may prove worthwhile and rewarding for all involved. “I've seen it where the children found themselves drawn closer to their grandparents,” Cunningham recalls, “then I've seen the other end where the kids act out and turn away from the parent . . . because they don't get as much attention.”

Here are seven tips to help ease the effects of caregiving on your children:

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Ursula Furi-Perry is a writer based in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Resources: The Sandwich Generation newsletter and information for caregivers.

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