Balancing Act: Caring For Your Children and Your Parents

March 5, 2012

Life can present some interesting challenges. One of these is taking care of your parents as they get older – while taking care of your own children at the same time. This combination, and feeling pulled in two different directions at once, can quickly leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. Finding a balance takes some time and a little cooperation from everyone involved.

Develop a Support System

The first step in easing the burden is to admit that sometimes you need a little help yourself. You do not get any special trophy for being able to do everything for everyone who needs you. It is just as important to find your own balance – as it is to care for those who depend on you. Talk to those around you for ways they can help fulfill the daily needs of your children and your parents. Some steps to putting together a support system include:

  • Having a friend or group of friends you can turn to when things get to be too stressful.
  • Asking your spouse or relatives to pick up some of the slack. This could include taking your children to their after school activities or driving your parents to the store.
  • Asking your children to take on a few extra responsibilities for themselves as they get older.
  • Seeking professional help. Consider getting a little help from a support group or therapist if the stress is overwhelming.
  • Taking advantage of programs for the elderly. Many cities have agencies that offer transportation and other services designed for older people. Consider taking advantage of some of these services to ease your burden.

Encourage Independence

There will always be situations where somebody needs your help, especially children and parents as they grow older. One thing children and elderly parents have in common is the desire for independence. Children seek it and aging parents want to retain it. Encourage your children to do applicable tasks on their own. Consider encouraging your parents to do things like get a hearing aid or use a specially designed phone with larger numbers so they can continue to do some tasks. There is a certain amount of pride in being as independent as possible. Other ways to encourage independence include:

  • Asking older children to help younger children with daily tasks like getting dressed or brushing teeth.
  • Purchasing easy-to-grip brushes, slip on shoes, and other products specially-designed for the elderly, so they can still do everyday tasks without asking for as much help.
  • Encouraging your parents to develop their own support system with friends who can help them maintain a social life away from your supervision. A specially-designed necklace or bracelet can also be used by your parents to get help if an emergency arises and you aren’t around.

Establish Guidelines and Setup a System

Let everyone know you will always be available in emergency situations. However, there are other situations where either your children or parents may become accustomed to you doing things for them. Take time to explain that there will be times when you cannot immediately attend to their needs, unless it is an emergency. You cannot be everywhere for everybody. Setup a system of what to do when someone needs something from you, including:

  • Assessing the situation. If you are busy taking care of something else, ask them if they can wait for a little while.
  • Getting backup help. Come up with a list of other people your children or parents can turn to if you are busy and cannot get to them right away. Children and parents can easily get impatient. Having a list of others who can help in a pinch can provide you with some needed relief.

While there is no true substitute for the personal touch, you cannot realistically be everywhere at once. Consider letting your children have a cell phone when they are old enough to handle the responsibility. This way you can keep in touch, even when you cannot be with them in person. The same is true for your parents. Give them a cell phone if they do not already have one. Teach them how to use it to get in touch with you. Finally, do not be afraid to ask for help yourself. There is no shame in not being able to do everything for everyone.

Disclaimer: The author is affiliated with Assisted Living Today, a leading source of information on a range of topics related to elderly care and care homes for your loved ones.

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