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Sandwich Generation Is Really Two Generations

Ella Traver | ElderThink | 09.10.09


We tend to think of the "Sandwich Generation" as people in their 30s and 40s who are caring for aging parents and their own children.


There are also people in their 50s and 60s who are caring for their aging parents, grown children, and grandchildren.


And with current economic conditions, there are people in their 20s who have remained at home with their parents and they are all taking care of those who are unemployed.


Older family members are living longer and so they are needing care longer. It's a tremendous change for everyone.

Relationships Fray When Adult Children Move Home

ElderThinker | Sept 2010


When children go through their teen years, there are often passionate moments when young people or their parents or both say ugly things or behave in a regretable fashion. It's not unusual for these conflicts to remain unresolved for years or a lifetime.


When grown chiidren come home to live, they and their parents may be well beyond those emotional times but family members can still be concerned about painful old problems showing up again.


The most difficult problem of all is setting boundaries since this was most likely a sensitive are during teen years.


Yet people who share a home must set and respect boundaries. The three largest problem areas are: will the young people faithfully continue to look for work or enroll in an education program that has a good chance of generating a job; will the young people assume primary responsibility for their own children, pets, laundry and general tidiness; and will the young people respect the property, time and attention of their parents.


These are tough times for everyone but it certainly is the parents who are doing the giving and the younger adults who are taking. No one should lose sight of that. ET


Adult Children Moving In



Helping Adult Children

Gretchen Heuring | ElderThink | 09.26.09


Marie thought the world had ended when she was laid off from her job as a buyer for a furniture store. She loved her job and had worked her way up from the clerk position she took right after college. Then about a month later, her husband, Ben, lost his job when the woolen mill where he worked made some cuts. With two school-age children at home, Marie and Ben were strapped and finally put their house on the market and moved their family in with Marie's retired parents.


In today's economic climate, many of us older folks are stepping up to help our adult children. We share our homes, care for grandchildren and "grandpets," and pay bills.


These changed circumstances can create emotional burdens


because our lives change in so many ways. Our homes are no longer entirely our own if adult children have moved in with us. Often, we give financial support from resources we have carefully preserved for our retirement years. The greatest and least understood gift is our time and energy which we thought would be completely ours.


We love our children and grandchildren. We know they need our encouragement and support. So what are the best ways to give them what they need and retain some of our own selves in the process?


Maintaining Independence

Adult children who are in trouble may respond by showing neediness, or in the reverse, they may seem aloof. We have lots of training for jumping in to take charge. We love them. We are not in their muddle and we can see a clear path to a brighter future.


It is the steps we all take that are important. We need to help our children maintain their independence so we can keep ours. These early steps do not need to be slow, but they are very important.



First, there should be realistic agreements to set achievable and measureable objectives. Are they going back to school, looking for a new job, or finding a house? Is there something your child wants to try that you think is unwise? You must agree on how long he will persue this new direction and how it will lead to independence for everyone. How will you both know it has or has not worked out?


If your children are saving money, how much will be saved over what period of time? How will you know money-saving plans are being followed? You need an agreement.



Adult children who need your help will often expect you to set limits. They will not know how much time, or money, or living space you can give unless you tell them quite clearly. They will trust you to say what you need, and you must trust them to respect your wishes. The best way to establish this is to write everything down from the beginning.



Giving living space or time or money to adult children in need can create a big change for older parents. These decisions almost always involve a change in lifestyle, plans and even dreams. It's important to assess the effect these changes have on each person to prevent festering resentments. Don't forget that your child or children, and perhaps grandchildren could have to go through some big changes too.