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5 Tips for Managing Stress in the Sandwich Generation

About 25% of adults in their 40s and 50s belong to the sandwich generation—the population of middle-aged adults who are taking care of their children and at the same time providing some level of care or support to their elderly parents. Mothers in particular feel more stress trying to balance caring for their young children as well as their aging parents.

If you find yourself in this position, you may feel like you’re constantly trying to do too much at once, with not enough money, and worrying about the financial strain you know may come. Here’s how to manage your parents, your kids, and your sanity:

  1. Be proactive about finances. Get everyone’s finances out in the open. You can’t plan without the proper information. Ask your parents to share their financial situations with you, get a clear picture of your own finances, and share it with your kids. It will make it easier for your kids when it’s their turn, and help them understand why you can’t buy certain things so easily.
  2. Be clear about whose money it is. When you spend your parents’ money, keep in mind that it’s their money, not yours. Conversely, when you help your kids pay for certain things, be sure they pay their fair share and help out with personal expenses—even if you can afford it without their help. Don’t let them grow up to be dependent on you.
  3. Get professional help. Ask a certified financial adviser for help with the big issues, from college planning to retirement. Seek legal advice from an estate attorney about preparing documents (for yourself and for your parents) such as a will, a living will, and a power of attorney. Use the Eldercare Locator to find services for the older adults in your family.
  4. Find good care and companionship. Most likely your elderly parent not only needs care but is lonely and alone. Ask friends, family members, and neighbors for help.
  5. Make time for yourself. Guilt comes with the territory of living in the sandwich generation. No matter how much you do, it never feels like enough. Make time to do the things you enjoy, whether it’s reading a novel, working out, lunch with friends, or playing your favorite sport. Recharge your physical and mental batteries so that you can continue to be strong for the people who need you.

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