The Sandwich Generation: Adult Children Parenting Their Parent

The catch phrase says it all. Adult children who are caring for their parents while also raising their own family are known as “the sandwich generation.” These caregivers find themselves pulled in many directions — caring for a parent, raising their children, keeping their marriage healthy and often holding down a job as well.

Moreover, they are thrust into the awkward and often unwanted position of parenting their own parents. In my 33 years of working with the older generation, this reversal in the parenting role gives rise to stress for both child & parent. Often with this stress comes arguments, frustration, negative feelings and relational divisions within families. Instead of focusing their attention on their own family, their focus has to shift to the parent, requiring more time, energy and patience than they had ever imagined.

It doesn’t surprise me when one of my client’s children call me to confess their resentment and guilt. Statements such as “I just can’t make one more decision for dad…” or “I didn’t realize how much time this was going to take and I just don’t have it…” or “why won’t my mother do what I tell her to…” do not surprise me at all anymore. In fact, I quite understand, having been through this personally, several years ago.

Please know this: Your feelings are normal. Don’t keep the negative feelings in. Vent to a good friend, spouse or a therapist. It is a huge responsibility to take on the parenting of your parent. Remember how they parented you and use the same techniques. For example: if you don’t allow X, the consequence will be Y&Z.

My advice is to always take care of yourself. One way to do this is to enlist or employ help! There are so many resources in our area that can help relieve a lot if not all the responsibility. By getting help, the role of parent and child returns to its original state.

Sharon Ritchey-Boschini,
Owner & Director
Visiting Angels of North Hills Pittsburgh
8035 McKnight Road, Suite 304
Pittsburgh, PA 15237