The stress of care-giving is experienced at various stages and in different relationships throughout our lives. With each one comes the need to develop coping skills in order to benefit both the care-givers and those in their charge.
Obviously, the first care-giving experience any of us knows occurs between parent and child. When parents are fortunate enough to be healthy and to have healthy children, the joys of parenting far outweigh any of its stressful challenges. Changing diapers, preparing food, crying spells, middle of the night fevers, and even sleep interrupted are all tolerated as the desire to satisfy the needs of newborns and the pleasure received in participating in their on-going developmental stages is immeasurable.
Yet, when issues of health interfere with what should be glorious times and good relationships, everything changes. Sleep-deprivation, emotional disappointments and fear change one’s entire ability to succeed in all relationships including parenting.
The truth than none of us is prepared for is that one never stops being a parent. When one’s children grow up, marry, and have children of their own, we then care not only about our children but about their children, our grandchildren. It comes with the territory of being in a family: the inevitable joys and sorrows of attending to the needs of more and more people.
Sadly, when children have the misfortune of being parentified at an early age because they have unhealthy parents, they, too, suffer from being placed in the role of care-taker. They miss out on ever experiencing the joys of being pampered with the attention that every child deserves, and as with all care-takers, coping skills are desperately needed if care-taker and those in their care are to survive.
Then when parents who are still care-taking their children begin to care-take their parents, this group is commonly referred to as the “sandwich generation.”
As a parent and grandparent I can honestly say that I don’t know many people who want to be in the position of needing the help of their children, but for some there is no choice. When that occurs, the most important aspects of living a healthy and balanced life come into play. At such times, some of the MUSTS include: ● taking care of one’s own health: meditating, exercising, reading – whatever gives pleasure and allows for focusing on the mind and body – doing positive activities to vitalize the soul
●Spending social time with people who are fun
●Becoming aware of negative thinking that directly affects your health and understanding that changing how you think and feel can change how you behave in ways that will benefit you and those for whom you are caring
●If you are caring for children with special needs, spouses, or aging parents, know that you are not alone. You will, however, have to be pro-active and seek out organizations, health care facilities, nursing facilities and those who specialize in the specific needs of your loved ones. But those people and such agencies do exist. Some are privately funded. Some are federally funded. You’ll have to do your homework, but it will pay off. You will ultimately be helping those in your charge as well as yourself. You will not become someone who prematurely needs care-taking because you have become a care-taker! But you will have to work hard to preserve your energy in order to be your best person and know that you are contributing toward improving the lives of those near and dear to you without destroying your own life.
If you find yourself lost between those two slices of life – childhood and old age – then your sandwich is likely to be poorly filled or overstuffed with unhealthy calories and little if any substance. You will consequently sabotage the help you wish to offer and it will be anything but nourishing.
So, if that’s where any of you are finding yourselves these days, reach out for the help you deserve. Those for whom you are caring do not want you to do diminish your lives because of what you’re doing to help them live theirs!
Anyone disagree? Please share your stories here so that others may learn and benefit from your experiences.
With gratitude for your participation,
*Please visit my website, http://www.applemanshapiro.com/ to learn more about my psychotherapy practice, my work as an oral historian and my book FOUR ROOMS, UPSTAIRS: A Psychotherapist’s Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother’s Mental
Illness (available for sale directly through the site with no fee for mailing).