Navigating the Holidays for the Sandwich Generation
The “sandwich generation” refers to adults who are caring for aging parents and minor children at the same time. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2022, 23% of separated or divorced spouses are part of the sandwich generation. For them, planning and celebrating holidays can have an extra layer of challenge, particularly for people who share custody of their children. Fostering togetherness and honoring the traditions associated with the holidays can feel overwhelming, with two generations of family needing support and attention. Here are some tips for navigating the complex family dynamics and demands while still celebrating the holidays.
Plan and Coordinate in Advance
When parents share custody of their children, it can be difficult to ensure that everyone in both families has the chance to celebrate the holidays. Custody agreements often include holiday provisions that involve alternating years or other shared schedules. With aging parents whose needs conflict with the agreement, some flexibility may be called for. Plan holiday schedules well in advance to avoid conflicts and ensure that both parents and grandparents have quality time with the children.
Adopt Realistic Traditions
Whenever the composition of the family changes, it is a good idea to create new traditions that can accommodate the new normal. Changes need to be considered where previous traditions were centered around a nuclear family or activities that may no longer be possible for the aging generation. When considering new traditions, explore simpler rituals that allow everyone to participate to their capabilities and look for options that are not date specific. For example, baking cookies can happen around the holiday without being tied to a specific day.
Balancing Time and Obligations
Adults in the sandwich generation may have multiple family obligations, including time spent with their own parents, co-parent, and children. Striking a balance and managing time effectively can help reduce stress. Amidst the juggling, it is crucial to include personal time. Burning the candle at both ends to accommodate the needs and desires of children and parents can make it harder to cope emotionally and physically. Focus on getting rest and some alone time to recharge.
Lean On Support Systems
With the elder and younger family members looking to the sandwich generation, it is crucial to have support systems, whether it's friends, family, or a support group for people going through a similar experience. These networks can help with planning and coordination by offering advice, making suggestions, or stepping in to fill a need. Not only will this help with the burdens, but including other people in the holidays can be a source of additional joy and celebration.
Remember that flexibility, open communication, and a willingness to adapt are key when navigating the holidays as a co-parent in the sandwich generation. It's an opportunity to create new traditions and find joy in connections, even if family dynamics have changed. While it is never possible to anticipate all the changes that can occur when custody is split between two parents, working with an experienced family law attorney may help structure a custody agreement with provisions that allow for the care of elderly parents. Contact Reese Law for a consultation to learn more about how we can help.