Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Family holiday stress was the subject of our last Steppping Stones newsletter and several readers emailed to let us know how timely it was.

With the smell of Thanksgiving turkey still in the air, take a minute to be mindful of how the day was for you. And with the holidays of December right around the corner, think about how you want to celebrate them. What is it that you are full of and what fills you up?

Know that the messiness and exhileration of family dynamics can lead to understanding yourself and others better. Conflict can serve as an invitation to grow when you honor the importance of relationships. A lot of people feel that, with family, there are no returns or exchanges even with a gift receipt. So embrace the holiday season and rejoice in the love, support and connection of your family.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Last week we touched on the lessons we can take from Veterans Day as we give thanks for the love of our own family members. Now that Thanksgiving is only a few days away, it becomes even more meaningful to express your gratitude for their presence in your life. Here are a few more ways to apply the message of Veterans Day to Thanksgiving.

Recognize the importance of revealing the love you have for each other. Those who have been in harm's way know the meaning of the words, "it's too late." Don't put off sharing your love; decide to make it a priority. Each day, acknowledge those you love, and who love you, as if it were your last.

Understand the value of friendship. Those in the service have trusted and leaned on each other as they've shared their experiences and relied on their camaraderie. Know that we are here to take care of our friends and family – close and extended – difficult though it may be at times.

Family and community support is there for the taking when you know where to look and how to ask for it. Be open to the reality that you might need to utilize the input and generosity of others. You are not diminished when you allow another to help you.

Draw upon your own strength. You will learn more about your capabilities when you are tested by hard times than when everything is going well for you. Resiliency is increased each time you get up and put one foot in front of the other. Bravery comes in many actions – facing an illness, providing for your family, starting a new career - not only on the battlefield.

Just as those in the foxholes feel the honest emotions of fear, anger, pain, guilt, anxiety and loneliness, allow yourself to experience these emotions when they are a part of your life. Sandwiched between caring for your offspring and your parents, you will feel stressed and anxious at times. Acknowledge these feelings, and then begin to deal with them.

If you remember the fragility and transience of life as you move through it, you will savor each good moment you have. To live your life to the fullest is a lasting mark of respect you can pay to your family and to the veterans who have sacrificed the innocence of their youth for you.

So after having paid tribute to the men and women of the Armed Services on Veterans Day, make a commitment to employ some of these techniques to honor your own family as you celebrate Thanksgiving together. You will find that, as a part of the Sandwich Generation, it makes your time with each member more meaningful and relevant.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Veterans Day, traditionally November 11, will be observed this Monday. It gives us the opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women of the Armed Services. As we do, we embrace them in all of their complexity.

As the average age of men and women in the Armed Forces rises, many are a part of the Sandwich Generation, concerned about caring for family members at home as they continue their service to the country. Their burden becomes especially apparent on Veterans Day, a time for all of us to honor American veterans of all wars.

Yet, even on Veterans Day, controversy surrounds the most meaningful ways to pay homage to those who have served in the past and support our troops who are still in harm's way. Society's view of veterans has reflected how Americans feel about the wars their country fights. Veterans reminiscing in Ken Burns' recent documentary series on World War II noted how unity in the country was palpable at that time, acknowledging the bravery and service of the young men and women of the "Greatest Generation."

Now, however, as during the Vietnam war, Veterans Day is as likely to touch off a storm of anti-war protest as it is to perpetuate a peaceful time of reflection and thanksgiving. There are heated discussions about whether or not to show flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq, how the names of those who have given their lives in service are to be used, and whether veterans are treated fairly by their employers.

What lessons can we, Baby Boomer members of the Sandwich Generation ourselves, take from veterans - those who have stood up for the rest of us and given their all to protect our way of life? As we respect their unique bravery, we can direct what we learn to our own family situation by applying the same principles to those closest to us.

Begin by expressing the gratitude you feel for what your family members have given you – protection, opportunities, love, strength, enjoyment of life. You have doors open to you now because of them. This can begin with something as simple as a heartfelt "thank you," and develop into a more textured and thoughtful recognition of what you are thankful for.

Think about additional examples that may work for you in your family and we will discuss more of them next week.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

I recently returned from a three week trip to China and had the chance to talk to some women about their Sandwich Generation concerns. I was particularly aware of the strong movement away from an agrarian society toward rapid urban growth. Our local "boomer" guides were proud of incorporating Western values into their lifestyle - with more demanding work schedules, higher cost of living and increased stress levels.

There, grandparents are well respected and taken care of - many living in the home of one of their sons and his family. And they play an intregal role in the family structure, often caring for their young grandchildren whose parents are working very long hours.

Yet these elders also nurture themselves - in the early morning hours at any local park, you can find any number of activities very well attended: tai chi, ballroom dancing, exercises, drumming, mahjong, walking, Chinese checkers.

I wonder, should we be adopting some of the ways that the Chinese treat the aging process? Is there a lesson in all this for us?

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