Family Relationships

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

Friday, November 28, 2008

Today is Black Friday. Falling on the day after Thanksgiving, it officially begins the holiday shopping period. Historically a surge of shoppers helped stores break into profitability. But this year, with the deteriorating economy, there have been rampant promotions of up to 70% throughout November. The power of this landmark day for the retail industry may be fading.

The question remains whether people will be spending money on holiday gifts as credit markets remain frozen, layoffs loom and consumer spending shrinks. What will you be doing - rushing out early and putting your credit card to good use? Or staying home, reluctant to even tempt yourself?

Noticing how you react, Sandwiched Boomers, can give you a window into your own psychology. Whether or not you spend money shopping today, it doesn't cost anything to invest in your relationships. So savor the memories of Thanksgiving and enjoy the dividends of family and friends.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

As members of the Sandwich Generation, are you ready to be there for your family and take care of yourself this Thanksgiving day?

If you get annoyed, go for the high ground and walk away. There's a greater possibility of conflict with a family member who is unreasonable. Despite how hard it is, don't take the bait

With a relationship that matters, bury the hatchet. If in the past you have gone underground and then blown up later, don't let these feelings fester. Acknowledge the part you play and deal with it now.

Forgiveness is a gift. Whether family members are with you in person or in your memories, practice the power of letting go of childhood pain.

Let others know what they mean to you. Talk to your partner, children and parents about how good it is to have them in your life. Focus on the positives and share what you love about them.

We have great memories of the time we've spent with you the past few years. And we're grateful to have you as a part of our blogging community. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

As a longstanding member of the Sandwich Generation, are you tired of preparing the Thanksgiving dinner and ready to pass the baton to the next generation? What follows are some tips that will help you create new holiday rituals:

Make this Thanksgiving a rite of passage. If you want to be a guest instead of the hostess, tell your family how you feel. Whether you're edging your kidults out of the nest or taking a well deserved break, begin to shift the responsibility of family get-togethers to the next generation.

Pass on the family legacy. Let your adult children know how much you value keeping the family close. Ask for what you want and be willing to help out. Teach by example as they watch how you lovingly take care of your own aging parents.

Encourage your children to preserve the old family traditions. Give them your support while they begin to create some new customs of their own. And remember to express your appreciation for all they do.

Whether your emerging adult children decide to create new wave recipes or cook the meal in the microwave, it's now out of your control. Sit back and relax - all you have to do is pass the cranberries.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We got ahead of ourselves yesterday, so let's back up. For the Sandwich Generation, long before the Thanksgiving meal, there's a lot riding on family. This can create pressure for everyone. With blended families, there's the challenge of logistics - accommodating the needs of others and still not compromising your own too much. And when family members live in different cities it's hard to determine which is easier, going back home or having visitors on your turf. Of course, there are all the memories of holidays past coupled with the expectations of today - sometimes unrealistic and often unfulfilled.

Realize that what you are experiencing is normal and stress is common at this time of year. Here are a few ways to restore balance:

If you're traveling home, remember to pack your patience. Internalized memories or old family dynamics are bound to surface. Unfinished business - like sibling rivalry and the fight for mom's attention - is baggage that is often too large to fit in the overhead compartment. So make a decision this year to try and leave it behind.

Explore the possibility of the out of town guests staying in a hotel. It's more difficult to have others around while preparing the meal and uncomfortable for the guests. Making a decision to house visitors elsewhere could be a relief for all of you - and the beginning of a new family tradition.

Identify your core values. A core value is about being, not about doing. For example, you may set a goal of being more relaxed rather than trying to make everything perfect. Decide to live up to these standards. Begin to take action as you create a more congruent way of life.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Ever since 1789 when President George Washington declared Thanksgiving a holiday, Americans have been going home. But it can be complicated when old family dynamics surface in the midst of the meal. This week we'll be addressing what the Sandwich Generation can bring to the table in order for the holiday to run smoothly.

Make a conscious decision to put aside misunderstandings. Realize that if you arrive at dinner with no complaints, an open mind and an accepting heart, you'll be in a better emotional place to enjoy the family time together.

Before the meal, begin a conversation about gratitude. Encourage your children and your parents to talk about what they are thankful for and how recognizing these kind of feelings can become a part of their daily lives.

Serve as a role model for your extended family. Pause to recognize the talents, skills and positive character traits of others. By openly acknowledging their personal strengths, you'll show your support as well as make them feel good about themselves.

Log in and share some of your ideas about what works for you and your family.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

We have been committed to encouraging the experience and expression of gratitude since we worked with Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of the Positive Psychology movement and the author of "Authentic Happiness." In his book, Dr. Seligman proposes that we identify our strengths and apply them to creating an authentically happy and meaningful life, complete with personal gratification as well as with community improvement. He believes that the expression of gratitude in a concrete way to important mentors, role models and friends changes both the giver and receiver of the "thanks" in a positive way.

In addition, keeping a gratitude journal, as we blogged last Thursday, allows you the opportunity to focus each day on what you are thankful about. Focus on what brings you pleasure and enjoy the results of savoring that experience.

If you would like to learn more about how your own views about gratitude affect you, visit Dr. Seligman's site, and take the Gratitude Survey questionnaire as well as other questionnaires on the website.

I know I am grateful that my three wonderful grandsons are coming in this evening to visit for the week. As we share our Thanksgiving meal, I will express my gratitude that they are a part of my life and I am a part of theirs.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Financial considerations often form the basis of adult children and parents moving back in together. Even with the potential costs of remodeling to accommodate the two families, maintaining one household rather than two generally creates considerable savings for everyone. As Rhea summed it up in her comment yesterday, there are positive outcomes from sharing housing with family - saving money, for one. "Necessity will force a lot of living situations that we might not initially choose but will save us from financial ruin. It pays to learn how to live well with others!"

The support generated on both sides can serve as the foundation for resolving past misunderstandings between parents and adult children. Understanding and forgiveness are easier to accomplish when different viewpoints are considered. And rather than taking each other for granted, family members can express their gratitude for one another.

An additional benefit of the multi-generational experience is the closer relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. Generations living together lead to a win-win situation for everyone here. A grandmother says, "It's been surprisingly wonderful. I'm getting a level of contact with my kids and grandkids that has been more rewarding than I could ever have dreamed." From the perspective of a busy mother, the reactions are more practical. "My husband and I are lucky because my mom helps take care of our kids while we are at work."

The close bonding allows the extended family to build rich memories to savor over the years. As the older generation continues to age, these times may be the impetus for planning their care by the new sandwiched generation, with the grandchildren pitching in to help.

With Thanksgiving just one week away, tomorrow we return to the topic of last week: gratitude. We will look at some reactions - internal and external - to saying "thank you."

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Actress Natalie Portman, who moved back in with her parents when she gave up her own home, reveals that things do not always go as expected. "It was cool in the beginning because I get good meals and my laundry done but it turns into trouble. It's rough."

As the reality of shared housing sets in, here are some more tips that Sandwiched Boomers will find helpful:

Think about the problems that can come up and make a Plan B. Just because you all are having some difficulty with the new living arrangements doesn't mean that you have to discard the entire idea. It is important for a sense of control to have scheduled family meetings to discuss the issues and conflicts that come up. The lack of privacy, intruding on other family members' boundaries, and unwanted advice are often sore points.

Be flexible and learn to love compromise and cooperation. Look at the situation from the perspective of the other family members as you work on understanding their positions. You all in this together and while you may not get exactly what you specifically want, you can work out a solution that is good for everyone.

Respect the needs of everyone involved. When each person feels heard, it takes away some of the frustration stemming from the lack of control. You can be supportive to one another just by listening even if you don't agree with the reason for the complaint.

Tomorrow we will look at savoring some of the real positives that come out of sharing a home with other family members.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yesterday we looked at the new kind of boomerang living arrangements created as a result of the current financial meltdown. Sandwiched Boomers - as well as the generations before and after them - are moving into these situations in record numbers. Many positive results can come out of shared housing if you plan ahead. Today we have some tips to help take the sting out:

Have a family meeting to set guidelines before you move in together. All of you need to be frank and honest about your needs. Each of you will be giving up some autonomy and control so you can expect to have some situations where push comes to shove. Each of you can present your positions for the best and worst case scenarios. Then decide how you want to compromise so that everyone gets some of what they want. Put any absolute deal breakers out on the table so that they can be discussed in detail.

Work out a schedule for shared responsibilities, chores, and finances. If there is to be a division of labor, gain consensus about making the various tasks equitable. When children/grandchildren are part of the mix, arrive at a clear timetable with regard to babysitting so that no one feels exploited.

Set boundaries so that everyone's privacy is respected. Living together with roommates in a college dorm is one thing but sharing space with family members can get awkward. Identify signals to use when one of you wants to be alone. The last time you all lived together, the circumstances were likely quite different. Old issues around power or dependency can resurface in this close environment, particularly when there may be a difference of opinion about how to handle issues with children.

And see the comment yesterday from Dina who adds, "Mediation between merging families can be invaluable. A mediator can assist families in teasing out those hidden issues and negotiating norms that respect everyone's needs."

Tomorrow we will have some more suggestions for getting the most out of your family togetherness.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Families today are facing a new kind of housing crisis as the economy continues to spiral downward. When one spouse in a two-career marriage loses a job, making the monthly mortgage payment becomes difficult, especially for Sandwiched Boomers. Senior citizens who have been able to pay for housing from their retirement accounts find they must cut back on that expense when their retirement funds are down by 20%. When a mortgage that began with an artificially low interest figure calls for a rate increase or a balloon payment, the cost becomes prohibitive to the nuclear family.

These scenarios are not about GenX and GenY kidults boomeranging back home, with connotations of immaturity or irresponsibility. Rather they reflect adults struggling with the real effects of a global financial meltdown not faced in over 75 years. A recent AARP study revealed that more than ¼ of the foreclosures and delinquencies last year occurred among those 50 and over. These seniors and their adult children are looking carefully at what to do to ease the economic woes that have hit everyone hard.

In some cases, younger families are moving back in with one of their parents, pooling their funds for mortgage payments. This helps both the young couple having trouble making ends meet and the older parents coping with reduced retirement income. Others have turned to 'granny flats' - guest suites or small guesthouses. Seniors who give up their individual, larger homes move in to the compact units on their children's property.

Another response by some who are feeling the effects of the economic crisis is to rent out rooms in their house or condo. In Los Angeles, the listing of rooms for rent in private homes was up 72% in October from the same time last year. Reminiscent of the small boarding houses prevalent in the first half of the 20th century, this new surge may foster more socialization among strangers who are thrown together on a daily basis.

Irrespective of the type of arrangement and the reason you will be combining two families into one home, you will need to do some serious planning before you take the plunge. Tomorrow we will give you some tips to put into play before sharing your daily life with your extended family - or a stranger - in a whole new way.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

With the holiday season now in full swing, the concept of gratitude comes front and center. Dina Lynch Eisenberg of started us off by encouraging us to say "thank you" three times a day to our significant other. It's funny how being attentive to something nice that a spouse does actually opens you up to noticing other's around you too. And expressing your appreciation to a partner sets the tone for expressing gratitude to the world around you.

With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, begin to note what you are thankful for and let that gratitude well up and spill over to your family, friends, community, country and the world at large. Then express your gratitude - by saying thanks, by doing something nice in return, by practicing a random act of kindness, by volunteering to help those who are needy, by acting as a citizen of the world. The opportunities are endless.

So, I'll begin by thanking you for being a part of our readership - it means a lot to us knowing that you are there!

Now pass it forward...

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Yesterday we discussed why it may be difficult to express your gratitude. Today let's talk about how to get started in your new direction. You will need to become aware yourself of what you are thankful for before you can begin to acknowledge the part others play.

Begin to consciously notice what brings you joy in life. Awareness is the first step toward creating change. Set aside time for yourself to participate in the process of experiencing and acknowledging your gratitude.

Count your blessings. Each evening, note three things that happened during the day for which you are thankful. Be specific as you describe what happened to you. It could be a loving conversation with your partner, a thank you from your teenage daughter, a view of a magnificent sunset.

Re-live and savor each of these events. Spend some time re-creating in your mind the joy of the experience. You will feel your body becoming more relaxed, your emotions more positive and your head more focused. The pleasures of life are not only in present experience but also in remembering happy times.

Think about what you did to open yourself up to these moments. Then decide to direct your actions to include more of these delights in your life. The recognition of your own personal power will strengthen your belief in yourself as well as your willingness to consider the part others play in your happiness.

Recognize why this piece of good fortune came your way. It will help you identify the people you're grateful to have in your life. You can then seek them out and thank them for improving your world.

When you follow these tips, you will find that expressing gratitude not only makes those around you feel better, but it also benefits you and your mood. When you focus on what you are grateful for, you reap a wide range of benefits. These include sounder sleep, enhanced self-esteem, increased levels of contentment and improved connections with the world around you. Not a bad outcome - especially for a Sandwiched Boomer caught in the midst of parents growing older and children growing up.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The comment by one of our readers about The Gratitude Project, got me thinking. Laneris said, "To my mind appreciation and saying thank you is of high priority in a relationship. You should try show it to people not for the next 10 days but for all your life."

It started me wondering, Why is is so difficult to say thank you? Why do we need to be reminded to be appreciative for a mere 10 days of the year? As Laneris noted, of course it would be relevant to always express your thanks to someone with whom you share something as meaningful as a relationship. It would seem that your good feelings about that person would spill over into your consciousness and make it more likely for you to notice and acknowledge positive behaviors by him or her. Yet the truth is that we often fail to recognize what our significant others do for us. Let's look at some reasons why:

We take things for granted.Humans instinctively pay more attention to threats to their safety than they do to situations of ease and security. We are less likely to notice a supportive behavior so positive acts are often ignored.

We are often focused on ourselves. Galileo may have proved that the earth revolved around the sun but most of us secretly believe that the world itself revolves around us. It is sometimes hard to pull out of that orbit and become aware of the capabilities and needs of other's around us.

We view the giving of thanks as a zero sum game.It may seem that when you are thanking your partner for the generous way he or she treats you, they are less likely to notice what they could appreciate in your behavior. In truth, the expression of gratitude leads to positive effects for both the giver and the receiver.

Any change in behavior is difficult. Building life-long habits takes conscious repetitions. It may be hard to make the commitment to building this new skill, but it is well worth the energy it takes.

Let us hear from you about your reactions to expressing your thanks. Tune in tomorrow for some tips about bringing gratitude into your life. And check out The Gratitude Project at yourself.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yesterday we introduced you to The Gratitude Project, a timely idea created by Dina Lynch Eisenberg, who blogs at Join her in conscious appreciation of those who bring joy and meaning into your life. Here are some additional tips she passes along to help you participate in spreading gratitude around and enjoying the feelings it creates.

Say a sincere thank you to your spouse, partner or someone significant in your life three times per day for the next 10 days. Your goal is to catch him or her doing something helpful, wonderful, kind and say thanks right then. Observe how doing this changes your feelings about yourself and your spouse. Be alert for how this impacts your relationship and let us know.

Keep track of any extra hugs, kisses or affectionate pats. How great would it be if the Gratitude Project resulted in a wave of love? Don’t forget to include that in your comments.

Share your experiences and thoughts about the Project here on our blog. We will do a roundup of responses on or around November 18th and pass them on to Dina. We expect we'll learn a lot from each other about this experience.

Tell other people and ask them to join the Gratitude Project. Forward this post to friends and family as well as to your social network. The more people, the more love- and we all know what a force for good love can be, right?

Why not take the experiment even further? Try thanking random strangers! Increasing our sense of connection and kindness to each other is part of how we’ll survive through the current crises.

Be sure to visit to hear more about the Gratitude Project and how it is affecting the participants.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Even in these difficult economic times, there is much to be grateful for. As we appreciate our blessings, we can focus on what we can do as individuals to make our world a better place for all. Today we are highlighting two projects.

Dina Lynch Eisenberg of has started what she calls The Gratitude Project. She describes it as "my challenge to bring more love and appreciation into the world during a tough time." The idea is to say thank you to your spouse - or partner, friend, co-worker - three times a day for the next 10 days. Then reflect on how that experience has changed both you and your relationship. You can send your comments to her blog as well as to us here. Sharing your appreciation creates good feelings for everyone.

For most of us, the coming holiday season means spending time with family. But what about those who are separated from theirs? Bloggers Unite have created what is a global initiative designed to express support of human rights for refugees. They are supporting Refugees United, which provides an online, highly secure and anonymous possibility of refugees to reconnect with their families. Visit to learn more about this worldwide problem and what you can do to help.

As Americans, we are especially grateful to the men and women who have protected and served us and our country. We honor them all every day - and especially tomorrow on Veteran's Day - and offer them our deepest thanks.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Hillary Clinton brought women into the political process with an intensity not seen since they campaigned passionately for the right to vote. And what happened to her candidacy is what countless Sandwiched Boomer women have experienced. Finally positioning themselves for the big job, after years of taking care of others - including the families of their partners - it is given to someone else.

Moving into the White House will bring big changes for Michelle Obama and her family. She says that she will be a mother first, caring for her daughters, attending their school events and ballet recitals. But Michelle is a lawyer and a strong woman – a role model in a unique position and committed to helping working families.

When Hillary told her supporters to get behind Barack Obama, she knew what she was talking about. What political issues are most important to your family and what do you hope the new administration will do about them?

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Now that the election process is complete, president elect Obama and Sandwiched Boomers are still faced with the enormity of the tasks that lie ahead - a deep financial crisis, two wars, terrorism and an environment in peril. Parents continue to ponder, how will I pay the mortgage and grocery bills, manage my kids’ college tuition and health insurance?

In his speech Tuesday night, Obama acknowledged that 'the climb will be steep' - but as a people together we will get there. He made encouraging statements: I'll listen to you, especially when we disagree. Victory is only the chance we have to make a change. Now the real work begins – with a new spirit of service, patriotism and sacrifice.

This is the time to manage our expectations. And wait, at this history-making moment, to find answers to many questions: Will there be a seismic shift in American politics? Is this when we will put the dark stain of racism behind us? Will Obama deliver on his promises and reach across party lines? Can this be the election that inspires a generation of public service?

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Last night, 'Yes we can' became 'Yes we did' as Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. This is the triumph of the American dream, Sandwiched Boomers. It's is what other countries have admired about our country, as a place where all things are possible. And now it's safe to say to our children and grandchildren, that - with hard work - you really can be anything you want.

John McCain made a gracious concession speech, urging the Republican party to get behind this transformational event and find ways to come together. And Barack Obama made a commitment to heal the divide: "For those whose vote I didn't win tonight, I hear your voices, I need your help, I'll be your president too."

This was the election over hope and fear. Now the question is how realistic are the expectations and will they be met? Obama faces daunting challenges and seems to recognize the gravity and magnitude of the work that lies ahead. He said last night that it won't happen in the first year, perhaps nor in the first term.

What do you think? Will the country maintain it's enthusiasm and go from cynical, fearful and doubtful toward the promise of a better day?

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Today is a presidential election of historic proportions, Sandwiched Boomers. It's an opportunity to set our country on a new path - for our families and our future. The polls are open and voters are already making their voices heard. Despite the long lines, a record turnout of over 140 million voters is expected.

It's a singular moment. On the Democratic side, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, the first black nominee of either major party, has infused the American political experience with speeches that have motivated young supporters like never before. Republicans, in choosing Arizona Senator John McCain and Sarah Palin, paired a man of deep experience, compelling background and a stubborn independent streak with the first woman ever on a GOP ticket.

The election comes with the nation's financial institutions in crisis, the stock market in convulsions and government's effort to restore equilibrium to the economy. The candidates agree that it's time to get America back on track. And both are ready to hit the ground running.

The stakes are high today. Emotions run deep, as history is in the balance. So do your part - fulfill your civic duty - get out and vote.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Well, Sandwiched Boomers, it's down to the wire with election day tomorrow. There's a buzz in the air as voters passionately discuss the critical issues - national security, health care and especially the economy.

With the recent confirmation that we are definitely in a recession, the “generation between” – those facing challenges with aging parents and growing children - is coming up with creative ways of dealing with the economic downturn. One idea is having aging parents - on fixed incomes and who need more help - move in. Some homes are getting crowded as post college age children who can’t find a job or make ends meet boomerang back.

But is this all bad? In other cultures, family members sharing responsibilities are not considered a failure but a loyal and honorable benefit. And who said that living independently is the best solution for everyone? The barter system, where a son helps care for his grandfather in exchange for a reduction in his rent is a win/win for all, as long as independence is his ultimate goal. It makes sense that family members who are in need support each other – especially during these difficult financial times.

The economic crisis has woken people up. Apparently 30% have already voted - and the enthusiasm around the election is great for democracy. If you haven't already, we hope you're excited about casting your vote.

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