Family Relationships

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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day and the Value of Family

Memorial Day gives us all an opportunity to pay tribute to those in the Armed Service who have sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms over the years.
Memorial Day Ceremonies

Visiting a military cemetery on Memorial Day and witnessing all of the flags marking the graves, families of the fallen are there in record numbers to remember their relatives. A non-profit organization, TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, was founded by Bonnie Carroll after the death of her husband in 1992, to provide comfort for those who have lost a loved one in service to America.

TAPS has been there with programs and services for over 25,000 survivors since then. Their motto, "Remember the Love, Celebrate the Life, Share the Journey," aptly reflects their mission. Relatives are helped to gradually heal with the assistance of the TAPS program

You can visit the TAPS website for more information about how to make a difference by supporting their work.

As we remember with love and respect the sacrifice of these men and women, we can also reflect on the ideals of service, courage, and camaraderie as they apply to our own families.

After paying tribute to the men and women of the Armed Services on Memorial Day, make a commitment to honor your own family today. Express your gratitude for all that family provides for you. You will find that, as a part of the Sandwich Generation or not, it makes your time with each member more meaningful and relevant.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Helicopter Parents: Give Your Kids the Gift of Independence

Do you recognize yourself – hovering over your kids' lives, kind of on the fringe and not really letting them figure it out on their own? The best thing you can do is give them more responsibility and have them handle their own issues without stepping in. Try to let go a little at a time.

Minimize financial assistance. Sure, you need to be responsible for the basic necessities. But give your children a weekly allowance and, beginning in high school, encourage them to get part-time jobs. They need to know how to budget their money. Your ultimate goal is to prepare them to live on their own. If they can't manage, boomeranging back may become the only option and everyone pays a price.

Empathize without actually solving their problems. Ask what they think they should do about any situation. Brainstorm about the possible solutions. And, in the end, encourage them to decide what's right for them.
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Don’t enable their dependency. Technology makes it too easy to stay connected. Tell your kids you'll be there when they need you, if being in touch regularly is satisfying to both of you. But establish a middle ground and put some limits on the contact.

We know that watching them grow up brings mixed emotions. As you face the challenges that come with letting go, you may find that it's harder than you imagined. But do mark that fine line between support and intrusion. Because, as your children go off on their own, don't you want them to be independent, ready to form healthy relationships and get the dream job? The same as your parents wanted for you.

Want a comprehensive report on Helicopter Parents? Read a feature article on about The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting. Then sign our email list to the left of this post and download a complimentary ebook with practical tips to help you let go.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Practical Strategies for Helicopter Parents

Have you heard about the recently published book, The Idle Parent? Helicopter Parents is a hot topic right now. If you think you fit the profile, follow these tips as you shift responsibility from your shoulders to where it now belongs:

Take on a supportive role as you encourage your children to make their own decisions and deal with the natural consequences. Give fewer directions while they're learning important new problem solving skills. Although they will be faced with many choices, experience is a great teacher.

Resist taking on chores that now should fall to your kids. As much as these may have been a part of your job description for years, it’s now time to pass the baton. Think of it as boot camp. Soon enough they'll be off to college and, the more competent they are, the more confident they'll feel.
Mother and daughter cooking in kitchen
Focus on their positive qualities and think of reasons to support their evolving ideas. Sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Remember that their job right now is to learn how to be more independent and accountable for their own actions. And that includes working things out for themselves.

Give up old habits of micromanaging. You have to do it sooner or later. When you continue to worry or be upset about what's going on in their lives, you’re sending your children the message that you don’t trust they can handle situations on their own.

Want to learn more about backing off so your kids can develop the confidence they need? Browse the library at for a wide variety of articles about how to strengthen your family relationships.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Helicopter Parents and Teen Self Esteem Month

Did you know that May is National Teen Self Esteem Month? And that a negative self image can affect learning and social skills as well as lead to delinquency, eating disorders and substance abuse? Some experts believe there's a correlation between how much and what kind of control parents exert and how their children experience themselves.

Growing up, perhaps your parents kept such a close watch over you that it felt suffocating. Have you ever thought, now that you're the parent of teens, that you're doing the same thing? As parents, it's perfectly normal to want to advocate for and protect your child. But what is too much?
Prince William Visits Australia - Day 2
The term Helicopter Parent refers to those who hover, are overly involved and rarely out of reach. Do you regularly rush to school with forgotten lunch money or speak to teachers about missing assignments? Instead of a sense of entitlement, perhaps it's time to instill a sense of personal responsibility.

, with its hormonal changes and peer pressure, can be a challenging stage of development. You may feel ambivalent about backing off, especially if your kids are stressed out or emotionally fragile. But learning to let go is really in the best interests of everyone.

To learn more, has references and the definition of helicopter parenting. And we'll be sharing our own practical tips with you the rest of this week. If you're ready to get started, sign our email list to the left of this post and download a free ebook - reading it may help you find the courage to take the first step!

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Friday, May 21, 2010

The Process of Getting Unplugged from TV and Video Games

Are your frustrated in your efforts to get your kids away from their electronics?
Boy playing video games

You probably know that when you children do become unplugged from the entertainment media, they can more easily connect with the real world around them. But unhooking them is not easy to do. Here are some ways to begin:

Be a positive role model.
Try not to leave the TV on as a background noise or a distraction. And don't watch TV yourself just to fill the time. When you watch only a few particular and favorite shows, your kids will better understand the restrictions you set for them.

Checklist and pencil

Include your children in planning which shows they will watch and when. Remind them to limit their screen time to only the specific ones they have chosen. Set the amount of time they can play video games, hand-held or on the TV - perhaps specify days or times for this activity. Make up a chart so they can plan for the week. And have them be accountable by filling in the times they have watched.

Set family rules about what is and is not acceptable in terms of TV and video game usage. Let your kids know that you plan to be consistent in enforcing them. You can even buy a TV/video game time management tool that allows you to implement the time limits you have set with your children.

Surprising Book

You may find that, as in any dramatic change, it takes many baby steps to change your kids' television viewing habits and video game playing. When you feel overwhelmed by the thought of unplugging them and limiting their screen time, remind yourself that it is a process. Celebrate the progress that you are making to create a richer and more interactive environment for your children.

And talk with your children about the advantages they have that other kids may not. Introduce them to the Fresh Air Fund - a non-profit that sponsors free summer experiences in the country and suburbs to inner city boys and girls, ages 6 to 18. Last summer the Volunteer Host Family program called Friendly Town gave close to 5,000 children a chance to enjoy a short summer vacation away from the city.

You may decide to enrich the lives of these children - and your own as well - by supporting the Fresh Air Fund camps or even becoming a host family, if you live near the east coast.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to Get Your Kids Unplugged from TV & Video Games

Even when it is clear what you want to do, how do you begin to separate your kids from their video games and TV? Can you turn their attention to other pursuits?

It's not a simple process, but you can start by talking about why it's important to reduce your kids' electronic screen time. Help them see that watching less TV is not a punishment, but rather an important part of their growth. Convince them to buy into the value of unplugging, and you can all brainstorm together about other stimulating activities.

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If you are a Sandwiched Boomer, single parent or working mother, you're likely already stressed by all the responsibility and may be tempted to use television as a baby sitter.

Instead, encourage your children to help you while you are doing chores around the house - bring them into the kitchen to make dinner, let them fold their own laundry, create a game to see who can straighten up faster. Talk with your kids while you're doing your tasks and make them a part of the process.
Boy Holding Recycling Box

Set aside time for them to play outside with their friends. Learn more about after school activities in which your kids can participate - at school, in your local community center, at the park. Check into summer reading competitions at your local library. Even with cutbacks due to the poor economic climate, you can find available creative and physical outlets.

Encourage your children to read instead of watching television or playing video games.
With young children, read to them at night before bedtime. Think about how you can make reading more interactive and interesting for your older kids. Set an example - have a good book of your own handy so that you can sit down with them and read together. Help set up a children's book club for them and their friends.
Close-up of a girl reading a book and sitting on a stool

You'll find some additional tips for creative activities with your family this summer on our website - feel free to explore it and let us know what's helpful to you. We welcome your comments, here on the blog and on our new Facebook fan page, Nourishing Family Relationships. Please let us know what's on your mind. And tune in later this week for more practical tips and strategies for success.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Getting Children Unplugged from TV & Video Games

Have you noticed that your kids are becoming more attached than ever to television, video games and texting? And the season doesn't seem to matter. In winter, the shorter daylight hours and long, dark evenings allow less time for outdoor play. During summer, with more free time and fewer structured activities, it's easy to turn to electronics for stimulation.

Boy sitting in tree with handheld video game
The latest Nielsen figures indicate that children are watching more TV than ever, with ages 2 to 5 watching over 32 hours a week. While television time for children aged 6 to 11 drops slightly, due to school hours, it's still more than 28 hours a week. That is, on the average, greater than 4 hours a day. These numbers include VCR and game console usage but not time on the computer or playing hand-held video games.

medium shot of a male child as he lays on his bed watching tv and eating chips

Are you concerned about these staggering numbers? The American Academy of Pediatrics and other child healthcare advocates certainly are. They warn that this increased television watching may be linked to two significant childhood issues: obesity and delayed language development. For the past decade, parents thought that educational baby videos would help their infants develop language skills but, instead, studies found that infants who watch these kinds of videos actually learn fewer vocabulary words than those who don't.

rear view of a girl pointing a remote to a television

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only an hour or two of quality TV and videos for children older than 2 years and none for those below that age. The AAP has devoted an entire section of their website to educating families about media influences and empowering parents in the quest to monitor and protect their children. Pediatricians present their case for limiting screen time and also provide safety tips for internet usage. There are articles relevant to older children concerning cyberbullies and the dangers of logging into inappropriate internet zones.

And continue to tune in here this week. We'll give you some tips for getting started as you craft a plan to wean your children from excess hours of television and video games. If you need some courage to begin the process, clink on the link to the left to receive a complimentary copy of our ebook, Courage and Lessons Learned.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

After Separation: Taking Care of Yourself

After separation, all the major responsibilities that fall squarely on your shoulders can leave you feeling exhausted and stressed. Remember to take time to pamper yourself in whatever ways are most pleasurable. That may mean spending more time with friends, taking a mental health day from work or reducing the stress through meditation, yoga classes or exercise.
Mother and daughter walking on beach
Reaching out to others who are alone will put your situation more into perspective. Bake brownies with the kids and take them to the neighborhood fire station or invite an aging relative or a single co-worker over for dinner. Take gently used toys to a local children's hospital or volunteer at a convalescent home. Give it some thought - the possibilities are endless.

Of course, giving up the security of your marriage and old habits may leave you feeling unmoored. But you may have no choice at this point. Focus on what is still at the center of your life – your family, friends who are there for you, your work, activities that bring you joy. Recognize that there is no one right way to feel and act now. You have the freedom to generate a whole new you. Seize that opportunity and make good use of it.

Click on "Comments" below and let us know how you're doing. And clicking on the title of this post will take you to Join their community – you'll find helpful information from professionals as well as support from those facing the same challenges as you.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Support of Others after Separation

If you're a sandwiched boomer who is recently separated, you now have even more on your plate. But the support of those you've taken care of can now care for you. And that can make a world of difference.

This is a time for new beginnings. In the past, you may have repeated rituals together with your partner and as a family – weekend barbeques, annual vacations or holidays with relatives from both sides. But now it will be different. Keep your expectations realistic and continue the routines that are familiar and important. At the same time, experiment about how to make special times with family and friends meaningful in new ways.

Make room for you in quiet moments by yourself or with close friends. Accept that you may feel fragile, perhaps anxious or even depressed. Recognize that this is normal for what you're going through. Give up resentments and find meaning in the life you are now building. Get caught up in the anticipation of this new chapter.
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Realize there will be difficult firsts and you don't have to do it all alone. If money or time is an issue, keep your lives as simple as possible and engage the support of others. Being together with those who love you is most important. So don't hesitate to let family or friends help out, and include both sets of your children's grandparents. It's important for the kids to know that they still have the love of an extended family.

Want more guidance through these rough waters? Click on the title of this post and read some of our Her Mentor Center articles, posted on, a website packed with practical information and tips.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

The New Normal after Separation

Do you want to know an unexpected finding from the Framingham Heart Study, conducted over six decades? Happiness is contagious and the secret may very well be in the connection. Social relationships correlate positively with happiness. If your friend becomes happy, that increases your probability by 15%.

If you've recently separated from your partner, this can be a lonely time for you. Although your marriage may be over, it's important that your children feel secure and know that you'll be there for them. It may help if you let family and friends support you. And you'll feel more connected if you tell them how grateful you are that they're in your life.
Mother's Hand Comforting Daughter
Take one step at a time. You can do it, as you have with other turning points in your life. The strength that has guided you in the past will ultimately surface and help you through this process. Even in the midst of confusion, begin by putting one foot slowly in front of the other. Don't try to rush anything.

Following the breakup of the family, your children may feel more vulnerable. If the separation is recent, perhaps they still hope that you will reconcile. Or if the reality of the situation is just setting in, they could blame you and feel frustrated or angry. Be patient and available to listen carefully to their reactions to the family changes. Consider seeing a family therapist as they sort it all out.

All week we'll be sharing practical tips to help you reconnect after separation. Want to get going right now? Sign our email list to the left of this post and download the free ebook about courage and how to take the first steps toward a new goal.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

Listening and Being Heard on Mother's Day

Likely, you'll leave your pet at home if you're going out for Mother's Day. So who's there to listen attentively to your every word? Whether you're spending some time with your children or your mother on Sunday, you'll appreciate being heard - and knowing how to be a good listener goes along with that, Sandwiched Boomer or not.

Research shows that money, title, or good health has less effect on life satisfaction than strong personal relationships. So this Mother's Day, make a commitment to do what you can to improve the communications in your relationship with your mom as well as your grown children.

Mother and mature daughter sitting on grass, smiling

Just as you recognize it with your aging mother, let your kids know that the gift of time is one of the most precious presents you can receive. Spend some quality time with these close family members, talking and reminiscing. Look through old family photographs and share stories about when everyone was younger. The time you spend together will nourish you when you're apart.

For some special time with your mom or grown children, you will all feel more valued if you screen out the daily hassles and concentrate just on each other - plan an activity that you will both enjoy. Let yourselves become absorbed and delight in these pleasurable activities. Pay attention to the details. Talk about what you are doing, appreciating and enjoying. Linger awhile in order to make it last.

Continental Seniors

If you have some old issues to work out with your mother or your kids, you may be able to move forward in addressing them by apologizing or forgiving. When you apologize, you free yourself from shame or guilt and when you forgive, from dwelling on anger or resentment. Forgiveness doesn't necessarily excuse the action, but does free you from ruminating about it. It releases you from the past and becomes a gift you give to yourself.

Allow yourself to express the gratitude you feel having this family in your life. Enjoy your day and savor these moments. Reflect on the positive feelings you have from the past and cultivate rich memories now to sustain you in the future. And have a happy Mother's Day.

For a unique gift to your mom or your kids in honor of Mother's Day, why not arrange for them to have a copy of our new ebook, Courage and Lessons Learned? It's easy to do, just click on the link to the left.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Learning How to Listen Like Your Favorite Pet

When your partner speaks, do you think you're as good a listener as the family dog or cat? Lets take a look at what pets may bring to the table with good listening skills and emulate their behavior:

1. Look directly at your partner and pay attention - don't let your mind wander off topic or to your potential response. Make the person who is speaking the most important one in the universe at that moment.
Woman and Cat

2. Allow your partner to complete his or her thoughts. When it is appropriate, use active listening to indicate that you understand what they are saying. Don't interrupt or offer your opinion unless you are asked.

3. Tune in to the emotional undercurrent coming from the speaker and let him or her know that you empathize and provide unconditional support. Staying physically close allows you to "touch" your partner virtually as well as in reality.

4. Allow your partner the freedom and time to find his or her own solution. By demonstrating this trust in your partner's abilities, you can be supportive but not directive.

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5. Recognize your partner's perspective. For men whose first reaction may be to solve a problem described to them, remember that many women are seeking not solutions but to have their concerns heard. They want to have their feelings validated by those closest to them. Women are generally attuned to talking about what is bothering them and are more likely to feel loved and cherished when the men in their life connect with them in this way.

On the other hand, men's conversations often revolve around how to fix things, solve a problem, accomplish a goal - that is, when they're not about the score of the latest, or a classic old, game. For some, the focus may be about winning, being the best, outperforming the others in a competition, being at the top of the food chain - it's almost as it their confidence and self-worth depend on it.

Would you like to learn about how some prominent men and women - including Ted Kennedy, Tim Russert, Susan Boyle, and Sully Sullenberger - touched others and coped with challenges in their lives? Click on the link to the left where you can sign up for our monthly newsletter, Stepping Stones, and receive a complimentary copy of the ebook, Courage and Lessons Learned, which showcases tips and strategies to use in your own life, especially if you're a Sandwiched Boomer.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

Women and Men Speak - But Who is Listening?

Do is sometimes feel that you're the unheard proverbial tree that falls in the forest? You're talking but no one is listening! A recent Associated Press poll of pet owners found that one-third of married women who own pets consider their pets to be better listeners than their husbands. And nearly one-fifth of husbands also believed their pets were more attentive than their spouses. What's going on here? Even after numerous books about getting your message across, it seems that men and women still need to learn more about how to talk with each other.

Portrait of woman holding her pet dog

Good communication begins with understanding - yourself and your partner. With the divorce rate continuing to hover around 50%, the exchange of information between the sexes is worth the effort it takes from both partners. But since men and women tend to view communication differently, the process can be very difficult.

Women generally feel comfortable talking with their spouses about what is bothering them. But men often deal with stress by withdrawing and pulling away to think about - rather than talk about - their issues. This can lead to each making mistakes in the way they interpret the other's actions. A woman may believe that her husband isn't interested in looking at a problem he is facing while a man may think that his wife is overly complaining and that the problem is so bad it can't be fixed.

When you have a better understanding of your partner's motivation and behavior, you can begin to consider new ways of responding. Respect a man's need for distance while still letting him know that you are ready to start a dialogue whenever he is. Once that door is open, learning how to identify your feelings and ask each other for support may be the first steps in resolving the differences between you.

Woman with dog

Tune in for our next post - we'll take a look at what you can learn from pets about being a good listener. And for more good tips about improving relationships with your family, visit our website, or sign up for our free newsletter, Stepping Stones, using the link to the left.

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