Family Relationships

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sandwiched Boomer, Nurture Yourself

These are tough times, especially if you're a card carrying member of the sandwich generation. If you're facing the challenges of parents growing older and kids growing up, don't forget to nurture you. Because if you're run down, who will care for your family? For a moment, enjoy this photo of the sunset on a Costa Rican beach. And tonight, take the time to relax and appreciate the sunset right outside your door.

Whether you're hit in the face with a crisis, adjusting to changes in your identity or making a slow transition into the next chapter of your life, expect a cascade of feelings - anxiety, the desire to hold on, resentment, sadness, fear, eventually a sense of freedom. The emotional roller coaster is normal. But if you find the courage, you can't help but grow from the challenges.

Past is prologue. How can you prepare for what lies ahead? As you look back, how have you dealt with major changes in your family life before? Think about what has worked in the past. Take the specific strategies that you learned from those experiences and, once again, apply the most effective ones to the challenges you are facing today. A positive attitude will motivate you to stay on track and ultimately reach your goals.

Find something to believe in. Is it strong faith, a spiritual path or confidence in yourself? Look at the ways you can continue to build on your internal and external assets. Evaluate your character strengths and how they have benefited you in other circumstances. Are you fiercely curious and determined to find a solution, no matter what? Discover the resources, such as caregiver programs or support groups, which will help you make decisions as you deal with the specifics of the family problems you are handling.

Recognize the importance of support. When you are facing what may be a difficult time, find a role model who encourages you. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Talking with others can clarify your needs as you work through these changes. Getting an objective opinion from a family therapist or life coach will provide you with further insight and direction.

Take a step back and you'll see the situation from a different perspective. And listening to your inner voice can help you focus on what's important as you integrate your values into how you live your life.

Sign the email list to the left of this post and receive a free monthly newsletter, "Stepping Stones," full of practical tips to help you deal with your family in flux. You can also download a complimentary ebook about reaching for your goals.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

What Costa Rica Can Teach Us About Family Values

I'm just back from Costa Rica, a small Central American country where peace of mind is a natural commodity. Visiting there felt like a breath of fresh air with it's slow pace of life and ecological mindfulness. The country has no need for a military presence and family life is a top priority.

World events like the turmoil in the Middle East and the devastating crisis in Japan continue to impact our gas, food and transportation costs. High unemployment, compounded by foreclosures and homelessness for families, contributes to the slow economic recovery. And multi-generational households increase as families move in together to alleviate financial concerns. For many Sandwiched Boomers, the loss of retirement funds is accompanied by feeling less secure now and less hopeful about the future.

It may be hard, but find the fortitude to face the situation squarely and see this as a teachable moment. Talking with your children about what you expect from them and the limits you need to impose at this time can be eye-opening. If you're concerned about where our society is headed, it's time to put off immediate gratification and bring family values back to the foreground:

Don't forget where you came from. Dig deep to find your roots and try to understand who you are and what you want. Figure out how you can care for your family and still nurture yourself. Set some concrete and specific long-range goals about what you need for you and what you want to accomplish for your family. Identify short-term objectives as you work toward achieving these, step by step.

Make family a priority. Love them and tell them so on a regular basis. Place great value on parenting, it's one of your most important responsibilities. As knowledge is power, appreciate the transitions your own family is going through now. And get more information about how to manage change from the Internet and self-help section of your local bookstore. Talk to friends and family whose opinions you respect and who have gone through similar experiences. It's a chance to get realistic feedback and concrete advice.

Character matters, as does your family. During these difficult times you represent hope for them. Click on "Comments" below to let us know what you're doing to make life a little easier. And log on here Wednesday for more practical tips.

You can sign our email list to the left of this post to receive a free monthly newsletter, "Stepping Stones," and to download a complimentary ebook, "Lessons Learned: Reaching for Your Goals."

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Making Changes on Days of Celebration

With Tax Day over, this week is a time for family celebrations - Passover for some, Easter for others, and Earth Day for everyone. Earth Day is celebrated this Friday, April 22, as a means of teaching about and appreciating the Earth's environment.

In the wake of these tornadoes, seismic activities, tsunamis and radiation leaks this spring, we all are struck by the realization that changes in the Earth can come in many ways. They can be gradual or sudden and violent. They can come from the forces of nature or from the actions of human beings. They can be unexpected and out of our control or planned and anticipated. In either case, the havoc they reap can affect millions. The effects of the tsunami in Japan have impacted the economy and may continue to do so for weeks to come.

So how then do we come to terms with the tremendous power of Mother Nature? Given the current discussions about whether or not the globe is actually warming - and, if so, whether it's due to man or the earth itself - you may be left feeling confused and overwhelmed. On Earth Day, you can acknowledge the power of nature and still recognize your role in the process.

And in your personal life, you can use these same techniques. Focus on what you can control in your life and what you can accomplish, not what you can't. While you often can't influence circumstances, you can control how you handle them. Clearly define your goals or aspirations and keep focused on them. Letting go of negative thoughts and unrealistic expectations can free you up to make something positive come out of a negative situation.

In the heat of the moment, enthusiasm for making a change - protecting the earth, creating better family relationships, making the world a better place, loosing those stubborn extra pounds - can be great. But what happens the next day? How can you build on your decision to improve? How do you actually vary your routine and transform yourself? Inspiration is not enough - now you need to implement your choice in a clear and definite way. Here are 8 tips on how to go about it:

Acknowledge your ability to change. Recognize that there may be limits to what you can accomplish but that you can take it one baby step at a time. Give yourself permission to begin the process by setting a realistic goal and without expecting perfection in your results.

Write out specific goals for yourself and break them down into smaller, more manageable short-term objectives. Set up a timeline for tackling each task. The more you formulate your plans and establish concrete steps, the greater the likelihood that you will follow up on them.

List your personal resources and inner strengths - they will help you attain your objectives and eventually achieve your goals. Draw on them as you have when you made other changes in your life.

Make a public commitment to the change you are pursuing. This will help you take yourself and your decision seriously and increase your motivation to continue the process even when you face barriers along the way.

Maintain your energy by rewarding yourself for each objective you accomplish even as you keep your focus on the future goals you are striving toward. Positive reinforcement will keep you motivated to continue your process of change.

Draw on the support of family and friends. They want you to succeed and will give you the help you need. Join with others who have similar goals - having someone share your journey makes the whole process more enjoyable.

Don't beat yourself up when you backslide. Change can be overwhelming and you need to be patient with yourself. Refine your strategies as you learn from your mistakes. Have a Plan B ready and continue to improvise as you discover what works best for you.

Enjoy the satisfaction and feelings of power that come from making real changes. You've earned it! And you can use your new skill set to achieve success in other areas of your life as well. If you're a Sandwiched Boomer, resolve to use these tips to take better care of yourself.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Tax Day and Sandwiched Boomers

Are you rushing to finish up your income tax returns? This year, due to the celebration of Emancipation Day last Friday in the District of Columbia, citizens have until midnight tonight to get their tax returns postmarked and in the mail. If you're a Sandwiched Boomer you may be asking yourself, "have I taken all of the deductions I'm legally allowed?" When you're supporting both your growing children and your aging parents, you may want to consult with your tax advisor to see if you are eligible for claiming both sets as dependents. After all, you want to conserve as much of your nest egg as you can. With your reduced funds being stretched even thinner by the generations surrounding you, Tax Day brings your finances front and center.

Image: Arvind Balaraman /

But what about also considering the non-monetary contributions you make to your family in flux? The time, energy, thoughts, emotions you devote to your children and elderly parents can exhaust your core just as your expenses deplete your cash reserves. How is all this affecting you? Are you becoming anxious and angry - on the verge of taking out your frustrations on those around you? Instead, use your Tax Day perspective to look for ways to cope with your stress and preserve more of your health and well-being. Taking better care of yourself can lead to a win-win outcome for everyone in your extended family. When you avoid the burnout that often comes from chronic stress, you're better able to take care of your loved ones as well as yourself.

Here on our blog and on our website,, we've highlighted the importance of self-care for Sandwiched Boomers. Now you can review the Top 10 Self-fullness Tips for Sandwiched Women and find suggestions about How to Nourish the Sandwich That is You. As guests of Dr. Sandra Haymon, we provided tips for caregivers on blogtalk radio, where you can listen to our complete interview free of charge.

And here are more tips to keep in mind, on Tax Day and everyday:

Maintain balance as you invest your energies in family, career and yourself. You may not be able to attain the perfect level of achievement in any of these three, but you can enjoy a sense of accomplishment in your growing strength. To avoid burnout as you run between caring for your kids and your parents, Psychology Today encourages you to set aside time for yourself to refuel. As you strive to limit your responsibilities to others, you'll find you have more time for fun and fulfillment in your own life.

Practice relaxation techniques on a daily basis to help manage the tensions you are feeling. Make time to go for a walk, exercise at the gym, listen to soothing music or just put your feet up. Learn deep breathing or guided imagery to help you unwind and settle down. Contact your local psychological association to find out what other resources are available in your community. Gather information from Internet sites such as webMD, seminars or self help books about how to minimize the impact of the pressures you are now experiencing.

Ask for help and get support from those around you in order to reduce the stress in your life. Make a concrete plan about what you need and how your can achieve your goals. Consult the Department of Health and Human Services' Eldercare Locator for the names of local resources. When you are not feeling so overwhelmed by your responsibilities and commitments, your negative feelings are not as likely to boil over. Particularly if one of your parents has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, you can use all the help you can get - from the Alzheimer's Association website as well as assistance from other caregivers.

Keep communication open with your spouse, children and aging parents. Talk out disagreements before they become heated arguments that get out of control. Don't put a lid on your emotions, just on expressing them in an aggressive manner. Instead, learn what the Mayo Clinic recommends about developing a direct, assertive style to express your needs. When conflicts arise, agree to be flexible and cooperative - and work toward reaching a compromise.

Your life as a Sandwiched Boomer can be full of stress and anxiety. But when you use these tips and resources, it can help you develop a safety net to fall back on when you need it. For more suggestions about coping with stress in these difficult economic times, consider our ebook, Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm: Practical Strategies and Resources for Success.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kate and William: Making Marriage Work

There's so much media buzz about the upcoming wedding of William and Kate. One focus seems to be on whether Kate can handle the job - hers is sort of a rags to riches story. The question is, will she just try to please or come into her own and be a role model for young women everywhere? Scroll back to our Monday blog for ideas about how the young royals can make marriage work - and then here are some more practical tips for them and you:

Keep the fun alive. Lightheartedness is often one of the first casualties of a busy and hectic life. Inject humor and laughter by joking around. It can turn into an affectionate moment which helps you feel closer, loved and even more relaxed. Making time to be playful with each other can often lead to greater intimacy.

Be sensitive to your new role as an in-law. Competition may surface if your

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Happily Ever After: Tips for William and Kate

The 19th century English poet, Lord Alfred Tennyson, put this universal truth in writing: "In the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love." And we all know there's no better time for a royal wedding. Apparently the April 29 marriage of Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton, at Westminster Abbey with 1900 guests, will be watched by almost 2 billion people worldwide. Their long walk to the altar will be one of the most viewed TV events of the century.

Lots of girls grow up reading fairy tales about princesses and hoping to find a prince of their own. But living life in the limelight can make it hard to build a successful relationship. Whether your marriage will last depends, in part, on how you prepare for the challenges. Some of the following tips may be helpful to you and the young royals:

Don't surrender your self. Carve out a space in the marriage, keeping the activities and friendships that make you who you are. Take positive action in your own life. You'll have a more positive attitude, be interesting to your partner, and your relationship will reap the benefits.

Keep your communication honest. Talk out misunderstandings before they become full-fledged arguments. Be patient and let go of issues that aren't crucial. And stay engaged. Use the same conversational etiquette that you would with anyone else you care about and respect.

Try to compromise. Be direct, yet open and flexible as you make your way through disagreements. Truly understanding the other point of view can help resolve a conflict more easily and quickly. A gentle touch or a quick hug releases oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates bonding as well as reduces stress levels.

Be sure to come back on Wednesday, as we'll have additional tips for the royal couple. And if you're interested in more information about relationships and conflict resolution, click here - Her Mentor has lots of articles in Family Relationships and Newsletter Library .

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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Are You Feeling Down? Is Your Guy?

In today's society, it seems like there's a lot going on to get us depressed - the economy is still stalled, radioactive water is seeping into the Pacific Ocean around Japan, civil wars are breaking out in Africa and the Middle East, just for starters. Has absorbing all of this thrown you into a tailspin? We've talked before here on the blog about how to cope with your own stress and blues, how to rebuild a sense of resiliency to buffer you from anxiety and worry, and how to help your children when they are feeling pressured by the events around them.

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Now we've heard from Jed Diamond, Ph.D., that we need to pay attention to the men in our lives too - according to Jed, they are beginning to catch up to women in their rates of depression. With cases of male depression traditionally being underreported, the concern, among Jed and others researching the issue, is that with the current economic stagnation, the rates of male depression and even suicide will rise even higher. Since men have been laid off in greater numbers and percentages during this economic downturn, it has been labeled a "mancession" by some.

When Jed joined us here for a virtual book tour, he discussed how male depression often manifests in irritable, mean behavior rather than in the symptoms we typically expect. His book, Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship from the Irritable Male Syndrome, highlights signs to notice that could be an indication of these deeper emotional concerns in your guy. You can find out more about this new epidemic on Jed's website.

And to learn about some of our Nourishing Relationships practical tips for managing the pressures you and your family face in these tough economic times, look for our empowering ebook, Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm: Practical Strategies and Resources for Success. It's available through our website, Her Mentor Center.

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Monday, April 04, 2011

Dangers for Teens on the Internet

With the release of David Schwimmer's new movie, Trust, parents are once more put on notice about the importance of educating their kids about the dangers of Internet sex predators. Schwimmer directed and produced the movie about what happens when a 14 year-old girl begins communicating with a stranger in an online chat room. The entire family feels the damaging effects of the girl's victimization by an adult male posing as a teenage boy.

Photo by Keerati

Facebook and other social media, chat rooms and smart phones are a big part of young people's lives today. These interactive technologies give them a chance to stay connected with friends but also open them up to risks from the adult world. According to a survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, three-quarters of Net-initiated sexual exploitation victims were girls, aged 13 to 15. And three-quarters of the offenders were age 26 or older. Chat rooms were the most likely places for the relationships to start, with three-quarters of them beginning there. Most of the couples progressed to face-to-face sexual encounters with 93%of these involving illegal sex.

Many parents have also been concerned by the sexting that goes on among many high school students. Several states have proposed laws that are aimed at limiting this behavior by treating it as child pornography.

About the reaction to his film, Schwimmer has said he hopes "that viewers leave wanting to engage in more dialogue about Parenting in the Age of Technology." Have you begun a dialogue in your family about the net with your children or grandchildren? Here are some areas you may want to discuss:

Address the consequences of behavior early on so it's a topic they've heard before. Teens are often naïve about the long-term results of their actions. The sections of their brains responsible for good judgment have not matured enough for them to avoid dangerous situations. You'll need to spell out the possible outcomes to activities that seem innocuous but may be risky.

Talk specifically about the potentially serious end result of sexting. Teens are often impulsive and caught up in the excitement of acting on a dare without considering the consequences. While they are not able to process the potentially negative end point, it's up to you to remind them that once they've put something out on the Internet, they can't erase it, no matter how many times they hit the 'delete' button. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some suggestions for helping you speak about the problem of sexting with your kids.

Discuss the importance of privacy and self-respect. Peer pressure is an especially strong force at this developmental stage but give your teens the tools to avoid going along with the gang when they feel uncomfortable. Reinforce the value of their opinions as they make decisions that are appropriate for their safety.

Have regular family meetings to keep your communication open and honest. As a parent, be present in your children's lives without overwhelming them with your input. Encourage them to share their concerns with you and listen without being judgmental. You'll all need to practice cooperation and compromise as you come up with solutions that take everyone's needs into account.

Walk the fine line between knowing when to let go and when to keep an eye on your teen. Give your teens the freedom they crave within the confines of your supervision. If you believe their health and safety is being threatened, you may need to draw on 'tough love' and shut down your kid's Internet access.

As a parent, when you monitor your teenager's online usage, you'll be aware of potential threats before they get out of control. Even if your teen is in a chat room with someone she knows, it may lead to sexual exploitation since Net-initiated sex crimes are actually more common among acquaintances than strangers. The American Academy of Pediatrics has just released a new report about the impact of social media on kids. You'll find more useful information and parenting tips on their website to help with your important role of raising children in the digital age.

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