Would we fear old age if we knew that we had a “village” of family and friends eager to care for us? I’ve heard people joke that the best “insurance policy” for aging is to birth more children. In theory, this makes sense. In reality, it’s not that reliable. What we often fail to realize is that children only serve as effective “insurance policies” if they have been trained to do the job.
That begs the question: how do you train children to care for you when you get older?
Here’s my advice:
1. Lead by example.
2. Involve your children in serving the older generation.
Though it’s natural for those in the sandwich generation to feel burdened, there is also good reason to feel blessed. When you serve your aging parents, you are not simply caregiving—you are setting an example. As you organize your mother’s pillbox, comb her hair, take her to doctor’s appointments, bring her to the store, or bring her blooming flowers on and off the holidays, you paint a vivid picture for your kids of how caregiving should be done. Otherwise, what examples will your children have to follow after? The movies don’t offer much guidance with caregiving (unless it’s full of drama that is). Give your kids with a good example to follow.
A good example, however, is always enough. The next step is to involve your children in serving their grandparents.
Truthfully, there is no better way to cheer up grandparents than to have their grandchildren serve them. There is also no better way to train your children to be future caregivers (and responsible adults) than to involve them in the caring for their grandparents. The earlier you involve your children, the better.
In the beginning, whining and moaning may be a challenge, but with prompting and proper guidance (and perseverance), you help your children become more aware of others’ needs. You place them in an environment where they learn to relate to those who are different than themselves. These are not just skills needed for caregiving: these are skills for life.
Thus, bring your kids along to visit grandparents (not just on holidays if you’re local). Prompt them to help carry groceries. Encourage them to text or call. Commission them to drive Grandma to the store once they are old enough. Give them the responsibility of mowing their grandparent’s lawn because intergenerational caregiving is beneficial for all generations involved. As your kids learn to serve, you will feel less burdened. Your parents will surely be tickled. Best of all, you will have a much more effective “insurance policy,” one that will bless you in the years to come.