Family Configurations and Changes in Middle Adulthood

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  • 0:01 Middle Adulthood
  • 1:10 Becoming a Grandparent
  • 3:07 Sandwich Generation
  • 4:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

During middle adulthood, many people find that their family dynamics change. In this lesson, we'll look at some of these changes, like becoming a grandparent and the challenges faced when a person is taking care of both their kids and parents.

Middle Adulthood

Jeanine is 62, and she's very excited. She's going to be a grandmother! Her son Luke is expecting his first child, and Jeanine can't wait for the little baby to arrive.

Jeanine is in middle adulthood, also called middle age, which lasts from about age 40 to age 65. Middle adulthood is a time of change and transition. Many people begin middle adulthood busy with life and raising a family. For example, when Jeanine was 40, Luke was in college, and she was still supporting him. She was working long hours and hoping for a promotion.

By the time they are near the end of middle age, like Jeanine, things have changed. People near the end of middle adulthood are often grandparents, like Jeanine will be soon, and are facing retirement instead of worrying about getting a promotion.

One of the things that changes during middle adulthood is the family structure. Let's look closer at two common things that can change a family's configuration during middle adulthood: becoming a grandparent and being part of the sandwich generation.

Becoming a Grandparent

Jeanine is so excited about becoming a grandmother! She can't wait for Luke's baby to be born so that she can spoil her with lots of grandmotherly gifts and love. Becoming a grandparent can be an exciting time. Watching a little baby grow up under the tutelage of one's own 'baby' is a joyous occasion for many people.

It also marks a transition to a new stage in life. Jeanine will no longer just be a parent; she'll be a grandparent. And though that's exciting, it can also trigger questions about one's own aging and mortality. Since Luke's wife announced that she was pregnant, Jeanine has been thinking about how old she's getting. She thinks about how this new generation signals that she is getting closer and closer to death every day. That's a depressing thought!

Talking to a counselor about the issues can help smooth the transition. Jeanine can start to realize that this new phase in her life is an exciting one and that just because she's a grandmother, it doesn't mean that she has to be an old lady who just sits in a rocking chair and knits. She still has lots of time and fun things to do!

Another issue that can arise when becoming a grandparent involves figuring out how to navigate the relationships between both your kid and your grandkid. For example, Jeanine is looking forward to spoiling her new grandbaby, but how will Luke and his wife feel about that? They might prefer Jeanine not to buy the baby too many toys, for fear that the baby will end up a spoiled brat.

Likewise, when the baby does or says something that Jeanine doesn't approve of, should she intervene? Or is it better to let Luke and his wife do all the disciplining?

Being open and honest about the fact that this is new territory and discussing expectations can help new grandparents, like Jeanine, figure out what's expected of them and how to lay the groundwork for solid family relationships.

Sandwich Generation

Jeanine isn't the only one facing changes. Luke is nervous and excited about becoming a dad. And though everything is okay with Jeanine now, in a few years, Luke could find himself part of a group of people known as the sandwich generation.

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