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I’ve heard a lot of crazy ideas when it comes to planning a family and spacing siblings. I have to say, the idea of timing your family (because somehow your kids won’t bond if they’re far apart in age) sounds crazy to me! And life doesn’t always work that way as we all know.
I have two boys, ages 6 and 11. They’re great kids. Of course every mom says that about their kids, but really they are. They get along well (most of the time) and are best friends. I didn’t have to do much to foster this, but life can get tricky when you’re trying to meet the needs of both a tween and a kindergartner.
If you’re worried your older child won’t bond with a younger sibling, I have a few tips to foster family harmony when your kids are far apart in age.
Here are some things that have worked for our family.
Encourage an older child to teach a younger sibling
My oldest has taught his brother how to tie his shoe, count, jump rope and has even helped him with his homework. Teaching his younger brother makes him feel important and has helped him be a more patient big brother.
Let them work out their differences
Don’t always step in when there’s a conflict. That can be hard at times, but trust me, kids bond by learning how to communicate and work things out themselves. I’ve actually caused more conflict by stepping in to mediate when I should have backed off.
Help them find common ground
Even with an age gap there are activities that both of my boys like and can do together. They both like imaginary play, crafts, building forts, Frisbee, tennis, bike riding, swimming, karaoke and the list goes on. When they’re bored or are just not getting along, I change things up or suggest one of these activities. Sometimes just playing a game with them is enough to reset things.
Give each child their own space and special time
I don’t expect my oldest to include his younger brother all the time. There are times when he goes to a friend’s house or plays a video game by himself. My hubby and I also make a point to spend one-on-one time with each of them. And one-on-one time doesn’t have to be a big expense ordeal, it’s usually means involving them in everyday tasks. Sometimes one will go with me to the store while the other one works with his dad to fix something around the house.
This one goes for all kids, not just siblings far apart in age. Have you ever watched a parent who is desperately trying to negotiate with their kids in hopes of making everyone happy? Just watching this kind of thing wears me out. I try to steer-clear of negotiating with my kids. I’ve found that it rarely works. My boys don’t like to compromise (who does), but they’ve learned that that’s the way it goes sometimes. Just like the old saying…sometimes you have to make lemonade out of lemons.
Keep your own expectations in check
Quite honestly, the times that I’ve found myself most disappointed were when my own expectations got in the way of reality. I think this happens to all parents from time-to-time regardless of how many kids you have or their ages. Sometimes, as parents, we have our own ideas on how things should go and when they don’t go the way we envisioned, we get discouraged.
I’ll give you an example. I recently took the kids to a bouncy house place in the mall and expected that they would want to bounce all day. I had bottles of water, plenty of snacks and planned to hunker down most of the afternoon (bingeing on Pinterest of course) while they whooped it up.
But after a few minutes my 11-year old said he was bored and wanted to leave. What? I just paid for an all-day pass and he was already bored! I have to admit, I was annoyed and wanted to pack-up and leave. But my youngest was having so much fun.
Instead of getting upset, I told my 11-year old that we would stay until his brother was ready to leave. Then I gave him a few ideas of things he could play like obstacle course and they had a basketball hoop in one of the bounce houses. Eventually he found things to do and ended up have a good time.
Whether your kids are far apart in age or not, I’m sure you’d agree that parenting can be tough and just hearing from someone who has been there and done that can help.
I do hope my tips were helpful. If you have any advice for a parent of a soon-to-be-middle-schooler, I’d love to hear from you. 🙂