There is a difference of 12 years between my older brother and my youngest sister. That means there was only about 6 years where we were all under the same roof. While writing this I realized that my parents probably had to deal with boiling bottle nipples and giving my brother and I the sex talk—yikes!
I think many of my readers have large age gaps in their families, especially those who have divorced households. Here are some tips for you:
1) Don’t Pretend the Age Gap Isn’t There
Many of the teens I work with who have young siblings hate when their parents pretend that they might all have the same interests. It is also very confusing for kids when parents say, we all have to go on the teacup ride because that is what Stevie likes, and then say you can’t be so rough because Stevie is so much younger. Acknowledge the age gap, talk about what that means in terms of compromises and equalities you want to have—ie. “I love you all equally, but when Stevie needs a diaper change I have to go to him first.”
2) Second Parent Syndrome
I just watched a Supernanny about an older sister who was constantly having to babysit and scold the younger kids. This not only jeopardizes the future relationship between your kids, but also hurts your relationship with your older child. If you want them to act as second parent sometimes, but also be their parent, it is very confusing. I would really recommend trying to get other babysitters and only allowing a certain range of younger sibling discipline.
3) Separate Alone Time
When you have large age gaps between your kids, teens and toddlers, tweens and babies, or 20-somethings and tweens, it is important to give them all individual face time. This gives you an opportunity to do something that is age appropriate and not clouded by needs of a whiny younger child or a pubescent older one.
4) Pick Your Battles
Teens will never want to go to pre-school graduation. We also might not get as excited as you that baby Stevie has finally reached the fifth stage of diaper to underwear development (I don’t actually think that exists, but I remember my mom saying something like this once and I thought it was dis-gus-ting). Unless you really want to make a family event, hold back a little on what you require your teen to go to or hear about. They will thank you later–and not begrudge the little one.
Overall, do not get discouraged if your kids are not getting along because of their age differences. I do not think that age gaps cause more or less fighting for certain families, there will always be sibling rivalry, catty fighting and older sibling ‘smackdowns’ (that’s what it was called in my house when my brother practiced wrestling moves)—but in the end they will all be close.
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