Older and Younger: How to Raise Children with Large Age Differences (and Not Go Crazy)

 How to raise two children with a big age difference so that they understand and respect each other? And how not to go crazy trying to please each of them?

How to Raise Children with Large Age Differences (and Not Go Crazy)

To help siblings build healthy relationships and live in peace and harmony with the whole family, try to rethink some of the established behaviors and relationships in the family. Often we live in captivity of our ideas and expectations, which break on reality and make us upset. We draw "ideal pictures" for ourselves, but life cannot obey only our desires, as well as other people, even if they are still quite children.


Conflicts are ok

It is not surprising that conflicts sometimes occur in every family. All people quarrel, and children are no exception. Especially if one child is much older than the other, and they have completely different interests. Disagreements do not arise only if children do not communicate with each other at all. 


You should not expect absolute mutual understanding from siblings - by quarreling, they learn to interact and gain experience in solving difficult life situations. This is a great advantage of children growing up among brothers and sisters over those who are the only ones in the family. Do not make a tragedy out of periodic quarrels and "division of territory", feel sorry for the one who got the most, while giving you the opportunity to sort out the conflict yourself. You will see that by taking this position, you will become much calmer.


Hierarchy is important

One of the most common reasons for the lack of adequate communication between older and younger children is their misunderstanding of their family role. An older child is dictated: you are older, smarter, and therefore must give in, be able to negotiate, help mom. As a result, he receives a whole mountain of responsibilities, and at the same time he does not get any benefits. And the younger, on the contrary, has no responsibilities, but a wagon of privileges. The elder realizes that something is wrong here. He comes to the conclusion that the younger is better and more profitable. He does not want to grow, because this mountain of responsibilities is not compensated by anything. And the younger, receiving a ton of attention and indulgence, grows up infantile, because he knows: responsibility is about others. There will always be someone who will answer. 


To fix the situation, you need to find a balance. If an older child helps around the house, performs various responsible assignments, then this should be compensated for by bonuses. How much responsibility, so much freedom. For example, he may choose a movie that you go to the whole family (and the youngest will obey), go with one of the parents to a concert on the weekend, go to bed later, or return home later. And then the family hierarchy is built. The elder likes his status: he understands that if he has more responsibilities, then he will also get more benefits. And the younger will have the desire to grow, because he will understand that with age, a person has more privileges. You need to grow and take responsibility , because this gives you the opportunity to decide something and make a choice. 


So conflicts and misunderstandings between siblings with a large age difference will be significantly less. The elder, feeling justice, will less cling to the younger about why he gets away with so much. He will be less commanding, because he will gain confidence in his position as an elder, he will stop trying to assert himself. And the younger will reach for him. This interaction between children will greatly simplify life for their parents.


Calm, only calm

The main thing parents should do if they are having trouble raising siblings is to stay calm. It's not bad, at least, to give the impression of being calm parents. A parent to lead, care, set rules, and maintain healthy boundaries. Calmness, prudence, fullness - all this is very important. 


How can this be achieved? At least with the help of regular replenishment of resources. In the daily hustle and bustle, worries, work and troubles, try to find time for yourself, your hobbies, rest, communication with friends. It is very difficult to constantly do only what "should", look for opportunities to realize your "want". This will allow you to feel the taste of life, be distracted from problems and find strength to raise children.


Get into position

Learning to acknowledge your child's feelings is important. And this must be done even before any misunderstandings begin in the family. The parent should understand that siblings have a very difficult time, and they experience strong emotions towards each other. 


If a teenager says that he hates his little brother, this does not mean that this is true, and even more so that he intends to harm him. It's just an emotion that has overwhelmed him - at the moment, anger, irritation is unbearable. It is important for parents to help him realize what is happening to him and to voice his emotions. "You are angry with your brother because he interferes with your business."


It is important to show the child that the parent accepts him along with this emotion and understands his feelings. "Yes, I understand, you remember the time when you didn't have a brother at all, and you miss that time." Then the child will feel much better. If the negative feelings of children are recognized by the parent, they will know that they understand that they are ready to help. The boiling point will drop and the situation will improve. 


Adult position

To help the children solve a misunderstanding that has already begun, which is about to develop into a serious conflict, go into the room and calmly describe the situation. "I see two guys hurt each other." Next - a conversation about what exactly happened. Don't pour out your anger on the siblings - they are already tense and upset. It is important to be able to calmly describe the situation without focusing on who is younger and who is older. You acknowledge the children's feelings, describe the situation, point out the problem, and express confidence that they will cope on their own. 


No comparison possible

If you praise one of your children for something, never drag another in here. You don't have to say, "You did the job as well as your older brother." The child will not feel the joy of such praise, the merit will be discounted, it will simply evaporate. The same goes for requests. Don't say, "Be an adult and clean the room like your brother." This will kill any motivation, and the request will most likely not be fulfilled. 


A child may start to dislike his sibling if you reprimand him like, "Why didn't you hang things in the closet the way your sister does?" Do not compare children and do not set them up as examples. This practice can ruin their relationship. 


Personal time

Each of the children should be given at least 15 minutes a day. At this time, you talk to him, play, look at him, fully involved in his needs. Children need their parents to imbue them with their love. And this must be done even before the child has discomfort due to lack of attention. Children need to understand that they don't have to fight or behave inappropriately to get attention. 


It is important to understand that if the younger child takes all the attention, the older one experiences severe stress, so at least sometimes get out of the house for a couple of hours with the older one. Also remember that the time you spend with your child must be pleasant for him. If you are doing homework together, this interaction cannot be called engagement in the child's needs. 


Personal boundaries

In order to have less quarrels in the family, you need to respect the boundaries of the personality of each child. It is important to teach: “These are your things, and this is his. And you can take them only if he allows you. " This is especially important for adolescents, who, due to their age, always zealously defend their territory. One child can enter another's room only when he receives permission to do so. And this is absolutely normal. 

Every child needs a place where no one can cross his boundaries, where he will feel calm and protected, where there will be things that he has the right not to share with anyone. Even if the children have one room, everyone must have their own territory, which cannot be invaded without permission, even if it is a bed and one of the drawers of a writing desk. 


Do not forget that the rule of personal boundaries also applies to parents: if mom is in the bathroom or closed the door to the bedroom, then there is no need to "break" and demand immediate attention. This rule does not apply to force majeure circumstances, discuss this with the children and strictly follow this order. Lack of personal space for parents is exhausting, gradually correct this situation.


Empathy and empathy

Teach your child to empathize with their sibling for a more supportive environment. For example, the elder returned home from school upset, and the younger is worried that his brother does not want to play with him. You can tell your baby, “How do you think, how does he feel? He looks like he's upset about something. You yourself sometimes get angry and know that at this moment you don't want to talk to anyone. Let's give him time to calm down. " This will help children better "feel" each other and their parents too. Children are often selfish, think only of themselves. Show that you are also a person with your own desires, worries, fatigue and bad mood. And this must also be considered!


The family is an important step in the socialization of a child, and sibling communication is a real school of life. It can be difficult for parents to deal with multiple children, work, chores and concerns. The main thing is not to forget about yourself in this turmoil, giving yourself the right to rest and your desires.

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