Having multiple children can be incredibly rewarding, but it also takes time, care, and balance. Younger children often need help with life skills and learning to navigate their environments, but older children feel neglected. You often do not realize that you are missing out on the things that your older children need. Learning to achieve balance is difficult. Depending on how old your older child is, some of the following tips will be easier than others.
Schedule One on One Time
Yes, one on one time can be incredibly difficult to schedule when children are very young, but you can find a few minutes to focus only on one child. If both children nap during the day, chances are the older child sleeps a little less. Let them delay lying down for half an hour to watch their favorite show, do a simple craft, or read their favorite book. You cannot schedule one on one time every day, but making time just for your oldest will let them know that their feelings matter too.
Do a Craft
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Help your child learn a craft or create something for the home. If Thanksgiving, Christmas, or another family-centered holiday is coming, help them make placemats, table settings, or centerpieces that you can use for this function. This task will generally have three positive consequences. First, they will get to see that they are essential to you, and you enjoy spending time with them. Second, they will feel that their skills and crafts are good enough for family entertaining, which improves their self-esteem. Finally, they will feel that they are contributing to the family. Children often want to mimic adults, and by allowing them to create a centerpiece if you do other home crafts, they will feel that their status is improved. They are no longer babies and are now “big kids” in their parents’ eyes. They may not be able to convey these thoughts in this manner, but you can watch their demeanor change.
Play a Game
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If your child does not like to do crafts, that does not mean that all is lost. You can also do something that they will enjoy. Teach them to play an old-fashioned board game or other game from your childhood. Bonding with your child does not have to be an elaborately planned event. If your child likes Fortnite or some other video game, let them teach you to play. Minecraft, Legos, and Roblox can have intricate designs. Let them teach you the fundamentals of how to build the things you want to use or do. Spending fifteen minutes two or three times a week on this can make your child feel better about the time that you are away.
Read a Book a Day
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Read a book with your child every day. Even teens like to read with their parents, even if they pretend that they do not. You do not have to make this a test. Let them choose a book that they are interested in reading. If it is too advanced for them, read to them and talk about the things they may not understand. However, if it is a long book and on their reading level, you can take turns reading a page, chapter, or section. If the book is short, let your child read to you one day, then choose a new book. You read to them the second day or even that same day. Introduce them to your favorite childhood books.
Take a Walk
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Even if you need to bring the stroller and the baby, take a walk where you focus solely on your older child’s ideas, thoughts, and words. Ask them to tell you about school, their friends, or something new they want to try. Do not spend that time focused on your other child. Pushing them in the stroller while they sleep or while they visit with another family member can help alleviate the distractions.
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If you have a partner helping you care for your children, ask the partner to take the baby once in a while for one on one time with the older child. Be sure that you both get some time with the kids. You do not want to get burnt out for one, but you also want to show your kids that they are essential to you both. “Mom loves Billy more, or dad loves me more” should never be phrases that cross your kids’ minds. You want them to have some alone time with each of you. Go to the movies, ride a train at a museum, go to an arcade, or enjoy a sporting event. Doing individual things with each child will show them that it is okay to want to spend time with one parent or the other once in a while. They will also see that while you do things with the baby, they are equally loved. Taking turns with your spouse will also demonstrate taking turns with their siblings.
Let Them Help
Sometimes, asserting their dominance over the little one is empowering. Let them know that the little one is not as self-sufficient and need their specialized skills to help the younger child. You might even comment that you sure wish you had such a spectacular helper when they were younger. Make them feel important. They are helping you do a job that is much more difficult with just one person.
Children who feel that their parents are not paying attention to them and favoring the other child often do not realize what it takes to take care of the younger child. When they feel that they have some control and are helping, not only do they realize that you are not favoring the other child, but they also realize that the attention they are lacking is not because they are less valued. This lack of attention is entirely predicated upon the fact that they are more self-sufficient.
Teach Them to Cook
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One of the best skills you can teach your children is how to cook. Four-year-old children will not be fantastic chefs in most cases, but they can learn to cut, mash, or mix ingredients. As your child grows, let them do more and more. As the baby grows, let your child begin to teach them the skills they have learned. If your six-year-old has learned to crack eggs and whisk, but the baby now wants to stir, let the six-year-old teach him or her. Being the teacher will make them feel more important, and it can remind them that they have been learning from mom or dad.
Teach Challenging Household Chores
When you are menu planning, teach your older child what you are doing and what you consider when designing a menu. Let them help you or design a pretend menu themselves. If you are chopping wood in the backyard, teach them about safety and let them stack the wood in the storage area or container. While you cannot let your six-year-old pick up an ax and start swinging, you can let them learn about the importance of firewood, yard maintenance, and safety precautions.
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You cannot control someone else’s feelings, even your young child. If sibling rivalry is a significant concern and the above are not working, you cannot force your child to understand. Keep loving them and treating them with respect and as though they are unique, but you cannot make them feel that your younger child can be pushed aside because they are angry, frustrated, or upset. Teach them about waiting and coping mechanisms. If your child is old enough to understand, you can have conversations about the baby’s needs and theirs. These conversations are more manageable if there is a significant age gap. If the gap is small, it may just be challenging for them to understand right now. Allow your children to own their feelings, but do not let them be controlled by them. It is okay to acknowledge jealousy or anger, but it is not okay for them to harm their sibling or have a temper tantrum.
You are going to be okay. Most of the time, the jealousy over time with parents decreases as the younger child grows. This jealousy is torturous if your child is very young. They may not know what jealousy is. Try to make them feel important, loved, and included no matter what your situation is. This period will not last forever.