This post is part of a series where I answer questions from my readers. If you have a question that you would like me to answer, please feel free to leave it in the comments below. Other posts answering reader questions can be found by clicking here: Reader Questions.
Catherine asked how do I manage with the age gaps of my kids. My oldest is now 11.5 and the youngest is 1.5, so this is certainly an area of parenting that I have to give consideration and plan for. I deliberately answered this reader question after questions on spending one on one time with kids and letting kids stay at home on their own, as they are part of the strategies that I use to manage the sibling age gaps that we have in our family:
Letting The Older Children Stay Home
In my post Kids Home Alone I explained the circumstances in which I am comfortable to leave the older two boys home alone (9 and 11 years old). If we have a short local activity like a preschool reading time or a craft activity near by that is not suitable for the older children, I will let them stay at home while we go off to have some fun.
There are times when the family splits in half to attend events and activities. For example dad has taken the older boys to a night game of football. As it starts at 7.30pm in winter, it just isn’t going to work with the younger ones. We will stay home, hire a DVD and have some popcorn instead.
This is a more recent strategy for me and is heavily dependent on where we are. For example at Moomba this year, I stayed with the 6, 4 and 1 year old (dad was away on a bike ride!) while they had turns on the clowns. The 11 and 9 year old went off, lined up for a roller coaster ride which was a distance away from us, but still within my eyesight. Once we finished the clowns, we then went and waited by the roller coaster for them to finish.
Last school holidays at a family meeting the children and agreed that seeing a movie would be something that they would all like to do. They couldn’t however agree on a movie, with the little ones wanting to see Toy Story 3 and the older boys saying that it was “way too babyish” for them.
So we did some research and found a cinema that had Toy Story 3 and Karate Kid running at similar times. We choose the first sessions of the day (9.50am) as they are the quietest and the 11 and 9 year old went in first to see Karate Kid, myself the 6, 4 and 1 year old then went in at (10.10am) and saw Toy Story 3. Our movie finished first so we then waited for the older boys to come out.
There are activities that I want us all to do together and it is certainly possible to find activities that have something to interest all the ages of my children like:
- Zoos and Animal Sanctuaries
- Art Galleries
- Bush Walks
- Beach / Pool
And activities to do at home that everyone can tailor to their skills and abilities like:
- Construction – with glue gun and/or nails and screws
- Hide and Seek
- Bike Riding
- Sidewalk chalk drawing
- Football and Cricket
There are also times that we will attend events or activities that don’t suit everyone and there isn’t options for the kids to do. I talk regularly to all the kids about the need for understanding in our family and that we have to balance competing needs. It is important to remind the older boys that their younger siblings have been tagging along to all their things since they were born! And when they were 6, 4 or 1, we went to many events appropriate to their age group, the younger children deserve the same opportunities.
An example of this was when we went to see Fairy Fanfare in East Melbourne. It was certainly not something the older boys wanted to see, but they could bring along books to read and it was important that they allow the little ones to enjoy themselves without having to put up with their complaining.
Spending Individual Time With Children
In my post on Spending Individual Time With The Kids I outline ways that I try to achieve one on one time with the kids throughout the week. I find that this time with them builds up credits in their patience! Patience if they have to wait for me while I am feeding the baby or patience if they have to wait at after school activities for their older siblings when they would really rather be at home playing or patience to sit through a pantomime if they think it is incredibly lame!
That’s some of the things that we do to manage sibling age gaps in our family. How do you do it in your family?