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How Can Parents Balance the Needs of their Children According to their Age?

In a family of many children, there is always an oldest and youngest. 

While younger children often need more attention than older children, the older children can often feel ignored or overlooked. On the other hand, the younger child may feel that things are often unfair. For example, when bedtimes differ between kids.

How can a parent meet the needs of their kids without sacrificing the peace?

Here are a few useful suggestions.

HAVE A REALISTIC VIEW OF WHAT EACH CHILD IS CAPABLE OF | Each child has abilities and characteristics that are unique to them, and each child has their own set of particular needs. A parent needs to consider these when caring for the child.

You can’t expect an older child to act like a parent to your younger child. Neither should the older child have to always give in to please the younger one.

It’s not realistic to expect the younger child to do all the same activities that the younger one does. 

EXPLAIN THE REASON BEHIND DECISIONS | In order to keep the peace and have everyone on board, it’s important to explain the why – and often more than once. The results are definitely worth the work.

When your youngest isn’t on board with having to nap or go to bed later than older siblings.  Explain that their older sibling(s) also had to nap and had an earlier bedtime at their age. Build a routine that your little one will enjoy and that makes naps or bedtime more enjoyable. Read a book, sing a song, and so on. 

Your older child complains that they have to help around the house, while the younger sibling doesn’t. Explain to your child that as children get older, they assume more responsibilities but also enjoy more privileges. While they may need to help around the house, they also get to skip naptime, go to bed later, and use the big-kid slide at the park.  

Your oldest feels that you spend less time with them than your younger child. Explain that younger children need a lot of attention and that when they were little, you spent the same amount of time with them. Allow your older child little privileges to enjoy while you care for your younger one. For example, while you are bathing your younger child, they can have extra time on their favourite video game. 

ADJUST TO THE INDIVIDUAL NEEDS OF EACH CHILD | If you are waiting for your children of different ages, to start forever playing in perfect harmony – it might be a while. Each child is different and unique in their needs, according to their age. As a parent, you need to find a way to adapt accordingly. 

Instruct your children individually, according to their abilities. When there is a group task for your children, like cleaning up the toys, assign tasks to each one individually, according to their abilities. Your older children may already know how to clean up and what that simple command entails. For your younger children, you may need to explain or break down the task. For example, asking them to put their trucks in the blue bin, providing further direction as they complete each step. 

Organize the playroom in a way that works for everyone. Make sure the toys meant for the younger kids are easily accessible on lower shelving. Put the older kids’ toys on a higher shelf that they can reach, but that is out of reach for the younger ones. 

Have an array of toys, so there is something for everyone. Some toys are great for any age, such as a ball or blocks and are essential to have on hand. Parents.com has a great list of suggested games and toys that the whole family can enjoy. 

Make sure your younger children can occupy themselves. In order to spend time with your older children, whether you are helping with homework or spending quality time with Legos, your younger children will need to have something that they can do on their own. It doesn’t need to be complicated. A baby can seemingly occupy themselves for hours just by opening the Tupperware cupboard. You can also use the time when your younger child is napping to do an activity with your older child.

Set your older kids up, out of reach of the littles. When your older children are playing Legos or doing arts and crafts, or another activity that younger kids can’t have, set them up on the kitchen table. Split the Lego pieces into bowls or plates with rims to keep them from falling into the reach of the younger kids. Take time to explain the danger these items pose to babies and toddlers, encouraging them to be vigilant about keeping them off the floor. They will feel valued, responsible and will be better at paying attention.  

Supervise younger children during certain activities. At times your younger ones may get the opportunity to engage in their older siblings’ activities. That can be great; just make sure to supervise and help them out to avoid conflict or frustration. 

Don’t forget to give your younger child responsibility. With time you are no doubt proud and confident in your older child’s ability to help in daily tasks. While it may be easy to fall into the habit of relying on your older child, you want to make sure to slowly teach your younger children to help too. 

Ask yourself, “How old was my oldest when I started giving them responsibilities?”, “Which of my children are capable of handling this task?”, “Who will learn more from the task at hand?” etc. You will no doubt need to explain and supervise your younger child, but their abilities will increase over time, as will their confidence, and one day they will be a capable adult. 

You can also make sure that your young children’s needs don’t fall on their older siblings by default. When your younger child is able, teach them to get their own water. As they learn, they will be more independent.  

LEARN TO BE FLEXIBLE | Juggling the needs of your children of different ages can be difficult, but you can succeed!

Children don’t grow from a single mould; they require you to be flexible, adjusting as needed and in light of their individual needs. 

The endless explaining will lead to rich rewards, the satisfaction of independent and happy children.

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