Helpful Tips to Effectively Raise Kids With a Wide Age Gap
Updated: Nov 14, 2019
When you raise kids in two different decades, there is a world of change to deal with. To establish and grow positive relationships with both children, there are so many new things to be aware of! Is the eldest feeling loved? Am I leaving her out? Does she need to have special days to herself? Then there is creating the bond between them too! How does a 14 -year-old connect with and learn to love a newborn? Having gone through it myself, I can offer some tips for moms parenting kids with a large gap in age.
Is it possible with such a wide gap?
As someone who has successfully parented children with a 14-year age gap, I know it is not only possible, but it is crucial. When my youngest was born, my eldest was old enough to legally babysit! For me, the key to success was inclusion. Babies always get lots of gifts, so I would make sure to include my eldest and treat her to things too. I would remind my eldest that she now had an admirer, someone who would always be looking up to her. This made her extra proud and feel important in the baby’s life. On the flip side, as the baby grew up, he learned to see his big sister as a protector. To this day, he sometimes cries for her first.
Make sure they are a sibling, not a sitter.
In a single-parent home, I understand how tough it can be on hard days to rely on the eldest child. It can be a lifesaver in the moment. But the moment is fleeting, especially if the eldest child becomes the permanent babysitter or even caregiver. Boundaries must be made to avoid resentment down the road. Both kids are still children and both should be free to continue to be and act as kids.
In my experience, children need to feel comfortable in their place and should not be taking on roles they are immature for. So to be successful in parenting both children, make sure they help and support each other, but instill limits. This allows children to grow up healthy and independent, creating loving relationships between the entire family.
Make the time to be together.
As children grow into teenagers, their schedule becomes busier. And so does your #momlife! Whether you are a working mom or a stay at home mom (or own a business like me), you need to make the time to interact and build those important sibling relationships. We have a rule in our house to always have breakfast together and aim to sit down together for as many meals as possible. Taking the time everyday helps the kids connect with each other and grow up together.
I also keep tabs on if the eldest has had enough one-on-one time with their younger sibling. If they haven’t had a chance to be together in awhile, I will call a babysitter and let the two enjoy each other’s company, as equals. Have a movie night with the babysitter and stick to it! The kids will love it and look forward to the fun night without mom around.
Finally, make family time an essential part of your weekly schedule. Just as you would never skip school or dinner, family time should not be missed or rescheduled. And when you have time together, be present when you are present! Be aware that it is easy to be busy and distracted ALL THE TIME, but we shouldn’t be.
Each child needs one-on-one time with you.
With one child a growing adult and one barely entering school, I recently decided it was time to create a new schedule to ensure both children get enough time with me (their mom). Just as healthy married couples have date nights, I created sibling date nights for each of us! With each of my kids, we take one-on-one date nights or day-dates and do something fun, just the two of us. Everyone gets their own bonding time and all parties are happier for it.
Make sure the eldest child gets time alone.
Don’t forget that your eldest still needs time to be alone to do things they enjoy, finding themselves in the process. I include a “self day” for my grown child, when she spends an entire day working on herself and her goals. Establishing the day and making it a part of the schedule shows your child how important alone time is, and ensures they will be productive and fulfilled.
Trust me mama, there is nothing to be worried about. Us moms tend to worry too much, but in parenting kids with a large age gap, it’s all about setting up a healthy relationship and foundation between the two. We would love to say we will always be there for our children, but in reality we won’t. We all grow old – the circle of life! But when I’m gone, I trust my kids will always have that strong bond as they grow older. Putting in the foundation now will ensure it and give you peace of mind.
Have you struggled with parenting children of different ages? Want to talk more with a mom who has gone through the same thing? Download SocialMama to find more mamas walking a similar path of motherhood!
About the contributor:
Arrica Afton is a single mama of two, a 19 year-old daughter and a 5 year-old son. She is passionate about shining a light on what society says the “average Muslim women” should be, while living as holistic and green as possible (in style, of course). Arrica is also a MentorMama ambassador for SocialMama.