Can we all just admit we’re winging it when it comes to raising our kids? I have three. The girls, Lilly and Peyton, are 10 and 8. They are right at a year and a half apart and prepubescent. They’re wearing training bras and deodorant and caring more and more about social situations. My boy, Logan, is one. Right now, his interests are peanut butter, being constantly on the move, and that infamous Baby Shark. Needless to say, my girls and my boy have completely different interests. They adore each other, annoy each other, play together, and drive each other nuts. Typical sibling stuff. This is Encouraging Sibling Bonding: Age Gaps Are Tricky.
I want them to have strong bonds, Pbe closer to each other than they are to me and their dad. I know that my girls get bored playing with their brother. My son doesn’t understand why his sisters don’t want to chase him around and play with blocks all the time. I understand it and it’s normal. It’s also not likely to change over the next 8-10 years. The age gap between my daughters and my son guarantees that they’ll be indifferent mindsets for the entirety of their respective childhoods. So how do I encourage closeness without forcing it on them? I’ve put together a few ideas for fostering close sibling bonds for kids with wide age gaps.
Communicate and Encourage Communication
Open dialogue is important in any relationship. My husband and I encourage our kids to talk to us and each other about anything and everything that’s on their mind. The good, the bad, and the ugly. We have two rules: be respectful and don’t lie. I’m not naive. I know there are things that my kids aren’t going to tell me, but the option is always there. But, if I’ve hurt their feelings or they need clarification on instruction, I want them to tell me before there’s a serious misunderstanding. I want the same thing for my kids. I don’t expect the kids to always get along, but if I can foster an environment of communication, they should be able to talk through their issues and hopefully gain some insight into the perception of their sister or brother. This is super important as you are encouraging sibling bonding.
Even with the age gaps, my three kids still take time to play together every day. Usually, it’s in Logan’s room. The girls don’t want their little brother playing with their stuff or breaking something in their room. So, they play on his level. Sometimes they read, sometimes they build, sometimes they just chase each other around. Some days, they play for 10 minutes, and sometimes they’re in there for an hour. I don’t want them to feel like playtime is a chore or they’re babysitting. So, on short days, I don’t push. It may have been brief, but they had fun together.
Let Them Figure Out Their Relationships with Each Other
No two people are alike, and kids are people too. The relationships won’t mirror each other simply because they are each different people. Lilly doesn’t remember a time before Peyton. They’ve spent their whole lives together. They are sometimes inseparable, although we’ll see how this puberty thing plays out. Now, both girls are in this position to figure out a relationship with a new brother. I know, he’s a year old, but in their eyes, he’s more active now and becoming a tiny person, rather than a sleeping baby. Both girls have their own thing with their brother. Lilly is a master of cuddles and nap time. If Logan gets sad or sleepy, he’ll seek her out. If she sees it in him before he realizes it, she’ll approach him. Peyton is his favorite person to play with. She truly goes all in during playtime with her brother. She’ll chase him, let him chase her, peek a boo, hide and seek, and literally anything else she thinks they’ll get away with, which usually means sneaking cookies. They’re all figuring out how to interact with each other in ways that make their relationships unique. And you know what? It’s absolutely wonderful to watch.
Let Them Have Their Own Space
As much as I want them to be close, I don’t want them to lose themselves in the process. I don’t expect my kids to spend every waking moment together. They deserve – and have – their own interests, friends, and activities. They don’t have to share them all. Just like every other person, they need that time to decompress and figure out who they are as an individual. When they understand who they are becoming, they can build healthier relationships with each other and with other people. The healthier their relationships are, the better their chances for a lifetime of happiness. This is super important as you are encouraging sibling bonding.
I know this seems obvious, but it’s easy to let things slide with work, after school activities, and the chaos of everyday life. It’s okay to get off track a little from time to time. But we can’t let it go too far for too long. Consistency is important to kids. It’s important that they know they can tell me anything, regardless of the kind of day I’ve had. It’s vital that all three of my kids know that they are equally important to me and that they’re each given the same opportunities as their siblings. We don’t want to create opportunities for resentment. Don’t get me wrong, I know their needs and wants aren’t going to identically match up. This isn’t a one size fits all idea. I mean that each kid should be able to approach us with whatever they need and be able to expect the same consideration and attention as the others. They should also understand that this means that we have the same expectations from all three of them.
Like any other parent, I want what’s best for my children. I know that one day my husband and I won’t be around to help or guide them. It’s the circle of life. I hope they’ll find people they love as much as their father and I love each other and as much as we love them. Even still, they’ll need each other. I hope when that time comes, they’ll also want to have each other.