Having multiple children can mean having to learn and understand how to cater to each child’s unique personality and needs. Rather than have children who all live under the shadow of the oldest or older child, there are ways to help younger siblings shine. This is so important in validating who they are and their unique personalities.
We often take for granted all our children feel loved, appreciated, and accepted.
Of course we love them!
Of course we think they are amazing!
However, children aren’t only looking for our approval. Often they look to their siblings to feel important and significant. If younger siblings think their older brothers and sisters hung the moon, they can be so busy trying to impress them they don’t come into their own.
Helping Younger Children Feel included
The following tips will help all of your kids feel significant and unique in your home. After all, our goal is for our children to shine as individuals, is it not?
Spend individual time
In our busy world it can be hard to find the time to spend with your children individually, particularly if you have a large family. Even if it’s a struggle against the calendar, spending individual time with all your children is of the utmost importance.
Not only will your children feel loved and accepted by you, they’ll have the opportunity to be themselves.
There’s not an older brother or sister to impress and they can be free to be themselves.
It doesn’t have to be once a week, but on a recurring basis be sure to schedule in the time to spoil your children with love one-on-one.
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Ask specific questions
When children are very small it seems like they never stop talking. Mine are still young so I can’t confirm this, but word on the street is at a certain age this will stop.
And then you’ll miss it.
Use your individual time with younger siblings to draw out their interests and opinions. Ask leading questions, not questions with “yes” or “no” answers. If you’re eating dinner, having ice cream or waiting for a movie to start you can find tons of things to talk about to bring the younger ones out of their shell.
Cater to their interests
If your older children are more dominant and confident with their opinions, be sure to ask the younger and quieter siblings for their opinions specifically.
And at times, even against the majority, go with their desires.
Younger children in the family often feel overlooked and stuck in the middle so it’s important you validate their feelings and opinions. When it’s time for your individual dates with children, be sure to do something specifically special and important to them. Their favorite restaurant, activity or location. By allowing them to shine as individuals they’ll feel more confident and have a higher self-worth.
Understand group dynamics
People are different in groups than they are individually.
You are probably thinking… yeah… duh.
But even in our homes there will be those who fall into the shadows when in the greater group. The louder person’s opinion is heard first and most often. The one seeking validation for their looks may receive more compliments.
Don’t expect all your children to stand up and beg for attention, sometimes they are sitting shyly waiting for you to initiate. During family dinners and group discussions, silence the talkers and allow room and space for the younger and quieter siblings to share. Stop others who interrupt them. This creates an atmosphere of respect for each person.
One thing you want to avoid almost entirely is comparison between children. “Your older sister could already read by your age!” may seem innocent to you, but it is surely not without effect on your child. By comparing them to their older siblings you plant questions in their heart that shouldn’t be there.
The questions will ask, “Am I as smart as John?”
“Am I as pretty as June?”
“Does mommy love him more because he likes sports?”
Children are worthy because of their position in your family not because of their performance. Not because they’re like you or your husband. By reinforcing the idea that each child is special in their own right, and not ever comparing in a way that demeans, your child doesn’t feel compelled to try and keep up with their older (and in their minds more capable) siblings.
The crux of this parenting matter
Children are tender loving souls who want to be loved.
They want to know they are okay how they are.
Sure, we’ll have to correct and train bad behavior and not allow certain attitudes to reign, but our home needs an overarching atmosphere of love. From now on pay attention to the younger ones. Pay attention to the quiet ones. Instead of expecting them to “speak up if they want to be heard” give them a few nudges and pushes so they will jump into the fray.
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Rachel Norman is a parenting visionary, expat, blogger at A Mother Far from Home, traveler, and mother to 3 children (3 and under) with a bun in the oven. She speaks 3 languages, reads too many books, keeps most of her plants alive, and wants to live a life that glorifies God. Get her 25 Sanity Saving Tips for Moms for free.
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!