By Ty Salvant, NOLACatholicParenting.org
Children are gifts from God whom we are to love unconditionally. Each child should grow up with as much love, respect and dignity as any other sibling receives.
While most parents aim for that, it is easy to fall short as more children are added to the family.
Though it is challenging to have children close in age, there are some benefits. Typically, they enjoy similar activities around the same time, so, for example, they are zoo-age together. As the age gap increases, so does the difference in preferred activities.
In many families, it is easy to focus on the needs and interests of the oldest children, while stifling those of the middle or youngest.
With our first four children, it seemed like we were in a good groove, with everyone still enjoying the same activities.
However, by the time our fifth child was born, our oldest was 8, so we had naturally shifted to slightly older activities.
By the time our youngest was a toddler, I had a conversation with a friend who shared that she didn’t bring her younger kids to the zoo because her oldest child had no interest in going.
I wondered what message that sent to the younger kids about their role in the family.
Until that time, I had a desire to bring our youngest to age-appropriate activities, but I did not take the necessary steps to make it happen.
That conversation convicted me to bring our youngest child to story time and a playgroup at church, so she could interact with peers. Because we homeschool, it meant the older kids tagged along.
Before we went to story time that day, I explained that every member of the family was equally important, and we showed that by attending events as a family to support each other.
The younger children sat through piano recitals. The oldest toured the children’s museum.
Attitude matters, so everyone was expected to participate without complaining. While they may not have enjoyed their time there every week, all of our kids have fond memories of interacting, supporting and experiencing life as a family.
Don’t make the 3-year-old sit through a baseball game, if the 12-year-old isn’t expected to go to the zoo. Likewise, the youngest child should be encouraged to patiently attend events not yet of interest to support an older sibling.
Encourage your children to experience events through the eyes of their siblings to appreciate the moment more.
By asking them to cheerfully make small sacrifices for their siblings and to try to appreciate things through another’s point of view, we are also teaching them important relationship skills that will help them to be better friends and better spouses in the future.
With baby number six, we’re looking forward to each of the children developing their own personal relationship with their new sister, which will include trips to the zoo, aquarium and children’s museum.
This is one way that we strengthen relationships and honor each member of our family regardless of their age.
Ty Salvant is a New Orleans native, cradle Catholic and stay-at-home mom. Before that, she was a research associate at LSU Health Sciences Center where she met her husband, Derrick. They’ve been married for 18 years and have five children ages 16, 15, 13, 12 and 8 with a sixth due in December. She has been a homeschool teacher of her children for 13 years. Outside of volunteering, she and her family enjoy going to the movies, playing games and spending time with friends and each other.