Middle Schooler and Preschoolers: How to Balance the Act at Home
If you have a tween child and one preschooler it’s great that they are both finally out in the world of grade school while you upload their cute photos on Facebook. However at home, you may be tearing your hair out dealing with moodiness and temper tantrums. You may decide it’s better to take that weekend getaway with your husband leaving your oldest in charge to let the chips fall where they may! Here are some tips to try that can restore balance and harmony in your home and make for two happier siblings and parents.
Make babysitting optional: Now that you have an older child who can technically babysit it is wise to be careful in making this a mandatory chore. If your preschooler needs a babysitter, ask your older child if he or she would like the job. Resentment towards younger siblings is real. Certainly you want to avoid this! When you send the message of choice in the matter you empower your older child with the idea of responsibility towards your youngest. If your middle schooler chooses to babysit, make sure it is worth his/her while. It’s best to treat it as a business transaction, and come up with an amount of reasonable compensation. This is a great way for your middle schooler to see how cool it is to have a younger sibling. Let’s face it, what older child doesn’t want to get paid to be the boss?
Reward your younger child: The flip side of having the older child in charge is that now your youngest risks becoming resentful towards the oldest! Having an older sibling in charge can put a strain on their relationship. This is why it is important to reward the one being babysat as well. Maybe bring home treats, or plan a fun outing to the park the next day if things go well. This will give your younger child a sense of ownership and responsibility in the relationship as well.
Compliment both in front of the other: When kids hear good things about themselves, it reinforces positive behavior. Compliments go a long way when negotiating with your children around household chores, homework, and compromise with meals especially when they have different food tastes! When your middle schooler is in the room, tell your preschooler how lucky she is to have such a great big brother or sister. To even things out, tell your middle schooler what a great helper your preschooler is, and make sure your little one can hear it loud and clear.
Give them opportunities to hang out: Yes, it’s true the age gap doesn’t lend itself well to hanging out, Your middle schooler may be “too cool” to be seen with a toddler. But in order to build a relationship, there needs to be some bonding time. You can try giving them a bag of bread crumbs and send them to the pond to feed the ducks. Turn on your preschooler’s favorite movie, then make your middle schooler’s favorite treat so they can both sit down and enjoy the show. I bet if you give them a few bucks to buy their favorite ice cream, you’ll create world peace in your home! These unstructured activities will also create positive memories that may last a lifetime.
Give them chances to serve one another: Since the beginning of time temper tantrums have made for a lot of stress whether at home or in public. With a middle schooler and preschooler both are at ages where limits are being tested, and your patience is wearing thin. If you are the one constantly trying to fix things, you are likely constantly frustrated! A way to help you as a parent is to give each child the chance to serve the other. If your middle schooler is having a hard day, send your preschooler upstairs with a plate of cookies. Likewise, if your preschooler is throwing a tantrum, encourage your middle schooler to distract him or her with a walk outside or a game of Ring around the Rosie.
As mothers we love our children with every fiber of our being. Ideally we want siblings to feel the same way about each other. Although with a middle school and preschool age children it can be a quirky struggle, taking these small steps to cultivate closeness between the two will put a smile on your face and pride in the successful team your children are becoming.