Tips for Parenting Children Close in Age
In Part One of this series, we looked at four lessons I’ve learned along the way while raising my children who are 8.5 months apart. We saw that:
- Parenting multiple children close in age doesn’t necessarily get easier, it just gets different.
- It’s important to ask for and accept help from others.
- Everything takes longer, so you need to be patient with yourself and others.
- It’s important to schedule one-on-one time with each child.
In Part Two, we’ll look at four more lessons I’ve learned along the way.
- Accept reality. We all want the best for our kids. We want them to feel loved and connected at all times. We don’t want them to think we love the other child more. We want to protect them from too much screen time. The list goes on and on. Well, sometimes you just need to get through the day! We need to accept our reality! One of the most challenging times in the early months with my almost-twins was when I needed to breastfeed my daughter and my son was awake and mobile… and Dad was at work! We tried to organize their schedules as best as possible to avoid this, but it still happened at least once a day. I recall reaching out to Julie Young and asking, “What do I do with him?” He was 9 months old and crawling and getting into everything. Picture him reaching for the electrical cords or trying to pull over a lamp. I was still trying to figure out breastfeeding, which was not easy and did not happen naturally for us! Our son needed a way to be safe and content. He would sometimes do playpen time while I fed her but he wouldn’t always last the entire time I needed to feed my daughter. So we bought a large play area fence. And even with that, I would sometimes put on a Baby Einstein video to help move his attention away from “needing” Mom during the time I fed our daughter. This only happened about once a day, but it was hard. I never dreamed I would need to “fence” in my child or use the TV to “entertain” him at the young age of 9 months. But it was our reality for a few months! I had to lower my expectations and find a way to get through that season.
- Remember they are at different developmental stages.One of my daily challenges is remembering that while my children are close, they are not the same age and therefore I cannot expect them do the same things. It doesn’t matter that they are in the same diaper size (woo hoo!), they can eat the same foods, they can play with the same toys/activities (for the most part), etc. They are not the same age, and during these very early years, there is so much development that happens in the span of 8.5 months. The younger one often learns to do things sooner, but that doesn’t always mean she is ready for it developmentally! Our 18-month-old wants to walk down the stairs like her 2-year brother does, but that is just an accident waiting to happen. This is also challenging when correcting their behavior and setting boundaries. It’s fair to expect my 2-year-old to comply when given instructions and to understand his consequences much more than our 18-month-old. I frequently need to remind myself that they aren’t the same age and I therefore need to have different expectations from and for them.
- Figure out what works for your family. Every family is different. Every child is different. We all know that the comparison game is a terrible road to go down. It’s wonderful to get ideas from other parents, share milestones, and have play dates. But it is a mindful skill to not allow yourself to start comparing your parenting skills or your child’s development to others around you. For example, I work part-time from home for a non-profit. It’s something that is life-giving for me. Once our daughter was born, my husband and I decided it would be wise for me to take a 1-year sabbatical from work. We found that after a year of being home full-time with a baby and a toddler, our family was ready for a change. Together, we made the decision for our children to be in daycare part-time and for me to return to work. It was a decision that benefited us all. We found it is better for our marriage, better for me as a parent (which means it’s better for my kids) and better for my own mental/emotional state. Again, for our family, it’s what works.
- Stand firm on your parenting values. This is a wise tip for all parents! For us, following the biblical principles found in Growing Families Life have been the best foundation we could have asked for in our parenting journey. Whenever my husband and I sit down together and watch one of the video teachings, we take away something that helps us. It’s either a practical tip like teaching our kids to fold their hands to gain self-control, an encouragement about why we do what we do, or a reminder to “begin as you mean to go.” At the end of the day, if we accomplished nothing more than following through with our parenting values which include helping our kids know Jesus better, then it’s been a successful day. And if you’re imperfect like me, we will miss the mark some days. Thankfully, the Lord’s mercies are new each morning!
Parenting children who are very close in age can be challenging sometimes but it is also a beautiful blessing that the Lord has granted us.
Daneen and her husband, Joe, call the badlands of eastern Montana home. After serving overseas in three African countries, Daneen gained a deep passion to support orphans and vulnerable children. She serves as the U.S. Administrator for Christ’s Gift Academy, which is a school for orphans in Mbita, Kenya. Daneen and her husband are foster parents and advocates for the children in foster care. When she gets time away from being “mom”, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband and hiking in the mountains…. or dreaming about relaxing on a beach!