Is There Really An Ideal Age Gap?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I keep hearing people say that the best age gap between siblings is two years. That significant gaps can be bad... as it will ruin the relationship between the siblings. To be honest, it gets me a little confused how this rule came about. Where did this theory come from? Is there really such a thing as the perfect age gap between siblings?

On this issue, studies and experts contradict each other. Some say it's two years, others three or seven. What you should know is that every difference in age has its advantages and disadvantages, and everything can work. Influencing factors will actually be things such the child's temperament or the family background.

On a general basis, it is said that until the age of seven, a child is focused on himself and reluctant to share. Passed the seven years of age, the child is ambivalent throughout the day... one minute he wants to cuddle the baby, and then the next he hopes that this spoilsport gets out of his sight!

One of the first questions you must ask yourself is what kind of relationship you wish to see establish itself amongst the family in construction. It is said that the smaller the age difference, the stronger the fraternal relationship will be. Advocates in reduced age gaps between siblings emphasize on the quality of the bond that unites brothers and sisters. They will be able to share their toys and, later on, their teenage experiences. However, a strong relationship will not set itself right off the bat. As the difference in age grows bigger, it is the children's own maturity and personalities that will define their relationship. Births who are also too close to each other (less than two years), can be resented by small children, due to the mother's fatigue and lack of availability following successive births.

On the other hand, larger age gaps can promote the child's individuality and the parent-child relationship. Some specialists promote the six to seven years difference, stating that the eldest has time to build his own family memories and enjoy the status of only child. It also allows him to gain autonomy and establish a circle of friends outside the family. But in such a case, chances are that the relationship between the siblings will be minimal... they will not be living the same experiences or share their little struggles together, at the same time.

Nevertheless, regardless of the age, the feeling of jealousy is inevitable. It will be practically impossible to avoid the jealous scenes from your older child at the birth of the newcomer. The way a child will adapt to the arrival of his little brother or sister will depend for the most part on his maturity, his education, his emotional environment and his ability in expressing his jealousy. Essentially, you should not avoid his feeling of jealousy, which is entirely legitimate, but rather reassure each child on the love you carry for each one of them, and not to give in to their impulses under the pretext of calming them. They have a right to be jealous, not to control you!

Ultimately, you will benefit from taking your decision based on your personal desires and criteria not your older children's opinion. No child is ever completely ready. It is really a parental decision.

Here are some pointers:

  • Take into account your energy levels and tolerance. You will want to ask yourself if and when you will feel able, physically and psychologically, to care for a second child.
  • Consider your oldest's main stages of development. The second year is the age of walking, temper tantrums, and learning autonomy. Seeing that these milestones demand continuous attention, there's greater risk that you will live through these changes with grumpiness, rather than with positive support. If possible, it may be a good thing to wait until the second year goes by.
  • Be certain that your financial situation and/or your professional status will not represent a stress. It can be useful to ask yourself if you have the desire to go back to work between the birth of each child or not. 

So between first, second and third, who has the best place? Let's reassure ourselves, everyone finds happiness, no matter what their place is! However, there are trends that can be anticipated for the sake of avoiding the small injustices.

The eldest stands in a hot-and-cold situation. He may, perchance, suffer from his parents' errors due to their lack of experience. Nevertheless, he sees himself being attributed tasks and responsibilities, which brings up in him a sense of competency and importance towards his parents. A feeling that will last all the way into adulthood. It is key to avoid making him carry the weight of being the role model. If he is put in a position where he must always set the example, he could develop resentment towards his little
brother or sister.

The middle child seems to always be stuck between two favoured, right? He may see it that way, complaining that he is only the middle child, and not the parents' "pet" like the youngest is or the oldest who is entitled to everything. If his complaints have no basis, then you shouldn't feel guilty. He will come to the conclusion that there is no necessity to keep up with that speech. In fact, it has been noticed that majority of
 middle children acquire taste for competition. 

And then comes the baby, the youngest... the one who gets away with everything! He benefits from the advantage of having many "parents" from whom he learns oodles of things. Although, if he is continually treated like a baby and he isn't asked the same things as the others, he will tend to feel undervalued and may behave like a spoiled child. It is best to treat him like any of the others!

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