Tuesday, 11 February 2014
Play dates and younger siblings
I had to stop by her house last week and was a little surprised to see the six-year old shut inside their conservatory with a friend while the three-year old, stood at the glass door looking in on them. The mother rolled her eyes at me and again lamented of how difficult it was with the younger child wanting to 'join in'. My two-year old stood with him at the glass door for a moment while I was chatting and I saw the six-year old say to her through the glass, 'no babies!'.
Having a five-year old and a two-year old myself, I am not oblivious to the challenges that can come with play dates and managing the younger sibling in a fair and peaceful way around the older ones. I don't however think the answer is to banish or separate the younger sibling completely from the room in which the older ones are playing. I think it's good for all ages to learn to get along, to share, to respect each other, whatever their age and to generally mix among different ages. Unless the younger sibling is destroying something the older ones are playing with, then why not let them be in the same room and play alongside?
I appreciate that sometimes the older child wants to go to their bedroom with their friend and be undisturbed. Sometimes I do encourage my daughter to stay and play downstairs with me to give the older ones some space. I recognise it is equally important to respect the older child and let them have a bit of private time with their friend, if that's what they want. As with most things, it is all about balance.
Occasionally I have to keep an eye on the older ones to make sure there is no, let's call it boisterous behaviour, towards the little sister. I'm thinking shooting toy cannons at her, even speaking to her in what I consider an inappropriate way. It is rarely a problem though. Some of my son's friends enjoy the novelty of his little sister and are quite happy to have her around. Those with younger siblings themselves are usually particularly at ease with having a younger one in the same room.
Maybe my neighbour's children being both one year older than mine makes a difference but even so, I hope I can continue to manage play dates without making a big deal out of the younger sibling being around. The ideal situation perhaps, which I know some of my friends with two children like to try to do, is to have play dates for both children on the same day. That way they both have their own friend to play with and occupy them, making them less likely to be interested in what the other is doing.
What is your experience if you have two (or more) children? Is it stressful / particularly difficult having a play date for your older child with a younger sibling there? Do you have any ways you manage the situation to make it easier / more harmonious for everyone?