Are Your Kids Suffering Due to Lack of Individual Attention? Part III, Celebrating or Caring for One Child Over The Others
Continuing our discussion of special time with our kids, today I wanted to talk about spending time with, or celebrating one child over another. What does this look like? When is it necessary? How will your other kids feel about this?
Whether you have two kids or six, when one child is getting more of your attention than the others you're bound to run into issues of jealousy and rivalry. So when is it appropriate to lavish more time or attention on one child than the others?
"When is it appropriate to lavish more time or attention on one child than the others?"
As we talked about in last week's post, spending time together as a family, doing everyday things with your children along side you, is bonding and gives them time with you where they know they can be heard and understood. That for the most part you needn't single one child out over the others to spend "special time" with just them. Just letting life present those moments is far more authentic and far more do-able than trying to set time aside for a date night or a pedicure.
Spending more time with, or showing more attention to, one child over the others can be tricky. Here are a few instances where I would feel that it would be merited and where your "uncelebrated" children can learn to think past themselves and their desire for your attention, and think of their other family member's needs.
Birthdays - an obvious one. But rather than just making preparations for the birthday boy or girl, try to involve their siblings. Allow them to share in the pleasure and excitement of planning something special for someone they love. This teaches them selflessness, let's them feel that they're helping and when the moment arrives they will, more than likely, be excited to present all the surprises and plans, that they've been a part of, to their sibling rather than sulking in the corner. Which if they do, they need to be told, firmly, that this is their sibling's birthday, that they have their own birthday and they had better stop being so selfish - right now. That last bit was free of charge, just a little aside there.
Accomplishments - similar to birthdays. This is a time when children should be taught how to feel pride in the accomplishments of their family. To involve the kids in a feeling of excitement and support and, if there are any, in the plans to celebrate the child who has accomplished something of note. This is, like birthdays, a time when your other children should understand that they too should be caught up in the fun of celebrating someone they love, without really thinking about how they fit into the equation. Again, it's not about them.
"Your sister got 10 out of 10 on her spelling test today! Pretty good huh!? She studied for an hour last night. Make sure you tell her she did a good job."
"I was going to make a cake to celebrate your brother's win in track, do you want to help ice it?!"
"Allowing your children to be part of the good and bad times, allowing them to care for one another... teaches your children that they're part of a group. A closed unit that only all of you belong to. That with that membership comes expectations and responsibilities, to care for, and support each other."
When someone is hurting - This one breaks my heart. There were a couple of times during the girls' childhoods that I found myself sitting on the couch in the living room, not the family room where her sister would most likely wander in, where we could cuddle and she could cry and pour out her hurt feelings to me. So sad, even thinking about it now…
Hurt feelings are often something that your children will want to discuss in private, as the situations that lead to them are sometimes humiliating. Not being picked for a team, being snubbed by her best friend for another girl. This is a time, to shush the other kids out of the room, indicating with your expression that their sister or brother are sad and that now is not a good time. I find children (and dogs for some strange reason), understand hurt feelings, it seems to be instinctual. When my girls were babies and I would cry, they would crawl over to me and lay their little heads on my shoulder. Children, are very in touch with feelings, and are naturally empathetic. Once your hurt child has had enough time snuggling with you, enough time to pour out their heart and for you to attempt to heal it, allow your other children in. They'll know their sibling is hurting, and if they ask questions the hurt child doesn't want to answer, you can simply respond with; "She doesn't want to talk about it anymore, let's just snuggle her and watch her favourite movie." (In our house snuggling and movies were a cure all). There's no reason for your children to feel jealousy for you spending time with a wounded child, especially if they're allowed to be part of the cure. Being part of the healing process teaches them empathy and demonstrates that your family is a unit than functions as such, whether it be celebrating or healing one of its members.
I'm a big proponent of family. All facets of it. Allowing your children to be part of the good and bad times, allowing them to care for one another, whether it be in helping celebrate their sibling or allowing her extra time with Mom or Dad when she's upset, teaches your children that they're part of a group. A closed unit that only all of you belong to. That with that membership comes expectations and responsibilities, to care for, and support each other. And in acting those out, they're learning life lessons. How to get along with others, how to put other's needs before their own. How to be happy for other's successes and how to stand with them when they fail or are hurt.