Everyone has their own opinion on the “ideal” age gap between siblings. Some couples decide to have kids close in age in the hopes that their little ones will become best buddies, while others prefer to space them out by a few years.
Then, there are couples who have kids with a particularly wide age gap (five years or more). To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with having kids so far apart from one another. Just like any other age gap between siblings, having kids with a large age gap has its distinct pros and cons.
The Benefits of Having Kids with a Wide Age Gap
- You’ve had time to recover. Having closely-spaced pregnancies can be rough on the body and comes with a fair share of health risks, especially if the mother is over the age of 35. With a wider gap between pregnancies, the mother’s body has had ample time to recover.
- Your oldest child can help out. Whether you need them to quickly grab a diaper from the nursery or take the dog for a walk, having an older kid in the house can be a major help when you’ve got a newborn.
- You can reuse baby stuff. If your pregnancy was planned, there’s a good chance that you still have baby items from your last child. Reusing some of these baby items can help you save a ton of money.
- Less jealousy between siblings. When kids are spaced farther apart, you can give each child the special attention they crave. As a result, siblings are less likely to feel jealousy or animosity towards one another.
The Cons of Having Kids with a Wide Age Gap
- Buying baby items all over again. If you weren’t planning for another baby, you may have already given away all of your old baby stuff. You’ll probably need to pick up new infant clothing, baby bibs, burp cloths, milk storage containers, a crib, a stroller, etc.
- It may be harder for siblings to connect. Although nothing is guaranteed, some siblings with large age gaps may have a more difficult time bonding with one another due to their age difference.
- Delayed empty nest. It may be a long time before you and your spouse are truly empty nesters. While some parents view this as an advantage, others may regret delaying the positives of an empty nest.
- You may feel out of practice. It’s been just long enough that you’ve forgotten all about the sleep deprivation, the diaper changes and the challenges of potty training. Be prepared to feel a little overwhelmed and out of practice. Don’t worry—you’ll be back to crushing it as a parent in no time.
Parenting Tips for Children with Big Age Differences
The large spacing between your kids doesn’t need to be a setback. Here are a few parenting tips to help you make the most of a wide age gap between siblings.
Tip #1: Get strategic with family activities
Your toddler loves blowing bubbles in the backyard, while your tween boy is bored to tears with this mindless activity. Such is the struggle of raising kids with a wide age gap. When it comes to planning family activities and vacations, you’ll need to get a little strategic. Look for activities that will appeal to multiple age groups, such as beach outings, waterparks, playing sports and reading.
Additionally, be prepared for occasional tears and frustration. Someone in the family will inevitably get frustrated at being dragged into something they don’t want to do. You can’t always please everyone!
Tip #2: Go with the Flow
You can save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress by letting go of the idea that everything must work out 100 percent of the time. Your kids are at two different stages of their lives. They both have unique needs, and you can’t be everywhere at once.
If your oldest needs to be dropped off at basketball practice and your little one is in the middle of a nap, just accept that you’ll probably need to drive him to practice with a screaming baby in the car. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Tip #3: Get your oldest involved with the baby
Having your older child help out with the baby is a massive perk to raising kids with a wide age gap. They can hand you diapers or watch the baby while you clean up a quick mess. If they’re responsible enough, they can even “sibling sit” while you enjoy a nice dinner with your partner.
Getting your oldest child to sibling sit can help them become more responsible and do wonders for their confidence. However, be careful to avoid relying too much on your oldest for childcare. The last thing you want is for your older child to resent the baby and consider him or her nothing more than a chore.
Tip #4: Plan one-on-one activities with each child
Although family activities are important, there will be times where it simply makes more sense to split off and do one-on-one activities with each child. Sure, your daughter probably won’t mind if the baby tags along on the occasional mother-daughter shopping trip. But if you can, try to carve out one-on-one time with each of your children to do what they want to do—alone.
Have your partner or a babysitter watch the baby for a while so you can bond with your oldest. They’ll feel more special with one-on-one time, and you’ll both feel closer as a result.
Tip #5: Don’t stress over appearances
Large age gaps between kids may not be the usual, but they’re not uncommon either. Still, some people may cast judgmental looks your way. Strangers might mistakenly assume that the toddler is your teenage daughter’s baby and not yours. Try not to make a big fuss about it.
In the end, this is your family—and your family is no one else’s business. If the age gap between your kids works for you, that’s all that matters.
Navigating a Large Sibling Age Gap
Whether you’re thinking about spacing your kids far apart or life just happened, raising two kids with a large age gap can be a blessing. Along with these tips, don’t forget to ask for help when you need it. Parenting is always tough work, regardless of the age gap between your kids.