My kids are all rather close in age—so they have really grown up in a “pack”. When they were younger, there was always someone to play with and activities and games often involved not only my own children, but some neighborhood extras as well. Kids seemed to love hanging out at our house since there was a ready-made “group” of children who were all generally in the same age group. Even though my kids are all high schoolers now, they’re still rather close. They know each other well and have a strong history together—which is both good, and not so good…
Since my kids know each other so well, they know just how to aggravate, annoy, pester and torture each other. In fact, they are more apt to take out their bad days and work out their psychology on each other than anyone else. So, even though I wanted my kids to have strong bonds, I also learned early on that they really needed breaks from each other. Sometimes, big, long and sheltered breaks from each other were definitely in order.
Creating space and time for individuality in a bustling family with only one parent on duty can be a challenge. Over the years, I’ve learned that there is no way I can be everything and everyone all the time to my kids—giving them a break from each other has involved eliciting the help of some of our “support system.” While a lunch or shopping date or even a trip to the movies with mom is great, so is an outing with a grandparent, an aunt or even an adult friend. Dad has a role in helping to give kids a chance to “spread out” too. The kid who gets the outing has a special time and some relief from being part of the sibling “pack,” but the others get a bit of a break and a chance to interact with each other in a different dynamic too.
In families where there are two or more children, I think it is important to shake things up and give kids a chance to be alone, or spend time with each other in different and atypical groupings—youngest and oldest, splitting up twins or multiples for activities, etc. It doesn’t take much to get stuck in a rut and then the fur can start flying!
My kids have great appreciation for what they all call “only child” activities. I think being part of a sibling group gives a person added enjoyment of the cherished time alone or without the brothers and sisters around. It only stands to reason that siblings need a break from one another, and the opportunity to develop an identity that isn’t just a reaction to the “pack.”