If the signature on your child’s birth certificate was barely dry before you got pregnant again, your children will be so closely spaced apart, they might as well be twins. Handling two toddlers or preschoolers within a year of each other can have you pulling your hair out at times, although you can also expect your share of laughs. Relax and take a deep breath, and you’ll find ways to successfully raise two similar but distinct individuals.
Keeping your eye on two toddlers, then two preschoolers nearly the same age, can present multiple challenges. The little one always wants to do what the older one is doing, even if he’s not yet physically able. Although they may fight like cats and dogs, your little one probably adores his older sibling and wants to spend as much time with him as possible. Watch for ways to bolster your younger child’s ego, since it’s hard to always fall just short of what an older sibling can do.
Sibling rivalry can be more complex when you have closely spaced children than when you have twins, because in your case, one child has a physical advantage. Your oldest child is simply stronger, smarter and fast enough to take toys away from the little one or pummel him to the ground when you’re not looking. Let your kids work out their own battles most of the time, AskDrSears.com recommends. If they’re squabbling over a toy, remove the toy until they can work out an amicable agreement, once they both hit preschool age. The older one shouldn’t always get the “bad guy” rap and the younger one the “victim” tag. But when things are really out of hand, don’t hesitate to step in, unless you relish a trip to the emergency room.
All children can benefit from individual attention. But individual attention is more than just time spent with each child; it’s also recognizing each one’s developmental level and interests. It’s easy to treat two kids who are almost the same age as one unit, as parents often do with twins, but yours are developmentally different. Your eldest deserves time to play with toys that the younger one might not be ready for. On the serious side, a Columbia University study published in the January 2011 issue of “Pediatrics” found an increased risk of autism in second children born less than one year after the first. Remember, it’s important not to let No. 2’s need for Mommy time get lost in the chaos.
If your closely spaced children fall into the same age group when it’s time to start school, you might struggle with whether to put them in the same preschool class, hold the younger one back or just let the chips fall where they may. If they’re in the same class, they’ll undoubtedly go through their school years with everyone from the teachers to their friends calling them twins. If you’re lucky, your school district’s cutoff for kindergarten is before your younger one’s birth month; school cutoffs around the United States range from June to December, according to GreatSchools.org. On the other hand, you might decide that it’s easier to have both in the same class.