A parenting instructor’s sure-fire strategies for connecting together with your center youngster
Many middle-aged children report a lack of attention or fall into the role of peacemaker between quarreling older and younger siblings. Fortunately, research by Dr. Catherine Salmon, author of The Secret Power Of Middle Children, showed that while middle children tend to receive less attention than their older and younger siblings, it does not always have adverse effects.
Mean kids are more likely to turn to siblings or friends for support, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They often grow up to very successful friendships and marriages, which Salmon believes is due to their unique position as the middle child.
Still, with so many middle children reporting feeling left out, it’s important to make a conscious effort to give them focused attention and make sure they don’t feel ignored when you get carried away with the hustle and bustle of life .
Here are a couple of methods you can use to develop a deeper connection with your middle child:
1. Create a special time
Set a timer for any number between 5 and 30 minutes and tell your child it’s a special time, one-on-one quality time with no sibling distractions. Make sure you have a quiet place away from the rest of the family and turn off your phone.
When you spend time together, shower your child with your warmest attention and just enjoy being together. This is a great way to get the same amount of attention on a regular basis, and a useful tool to reconnect after busy times. As you spend time with your middle child, remind them that they are loved and that you are there for them.
(Be prepared for older and younger siblings to claim their fair share of special time too!)
2. Reflect + listen
Listening time is a time when partners spend time taking turns talking about and listening to how parenting is going together. It is a time to clear your mind of stress and everyday worries so that you can think more consciously and reflect on your parenting.
If you have this space to think about, you may notice the times when your middle child has been left out and may need an extra dose of attention. If there is a pattern in your family that the middle child is left out, it is a good idea to spend concentrated time talking about what is going on for them and how you can help.
When you spend time speaking to the warmth of a compassionate listener, new solutions can come to mind. You may feel overwhelmed with the demands of three or more children, but listening can help you start over with renewed energy and ideas for the complex task of balancing your attention.
3. Try love bombs
The term Love Bombing was coined by Oliver James, a British psychologist and author of Love Bombing: Reset Your Child’s Emotional Thermostat. Love Bombing is the idea of spending 24-48 hours saying yes to what your child wants and showering them with love.
James describes this as a way to reset your child’s “emotional thermostat” by taking time off from everyday life so they can soak up your love. Saying “yes” helps them feel accepted and in control. It is an effective antidote when family time has been taken up with the needs of older and younger siblings.
Love bombing is especially good exercise as your child gets older and has more family time. If you notice your middle kid’s behavior is getting off-track – getting grumpier, whiny, or uncooperative – these are all signs that you might want to consider a love bomb.
4. Be mindful in times of change
Whenever there is stress or turmoil, even if it is positive, it is always good to check in with yourself and think about how your middle child is doing. A little special time and love bombardment before or in the middle of a change can help keep your emotional bonds strong. Having time to talk about how things are going for you, whether it be with a listening partner, friend, or therapist, can save your sanity too.
5. Hold family reunions
Weekly family reunions are a great way to ensure that every family member is heard. It can be a time to discuss what is going well as a family and what is more difficult.
If you’re short on time, or if one child likes to communicate more than others, use a timer to make sure each child has an equal amount of time to talk. Treating any child as a respected family member whose opinion is valid can help when a middle child feels neglected.
Paying attention to middle children is so important, and with these tools it is possible to have a happy, harmonious family where everyone feels included. So, take some time to hang out with your middle child and trust that you are raising someone whose position in the family is actually a gift, not a detriment.