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Is there an Ideal Age Gap Between Siblings?
While family planning you may wonder if there’s an ideal number of years to wait between having children. The answer is no—there are average age gaps between siblings across populations and generations but there is no ideal. There are pros and cons to any kind of age gap between siblings.
Pros & Cons of Small Age Gaps Between Siblings
When we talk about small age gaps between siblings, we mean less than a six- to 18-month interval between birth and the next pregnancy. Let’s explore the common pros and cons of gaps this size.
- Diaper duty has an expiration date when your children are born close together. You may not get a break from sleepless nights, but once they’re done, they’re done.
- Kids clustered around similar ages can make it easier to manage the family’s schedule—similar activities, schools, and even bedtimes are very helpful.
- Your little loves have built-in playmates when their ages are similar—they won’t spend all their time together, but there will always be someone to play with around the house. Sometimes they will play well together, and sometimes not so much!
- Planning family activities and vacations is easier when there isn’t a wide gap between ages, interests, and attention spans. You can save on must have baby gear and maternity clothing costs by reusing a lot of what you already have.
- It can be harder to give each child individualized attention and time.
- Less time between babies means more time spent with late-night feedings, sleep training, and diapers.
- Incidences of sibling rivalry may increase when kids are closer in age and competing for the same things.
- You’re more likely to find yourself doing double duty when it comes to caregiving—or hiring sitters to do it.
- There are increased risks during pregnancy and delivery with closely spaced pregnancies.
Pros & Cons of Big Age Gaps Between Siblings
A large age gap between siblings is considered an interval greater than 75 months between last birth and next pregnancy.4 If you have lots of littles at home, you may find that the range between the oldest and youngest child constitutes a big age gap but from child to child each gap may be considered small. Here are common pros and cons of large age gaps between siblings.
- With kids at different developmental stages, giving them individualized attention can be easier.
- Space between kids means space between sleepless nights and other stressors of babyhood.
- Age differences can reduce the likelihood of sibling rivalry (but not completely remove the risk of sibling squabbles).
- Older children can help with younger children, giving you space and time to get more done; old enough older children can even act as babysitter occasionally.
- Your big kid will learn how to be a leader; your little kid will learn everything your big kid has to teach them.
- A break between the baby years can feel nice, but it can also make it feel like you’re starting all over again when it’s time to bust out the baby gear.
- Running a household is a balancing act—especially when you have differing schedules amongst children, which presents logistical challenges for everyone.
- Fostering family togetherness can be challenging when your kids are radically different ages—they play different games, like different things, and handle different activities at different ability levels.
How to Manage Age Gap-Related Problems Between Siblings
Whether it’s a lack of opportunities to bond or too much togetherness, age gap-related problems between siblings aren’t uncommon. Here are some practical tips for managing problems before—and after—they pop up.
For problems related to big age gaps:1,2
- Bonding becomes challenging with larger sibling age gaps. Support a healthy sibling relationship by ensuring your older (or oldest) child understands that they’re not being replaced as soon as the new sibling arrives—you may even want to highlight how crucial the role of older (or oldest) sibling is to the new baby. Keep looking for opportunities for your kids to do things together.
- Plan activities that are fun for the entire family. Look for activities that offer something for everyone: cook a meal together or plan a picnic, have a day of swimming and beach play, or take a trip to a local amusement park.
For problems related to small age gaps:2
- Siblings very close in age are more likely to experience sibling rivalry—especially if you have a toddler and bring home a newborn. Learn how to manage and mitigate toddler jealousy over new baby before you bring home your new bundle of joy.
For all age gap-related problems:1
- Plan for plenty of one-on-one time with each child. Not only is this healthy for the parent-child relationship, it also offers you both an opportunity to discuss sibling squabbles and to remind each child that they don’t need to compete for your attention.
- Keep your cool—you can’t be everywhere at once, and you can’t be at 100% for each of your kids all the time.