Leaving a Child Out - How Bad?

Filed under: Siblings, Opinions, Expert Advice: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Expert Advice: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Tweens


Do siblings always have to do the same things? Credit: AshD23, Flickr

"How bad is it to leave one child out?," a mommy blogger wrote via email. "I have many friends that won't have play-dates or sleep overs for one without making plans for the other. I think it works against them, because the kids get so coddled and learn that everything has to be even."

Does everything always have to be even among siblings? To find out, I called my friend and Mommy Advisor Rosanne Tobey, director of Calm and Sense Therapy, a counseling service.

"I agree with this mom," Tobey said. "There's not necessarily anything wrong with trying to keep things equal when they're too young to understand. Otherwise you're going to end up with constant tantrums. But by kindergarten or first grade, kids can start to understand that the world isn't even all the time."

Here are Tobey's tips on how to keep the peace when things aren't equal:

Have special time with the "left-out" child. When one sibling gets invited to a party and the other doesn't, try to make time to focus on that child so she feels special. But Tobey warns, don't oversell your at-home activities -- as in, "We'll have the most fun at-home day ever!" -- or you'll be setting yourself up for failure.

Explain the situation in terms that make sense to a child. "Tell your child that she wasn't invited because she isn't in the birthday girl's class or isn't her age, not because they aren't friends, which can hurt your child's feelings."

Sympathize with your child. "It's okay to say, 'I can see you're disappointed. I would be, too. What can we do that's fun together?'" Make sure you don't trivialize her feelings. Allow her be sad about it. "If your child is sad or angry about not being invited, that's okay." She's learning that life isn't always fair, which isn't a fun lesson.

Encourage siblings to develop separate friends. They will come to expect that they won't always be invited to the same parties. "They'll learn to develop a little independence from their sibling."

So is it bad to leave one child out if the other sibling gets invited to a party?
It's okay to let her feel disappointed and to help her work through those feelings. "I don't think it's terrible to keep things even," added Tobey. "But if you keep trying to make everything perfectly even, as the kids get older, you're setting yourself up for a lifetime of "gotcha" from the kids; they'll always find a way to think things are uneven." Instead, help your kids develop by experiencing the disappointment, recovering from it and developing resilience.

Have you had a less-than-perfect parenting moment and you're wondering, "How bad"? Send it to Sabrina at PrincessLPink9@aol.com. She'll try to answer as many as she can.

Sabrina Weill is the founder of the pink, princess-y gift site: PrincessLovesPink. Many of the Mommy Advisors in this column are the writer's personal or professional friends.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.