There is hardly any quiet moment in the house with three young children around. There is always some activity going on.
The kids are either running around, calling to get my attention, playing with toys or games, fighting over toys, chit-chatting, singing, laughing or crying.
My ears only get a rest during the hours that the boys are at school, and best of all, when my daughter is napping when the brothers are at school.
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Ahhhhh... the elusive peace and quietness.
The truth is, it is very fun to have multiple children, especially when they are close in age. My children have playmates almost every waking moment and have fun even when they are in bed getting ready to sleep.
That is the wonderful blessing of siblings.
But as much as they enjoy each other's company and adore each other, our children need their own personal space too, no matter how young they are.
Acknowledging that each child is a unique individual
Each child has their own unique personality, character, likes, and dislikes. They also desire to be in absolute control at times, and this may be hard to come by when their siblings are around.
Every child should have the privilege of enjoying their toys all to themselves and have the space to tell their own stories using the toys without being interrupted.
The need for individual space and freedom increases as the child grows and gains independence. And I absolutely see this happening especially in my oldest son.
Sometimes my five-year-old can get quite irritated by his younger brother and sister who simply cannot leave their big brother alone.
They may not be intentionally disturbing him, but because they are not playing the way my oldest son desires or the baby sister just cannot help wanting to get her hands on everything he is holding, it really bothers my oldest son and he can get quite frustrated.
My boys are also old enough to complain about each other and sometimes say that they don't want to play with each other. My little girl, not having to use any words, can still ward off her brothers and refuse to let them touch the toys she is playing with.
There are definitely times when they can happily share and play together.
But there are also times when each child simply needs their own space and freedom away from each other.
It's okay not to play with each other
In times like these, I will tell my boys that they don't have to play with each other if they don't want to, and each of them just has to bring his toys to one area and play on his own -- either the play area, the living room or the bedroom.
Usually, my boys don't need very much time to play on their own. It doesn't take long before one of them would ask the other to play together again.
Yet this short break from each other is very helpful in letting the tension subside if they were previously fighting or getting way too hyped up with all the running and screaming in excitement.
A short break also helps each child find his own voice and gain ownership of his personal space.
He can take charge and be in absolute control of how he wants to play with his toys. He can narrate his own story without being interrupted or having to accommodate to his siblings.
He can fully enjoy a particular toy without having to share it.
This pocket of space and freedom grants the child a sense of control and significance, thereby building his sense of self and confidence.
He knows he is unique and different from his siblings and he also enjoys the space to make his own choices and decisions.
This also teaches the siblings, especially the younger ones, to respect each other's personal space.
Over time, the little ones will also learn to recognize when their sibling needs time alone, and respectfully allow their sibling to step away without kicking up a fuss or trying to badger the sibling.
Just as how we need some personal space, even from our spouse sometimes, so do our children, as young as they may be.
When that happens, it doesn't mean we love our spouse any less, nor does it mean our children love their siblings any less.
We all have the innate need to create and express our individuality and just be by ourselves sometimes.
This gets harder with bigger families yet it is important to be intentional about giving each child the space they need when they seek it.
Ways to help each child find individual space
1) Have a dedicated box for each child to put their favorite toy or an item that they don't want to share at the moment.
2) Have a unique chair for each child to retreat to or rest on, knowing that it totally belongs to him/her alone and will not be disturbed by the siblings. Instead of a chair, it could also be a small designated area in the house.
3) Designate the sleeping area for each child if the children are sharing the same bed or bedroom.
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My boys used to share a double bed but too much tussling happened too often so I decided to keep them on separate beds in the same room.
We make it clear who sleeps where and that the boys are not supposed to be on each other's bed. There are still times when they play with each other on both beds but when it's time to sleep, they are supposed to stick to their own designated space.
This most certainly helped us solve the problem of the frequent morning fights when the boys wake up grouchy and get all riled up when a little physical contact gets one or both of them all upset.
As the saying goes, "absence makes the heart grow fonder". With some time spent playing on their own, the siblings always get refreshed and are happier to be playing with each other again.
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