kids

The trick to parenting a toddler and a teen at the same time.

It must come as quite the shock. You finally graduate from nappies and play dates and now you’re dealing with a whole new set of problems – ipads and dating. But just when you think you’re starting to figure it all out, BAM. Along comes a baby to throw everything into disarray.

How do you juggle your bigs and littles when the parenting challenges they present are wildly different? While one is demanding your attention every five minutes, the other one will barely look at you. Welcome to life as the parent of a teen and a toddler. It’s about more than just sibling rivalry.

One mum called the This Glorious Mess podcast phone this week with a plea for help. And father of eight Jay Laga’aia happily obliged.

Laga’aia’s kid ages span 26 years between the oldest and youngest, so when it comes to age gaps, his family runs the complete gamut. He’s experienced every age combination and had some sage wisdom to placate the fretting mother of five.

Erin from Queensland said, “I am a mother to a 12-year-old boy, 10-year-old twin boys, a five-year old boy and a four-year-old girl and it is bloody chaos. I would really like to hear someone discuss how they parent a very soon-to-be teen and a baby. High school is nuts. It’s a whole other world to primary school.”

For Laga’aia, this problem is a piece of cake. According to the former Playschool presenter, it’s all about time management. Hmmm, easier said than done. What else ya got, Jay?

“I always find with my kids I have to be very aware to spend time with the older ones, because mum is caught up with the baby,” he says.

So what does that quality time involve?

“With the older ones you either do homework with them or ask them questions. If they’re slightly younger you say, ‘should we go outside and kick the ball?’ if you have the time.”

You can’t scrimp on that time either, because it’s golden. And they’ll hold you to it, no matter what age they are.

“If you’ve got a three-year-old and you tell them, ‘I’ll be up in ten minutes to read you a book,’ they may not know how to tell the time but they will come down in ten minutes and they will say, ‘but you told me,’ and you have no right to be angry,” the actor says.

One more piece of advice from this über-dad is to get the older kids involved with the baby, to give them the opportunity to form a sibling bond.

“The reason why they don’t participate is because they don’t know how to, it’s not because they don’t want to. If you give them the option – ‘can you just hold her while I do the dishes?’ – it allows them to just spend a little time and after a while that time gets longer,” Laga’aia says.

Well Erin, we hope that helps. And if nothing else, at least you have plenty of extra helping hands to (begrudgingly) help. Happy days.

For more parenting talk, listen to the full episode of This Glorious Mess here:

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