Tuesday Topic: Staying Connected With Your Older Children

This week’s Tuesday Topic comes from Christine:

How do you stay connected with your older kids when you are dealing with the constant fires of the younger ones. I feel like the older kids are always being brushed aside to wait while we deal with the younger ones, or they are helping us deal with the little kids. Our older kids also express this at times; then the guilty mom feelings rise. We can not refuse to deal with the little ones. Love some suggestions. From what I see your relationship with your older kids is good. I feel like I am losing mine, especially since our whole life has been turned upside down since our last adoption.

This is a tough issue for many of us who have children spread over a wide range of ages.  Let’s share our thoughts and encourage one another.

I’ll hold your comments until Tuesday, March 9th and post them all at once.

Thank you for supporting one another and participating in the conversation.  If you haven’t commented before, please jump in!


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Cindy
    March 3, 2010

    This is such an opposite at our house. The older kids take waaaay more time and emotional energy than the little ones. Now I don't have a baby in the house any more, but those late night talks or the talks about this and that and what is fair and why we need this rule ect. with the older kids sometimes leaves me exhausted. Sometimes I look at the litle kids and wonder why I don't have enough energy to read that book and play that game, because I just spent 2 hours with the teens discussing why I think you should guard your heart in relationships with the opposite gender, or why reading His word and spending time with the Lord needs to be number one in your life, or why did our neighbor friend killed herself, ect. These conversations take time and with 3 girls having their own thoughts and opinions on the matter takes even more time. Teens love to talk and the more you listen and value their words the more they talk. I know when we adopt the four blessings from Ethiopia it will change our family dynamics.

  2. Julie
    March 4, 2010

    I am definitely no expert in this area and can totally relate to this question. One thing I have tried to do lately is make sure my little children are in bed several hours before my teens. Usually, I just want to crawl in bed also, but I find if I take a quick shower it revives me enough to go back downstairs and talk with our teens for a while. This has kind of turned into our time and we have had some great discussions. My 18 year old actually came up and layed on the bed with me the other night to have a private conversation. He was obviously waitng and knew his time of the day had arrived. I know not everyone can do this, but it has worked well for us. Our littles (ages 1-7) are in bed by 8:00. Our teens don't go to bed until 11:00. I go to bed at 9:30 and then get up around 5:00 to have an hour with hubby before he leaves for work. I also force myself to take a nap a few days a week and let the teens take over during this time. That way I can have my wits about me when one of the teens throws a surprise at us during our late night conversations:) Hope that helps.


  3. laurel
    March 4, 2010

    Great question!

    I have 4 "little kids" … ages 8, 8, 9, 11.
    I have 2 teens … ages 13, 16.
    I have 6 "big kids" … ages 19, 21, 21, 23, 24, 25.

    First thought, off the top of my head, I would encourage you to not "brush aside the older kids to wait while you deal with the younger ones". Occasionally, it might have to happen. Ordinarily, if I was in a conversation with a Big Kid and a little one was doing something that needed my attention, I would ask the Big Kid to wait about 2 seconds, while I turn to the little one and tell them that they need to sit in time out until I am done with the Big Kid. Then, after completing my conversation with the Big Kid, I would deal with the issue with the little one. The Big Kids definitely need to know that they are just as important as the little ones.

    Other thing … this is not easy, but is over-the-top worth it … I have ALWAYS told my big kids that I will stay up as long as needed if any of them want/need to talk. Seriously. Sometimes the Big Kids have had to "take a number". Then, Big Kid that has to get up earliest gets the first time slot, and so forth. When I had 8 teens living in my home (6 of mine, plus 2 extras) I would usually be up well past midnight. The first night that one of the "extras" came to live with us, I sat in the kitchen listening to her until 3:00 a.m. She told me, "My mother has never listened to me."

    When I go to bed at 2:00 a.m., after talking with my Big Kids for many hours, and know that I have to be up by 8:00 to school my younger ones … I pray that the Lord will pour an extra blessing out on my sleep. And … He does.

    I have an AMAZING relationship with each of my 6 young adult children. And, those relationships started when they were very little … when I took the time to look them in the eye and listen to them … really listen. (I had 6 kids under 7 years old, but the Lord told me that I needed to not be "too busy" for them. I will never forget hearing so clearly from Him.)


  4. stonefox
    March 4, 2010

    Awesome question, I need answers for this one too!

  5. laurad
    March 6, 2010

    I'm actually looking forward to reading these responses because we are going through the same thing with our 14 and 12 yr old sons. In an instant everything changed…not just for the 3 little brothers, but for everyone in our family. Unfortunately for them and me, my head/heart must have been lost in the clouds because I honestly did not expect our two older boys to have problems. I was very naive and such an idealist in some ways. We observed families who had recently adopted for a year or more, and never really saw their olders experience any significant issues. We did talk with our big boys about changes, the hard work it was going to take, sacrifices that would have to be made, but none of those talks prepared us for the reality of the situation. Adopting 3 boys at once has been very hard on them. Of course, I second guess our decision to adopt all 3, but know that it was the Lord who completely worked on their behalf and ours. I know He led us every step of the way and that these 3 are our sons. I feel very guilty about how it has turned our world upside down, and all the losses the big boys have incurred. They have mentioned how hard it has been sharing us and our attention and the greater responsibilities of our household/family.

    We have set aside Wed night & Fri night after their younger brothers are in bed to spend with them. Wed we read What He Must Be by Voddie Baucham and Fri we either play games or have a movie night. I must say that even for me, those two nights are not near enough. However, we are doing the best we can and will have to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing in the lives of our big boys, us, the younger boys. He has us all firmly in His grip and will not let go.

  6. laurad
    March 6, 2010

    just a quick add-on to my comment::

    "And the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." 1 Peter 5:10

  7. Chrisitne
    March 8, 2010

    SInce I posted this question, we have decided to start special days back up. We did them before the adoption, but some how they got lost in the shuffle. We do somrthing special with the kids on their birth date each month. Our 9 year old son reminded us the other day of them. It is usually very simple, ice cream and a visit, baseball with no other kids, or a visit at school at lunch time. Also our evening prayer time together. We put prayer requsts in a basket then draw, we each pray for what ever we draw. I beleive this got lost because I seem to have this picture that if we are all not there, then it does not work. This is hard since our kids are active in sports,so I am trying to drop my picture of what I think it should be and taking what I have. I am very excited to hear suggestions my kids range from 16 to 3 and I feel very streched and like I am dropping the ball a lot. Christine

  8. Julie
    March 8, 2010

    I wish I had some great wisdom…I've been thinking about it all week and I'm really stuck. The only thing that I can think of is: it really takes a lot of effort to carve time out of the day. Carving time is a lot like carving wood – you might get some big chunks all at once, but mostly it's little shavings – tiny bits of time in small chunks. And it's hard work. I wish we were better at this. I feel a lot like Christine.

  9. Leslie
    March 9, 2010

    I also have children 16 to 3 that are busy in sports. I end up spending time with older kids working on homework (I often at least skim read the novels they are reading in English so we can discuss them). I talk to them while driving them to all their sports practices and games. My husband gets 2 tickets to 10 hockey games every season and rotates which of the 3 older kids he takes to each game. Also he gets TV series such as Dr Who (science fiction) at the library that he and the older kids watch occassionally after the little ones are in bed.
    I am leaving for Ethiopia on Friday to bring home our newest 6 year old daughter so we will see how life changes:) It has been 3 years since our last adoption.

  10. Donna
    March 9, 2010

    Our children were a lot older when our littles came home. They were 14, 17 and 20. So in most ways they were able to understand the extreem needs of the little ones. Our youngest of the group who is now 18 suffered the most, because his new brother, whom he was so earnestly waiting for totally rejected him. We now know that it was due to abuse that he suffered at the hands of older boys at the orphanage. We chose to take focused time with the olders–a lunch out or a ball game where the time was one on one. It gave them time to relax and usually the conversation would start flowing. We are still doing it 4 1/2 years later.

  11. Donna
    March 9, 2010

    Also we try to keep the little ones on an early bed time, which is difficult because they both have sleeping issues, Our evenings are either really quite or very loud. Loud when the older crowd and friends crash at our house for their down time, or quite when we have an evening of homework, games, and reading. A lot of these quiet nights the olders will come into our room and sit on the bed and talk forever!! I think to boil it down, we are 'deliberate' in finding time with our olders, and 'available' for them when the mood strikes. Then cover it all with a heaping dose of prayer and love and for us the recipe has been good!!

  12. Lisa H.
    March 10, 2010

    This is an area that I'm happy to be reminded to stay focused on….I'm still learning! Here are a few things that I think have helped us:

    1) I purposefully remember that I never want my Big Kids to feel like they lost their parents or their home, because of the invasion of the Littles. We could REALLY use another bedroom, but when our daughter leaves for college this fall, I'm not rushing to move a Little one into her room. I want her to still have her place to come home to until she's ready to let go….

    2) I try to give my Big Kids the "trump card" over the Littles when possible. So many times, the Big Kids HAVE to wait while I care for a Little, that when possible, I try to give the Big Kid the first priority.

    3) We take the Littles to cheer on the Big Kids at their events. I don't think my son will forget the extremely high (shrill) yell of his little sister cheering him on at his wrestling events, or the fact that they made "Go Zane!" banners for his ball games.

    4) We expect and enforce respect and affection for the Big Kids from the Littles, and teach tenderness and patience and wisdom from the Big Kids for the Littles. We have the little ones hug and kiss their siblings at night time, and teach the Big Kids how to comfort a Littles' hurts…

    5) We try to take advantage of one-on-one times with the Big Kids. My husband will invite them to coffee, or sometimes I take them on a shopping trip and then out to dinner. Once there was a special movie that all Big People wanted to see, that wasn't appropriate for the Littles, so we used Christmas money and had the Littles go to a friends, and took all the Big Kids to the movie and out to dinner. And over Christmas break, we stayed up late playing "Bananagrams" with the Big Kids….Up till 2:00 AM on Christmas night!

    6) We chose to use some money we inherited to take our Big Kids on one of our adoption trips. We recognized how much they'd been stretched and had to grow through our adoptions, and we wanted them to see first hand WHY we were so passionate about adoption. Also, this gave them a chance to develop a special bond with our baby, even though they aren't at home with her as much on a daily basis, and really gave them a heart for the hurting people of the world.

    Just some thoughts…And I really appreciate the question as a reminder of how important this is and found a few tips to use in our parenting. Thanks!

    Lisa H.

  13. Sweet Pea
    March 10, 2010

    I'll pitch in, as a "Big Kid." Since I moved away for med school, I don't get to spend nearly as much time with my family. Mamma, some of the Littles, and sometimes Daddy come over for appointments – which I really enjoy, even though we usually get just a few hours together while they're here. Whenever I call, they pick up the phone and talk to me, even if it's brief. I talk to Mamma every day (sometimes twice!), and Daddy every couple of days, and text/talk regularly with my siblings who have cell phones. We share prayer requests and talk about life events. Regular five-fifteen minute conversations are much better than waiting to have occasional long conversations, although we manage to have those in the evening sometimes.

    When I'm home, it's non-stop family time. I love the noise…the quiet is the worst thing about living away from home! When we were little, my parents taught us not to interrupt, but instead to place a hand on their arm, which they acknowledged by placing their hand on ours until they could pause their conversation. We've been working on that with the current Littles, too. I always thought it was a brilliant idea. Even the Big Kids still use it on occasion!

    Like Donna and Julie's families, we like to sit on the bed and talk at night. Sometimes you really do have to get the Littles in bed to spend quality time as the Big Kids and parents.

    I have always been incredibly close to my parents and don't feel like that has diminished at all, although I will acknowledge that I'm insulated from the day-to-day challenges of "competing" with the Littles for parental attention. I have really enjoyed getting older and having my role as a daughter expand to include friend and almost-peer. We've gone through some challenging years as a growing family, but it has been worth it.

    1. OneThankfulmom
      March 10, 2010

      Thank you, Sweet Pea, for taking the time to add your thoughts. I love you!


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