Finding Balance In A "Storm"
"Most of us find ourselves in environments where we are working to nurture and respect multiple children at once. It is usually quite wonderful that the children have each other to interact with, but let's face it: we also have had days when things just don't seem to click. Do you have any tips or tricks on a respectful way to triage when you have multiple children needing more attention than usual? What about when the frustration extends over long periods of time (like bad temper due to teething etc, that may be beyond our control as a caregiver)?"
Answer: I would like to begin by saying that no matter how many children you have it takes your
full commitment and best efforts to parent. Magda Gerber had the greatest respect for parents,
she emphasized the importance of their jobs and what hard work it is to be a parent. The
Educaring® Approach makes parenting easier. If you have been implementing the Educaring®
Approach’s seven basic principles with your children, you are already ahead of the game and
have established a loving, respectful, reciprocal, relationship that is filled with open
When you are caring for children who are in similar stages of development, they can
interact and play with each other especially if you have twins, or triplets. However, siblings do
not always get along, and not getting along is also part of a sibling relationship. If each twin has
not had separate, alone time, away from their sibling, as well as alone time with a parent, the
result can be mutual aggression towards each other. Twins have been interacting with each other
since in utero, so they need some separate time away from their twin sibling so they can come
back together and once again appreciate each other. (Similar to a married couple who never
have time apart who can get on each other’s nerves). They need a break from each other as well
as one-on-one time with a parent. Spending one-on-one time with each one of your children is
important to help fill your child up with you and helps siblings get along better with each other.
When you have multiple children who need more attention than usual, it may help if
younger siblings can be in their safe space partitioned off from their older siblings. Being with
your older sibling(s) can be very stimulating for your younger children, and if a child is already
not feeling well it just may be more than your child can tolerate. Putting your younger child in
their safe space partitioned off from their older sibling allows them the opportunity to have
uninterrupted play time and may make them feel more comfortable. A baby needs a separate
play space that is independent from their older siblings. And twins can go in one safe space
together for uninterrupted play time. (If the parent feels comfortable with this, as parents are the
experts of their own children.) This may also allow you to attend to another child whose needs
have not yet been met.
When a child is not feeling well they do need extra attention and comfort from their
parent. You may find yourself holding your child more to comfort him or her. When a child is
teething their hormones are imbalanced, this imbalance is extremely uncomfortable and can lead
to irritability. Camilia drops are often used to temporarily help soothe discomfort caused by
teething such as helping relieve painful gums and irritability. It can also help with minor
digestive disorders that sometimes are associated with teething.
When there is conflict, first observe to see if your children can resolve it on their own if
possible. Slowing down and not rushing in to mediate, will help you see what your children
really need. Often adults make judgments based on what they are experiencing and do not know
the whole story of what is happening or what lead to the conflict. Siblings can be very creative
coming up with their own problem-solving strategies and solutions. If you need to facilitate, it is
helpful to stay calm and neutral, not taking one child’s side over the other or getting into a habit
of making one child a victim. Narrate what you see and model being empathetic to each child’s
experience. How you mediate the conflict is modeling how to handle conflict for your children.
When things are not going well, chances are they started to get off track about 20-30
minutes prior to the meltdown or conflict. Backtrack and try to figure out what happened and
when hurt feelings started in order to fully understand the relationship.
Here are a few suggestions:
• If your children don’t have a problem, there is no problem. Sometimes children like rough and
tumble play or siblings are playing in a way that makes you concerned. By checking in with
them and asking each child if they are enjoying this and if they are okay, you can find out if they
need your facilitation or if they are choosing and enjoying this type of play. If they say they are
enjoying it and they don’t have a problem, then there is no problem.
I remember watching my sons in rough-and-tumble play and misinterpreting it as aggression.
When I asked each one of them if they were okay I was very surprised to find out that they were
not only alright, but thoroughly enjoying themselves. It was clearly their choice and I was so
glad that I asked.
• When you feel like you can’t go fast enough. When my sons were hungry, sometimes I felt that
I could not prepare their food fast enough! When I would get that feeling inside that I have to go
faster, I knew that that was my cue to take a deep breathe, slow down, and start to narrate what I
was doing. Narrating what you are doing helps the child(ren) to wait because it helps involve
them in the process of what you are doing. It also helps them to anticipate what is going to
happen next. Recognizing what happens to you when you feel the pressure of meeting your
children’s needs, can be your personal cue to slow down and narrate more. Narrating keeps you
present and in the moment. Slowing down helps you move with intention. Slowing down will
also help create a sense of peace both within yourself and for your children.
• When things start to escalate at home, change the environment. This can be helpful if things are
escalating at home and you know all of your children’s needs have been met. Of course how you
can change the environment and where you can go and what you can do depends on where you
live and the age of your children. If you feel comfortable taking your children to a neighborhood
park, that could be a great option. Playing in sand with toys and seeing familiar faces of adults
and children can give a sense of community and support for both you and your children.
I also try to support my child’s initiative, unless I am unable. Find out what your child’s
need is and how you can fulfill it in an appropriate way. I remember one day at home one of my
twin sons was sliding down the banister and then climbing on a half wall in our living room.
After I stopped him and told him repeatedly that I would not let him climb on the wall, he looked
at me and said, “Mommy, I need to climb. We need to change the environment. You need to take
me to the park!” He was right.
• Look for the first signs of tiredness and hunger. Be attentive to your children’s cues and needs.
Have nap times or ‘rest times’ at the very first signs of tiredness in order to help avoid conflicts
of children who are too tired to be able to self regulate. By the time your child is yawning and
rubbing their eyes they may already be overtired. Serving meals and feeding your child(ren) at
the first signs of hunger will also help keep things running smoothly.
When you have multiple children and they need more attention than usual, it can feeloverwhelming. Speaking to your children empathetically can go a long way to help comfort them and help them to wait. First tend to the child who has the greatest need, or who needs your attention the most. If you are practicing the Educaring® Approach, you are most likely used to giving your full attention to each child during the caregiving routines. While you care for one child giving them your full attention, you can tell your other children that when you are done caring for Mary then you will care for Robert and when you are done caring for Robert you will then care for Tommy and so on. By telling your children the order in which you are going to care for them, it will help them learn to trust and wait. It also helps them be able to anticipate who is going to be cared for next, which in turn will help them to be patient. Waiting teaches us how to be patient and if the caregiving routine is such an enjoyable interaction, then it will certainly be worth the wait!
Lastly, when things are challenging and you have several children who need you, ask for
some help. Maybe it’s time for a call to Grandma, or Grandpa. Is there an aunt or uncle that can
help you out? Calling on a family member for help may be just the support you need and a
welcomed comfort for your children. When you are caring for multiple children, the
Educaring® Approach seems to become amplified because you are implementing the approach
in concert with several relationships. There is more opportunity for you to practice the approach.
It is a way of ‘being’ with your children, and that way of ‘being’ ultimately insures a complete
bonding experience for the parent to each child and a secure attachment for each child to their
Meet Our Associate:
Jill Getto Lee, M.A. (Los Angeles, California) is the mother of twin tween boys and is a RIE® Associate, who specializes in twins and triplets. Jill's great passion is to advocate for children's physical and mental health rights. She holds a Masters Degree from Pacific Oaks College in Human Development with a Specialization in Early Childhood, and a Bachelors of Science Degree in Psychology from Central Michigan University. Jill recently joined a study group on affective neuroscience with Dr. Allan N. Schore of the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. She currently teaches RIE® Parent-Infant Guidance™ classes at the Los Angeles RIE® Center and at BINI Birth Center in Sherman Oaks. She also instructs the RIE® Before Baby™, and Nurturing Nanny™ and Foundations™ Courses at the Los Angeles RIE® Center. Jill serves on the RIE® Board of Directors and is a consultant for the County of Los Angeles, providing group training sessions for Effective Teacher-Child Interactions. Jill also serves as a community member on the Los Angeles Unified School District Integrated Pest Management Team, fighting for the safety and health of all children, adults and the environment.