Today Andrew answers: Our oldest son is on the spectrum and our youngest is a fairly sensitive child. Often we find the oldest plays in such a way that is overwhelming for the younger one. How can we make the younger one feel safe while allowing the oldest to play in ways that are more energetic?
Hi! I’m Andrew from Generation Mindful's newest recurring weekly feature, Ask Andrew. In Ask Andrew, I’ll be taking any and all questions regarding the autism spectrum with particular emphasis on childhood development as an authentic autistic adult. Let’s get started!
For our ninth Q and A, you can watch the video and/or read my response below.
Thank you so much for your question! As a babysitter my two most frequent charges are tweens who have an age gap of two years (currently thirteen and eleven), and the latter are my three maternal cousins, who are seven, seven and five. In short, I have sat for ages all across the board, and come to a singular conclusion. Namely, laying out the geography of the space is what will win the day.
In my first example, the tweens I managed were very similar to myself and my sister in that they were very close, but bickered easily. This exhibited itself more in the form of teasing versus pushing and shoving, but in either instance physically putting yourself between them can really help.
Other helpful tactics are redirecting them to a time-in if things become too heated or a gentle reminder to be conscious of one another’s tolerance for pushing the envelope, for instance. I often found myself sitting between the two on the couch when we were watching TV - just to be safe. For anyone unfamiliar with the term “time-in,” it is a practice we at Generation Mindful use as an alternative to time-outs - and can be learned about more on our website.
As for the matter of younger children causing or experiencing boundary issues, I strongly recommend addressing the matter quickly and decisively between you and your older child. Boundaries should arise from a place of respect between two parties, and lack of respect for boundaries set indicates lack of respect for the person who is voicing their discomfort. Even if that wasn’t how your oldest child intended to come across, that is what your younger child will perceive.
As for alternative activities that will allow your older child to express themselves, I suggest perhaps bike-riding or playing sports, which work well solo or as a duo. Ask both your children what interests them and to come up with ideas, and you’ll have two more heads helping you solve the problem.
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