In my mind all my kids are created equally. They are given the same amount of love, devotion and caring. I spend time with them as often as possible, have sat countless hours dealing with nightmares, scrapes, broken bones, bruises and emotional pain. None is above any other in the eyes of our family. Unfortunately in a house with three kids someone has to be the middle child and the kid in the middle doesn’t usually see things that way.
Meet Lil’ D. He is the middle child in a home with a pre-teen and an autistic little brother. I’s hard enough to be the middle child in any family, but add a small child with special needs to the mix and he issues become a little more pronounced.
Middle Child Syndrome
Middle child syndrome can be subtle or pronounced. In lil’ D’s case, it’s something in between extremes. The definition of middle child syndrome is as follows:
The effects of middle child syndrome are numerous. The child may feel as if he or she does not belong, given all the attention given to the oldest and youngest. The middle child may also feel as if he or she is loved less, have low self esteem and suffer from a lack of a sense of direction. However, these symptoms are not limited only to childhood. They can linger in a person throughout their entire adult lives as well, making middle child syndromesymptoms serious, lifelong conditions.
The good news is that middle child syndrome can be easily identified and is not physical in nature and very treatable, especially if noted early. Therefore, just a change in the parents’ attitudes often will go a long way toward alleviating the situation. Parents should always be mindful that the middle born child often receives the least amount of attention. This is not to say the parents are bad. This is simply a natural reaction and often done subconsciously.
It is always up to the parents to make sure every child feels loved and appreciated. This is especially true when trying to avoid the effects of the middle child syndrome. Each child is unique and special. While it may be very possible to overlook some children, a concerted effort should be made to include all children in activities, as well as give each their own amount of individual attention.
The definition above fits my son very well. It’s an unfortunate situation, especially since he came into being a big brother three years after the fact. It’s something we’re working on from our end.
Lil’ D. does not make friends easily. This issue is compounded by the fact that most of the kids on our block are either considerably older or considerably younger than he is. This leads to a great deal of hard feelings on his part. This makes the issue even worse at school, where he has come to expect that his friends will abandon him.
His older brother doesn’t help the issue. he has an absolutely normal 11 to 9 year old relationship with Lil’ D. That is to say, he really doesn’t want him around unless there’s no one else to be around.
The unfortunate reality
The unfortunate reality of Lil’ D’s relationship with his little brother is that because he’s autistic he does get special treatment. This isn’t because we care for him more, it’s because his needs are different, but when you’re 9 years old and used to being the baby of the family, this can be difficult to accept.
I have been doing my best to make sure he understands that life at most times is not fair. That others will sometimes have what you don’t. That big brothers are usually not nice. (Though Lil’ E tends to take the not nice part to extremes in the case of his middle brother, just as he does with his little brother.)
Both my wife and I work very hard to assure him that he is just as important as his other brothers and that they both have things that they very much want (text phone, “M” rated video games, ice cream, cookies!) that they don’t have.
We try to teach him that the perks that his big brother gets will come in time for him as well, and that Lil’ B will have to wait even longer, if he is ever capable of doing those things at all. The 9 year old in him still has a hard time grasping this.
Perseverance is key
Finding my middle child a place in which he is comfortable with himself is not a battle I can win today. It may not be a battle that I win this year. It is a battle that I will not stop fighting, win or lose. There is no giving up.
As parents there can be no ignoring the issue or writing the problem off as “something he’ll grow out of.” We have to help him find comfort in himself and with himself. These things make a strong person later in life and they need to be learned early.
Do you know of anyone that has these issues? Were you the middle child? Any experiences that you can share would help us transition this great little kid into a happier and more well-adjusted person.
Peace. I’m out