Last Updated on March 20, 2018

“In the Shadow of the Superstar”

My second son is, in my utterly biased opinion, a remarkable little man. He is a very compassionate and loyal four-year-old. (He hates to throw anything in the trash: “Is it going to be in the dump forever?!” — a great motivator for recycling.) He has a wonderful creative streak, turning my gardening spade into an imaginary pancake flipper. He makes me laugh out loud with his chosen word variations, like eating “group freight” (that’s “grapefruit”) for breakfast. He’s cute as a button (again, biased!) and smart, too.

But often, he doesn’t get noticed like his older brother, the Great Achiever. His older brother is book-smart, wonderfully talented, also cute, and a go-getter who answers the questions everyone asks … even when they’re directed at his younger siblings. I actually did this myself as an oldest child: “And what’s your name, sweetie?” Janel: “Her name’s Jennifer.”

Firstborns often know how to please adults. They can be used to being the center of attention. And for second-born children, I get the idea that it can feel like being in a race they can never win. From my talks with my mom and my experience with my own son, second-born kiddos can find it challenging to discover their own identity apart from an older sibling. My second doesn’t even want to do chores on his own. He likes pretty much everything my oldest likes — not a bad thing — and learns a lot about life as his older brother pioneers his way through the forest of life.

So in light of that, I’ve been seeking out some tips to help my second-born thrive, too. Here is a little of what I’ve found that has helped:

  • Find an activity that only the second does — preschool, gymnastics, a weekly playdate at a friend’s house, etc. — so that he or she has a chance to form his or her own social identity and gifting.
  • Spend time one-on-one in activities both ordinary (grocery shopping) and extraordinary (an ice-cream date). The firstborn likely gets some extraordinary activities of his or her own, simply because of age.
  • Make sure he or she is #2 in order only. Take special chances to praise them privately and in front of other family members. Teach them and talk to them independently. Ask them direct questions that the oldest must wait to answer.
  • Let the second-born initiate activities, even if it’s just picking a game or a book for everyone else. Give them leadership opportunities when the firstborn is present and absent.
  • Pray about it. God knows how He made your second-born and how he or she can thrive. Just ask!

I’m definitely open to more tips! What have you done to help your second-born shine?

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