The other night while I was out with some friends, someone asked me, “How do you go from two to four kids?” At first I thought he was joking, but then I realized that He was actually asking for the best advice for making family life work with multiple kids. Going from two to four kids is a pretty big jump and it’s definitely not easy.
I think for me the most important thing is connecting with my kids. We spend a lot of time together every day because we home school, but for families whose kids go to school, or for parents who work full time, it is really important to make sure the time you have is used in the most valuable way.
My best advice is to learn your kids’ love languages! I have found that this has helped tremendously not only with my kids, but also with my marriage (but we’ll talk about that another day.) Just like with any subject in school or new skill you want to acquire, you have to put in time to learn and grow and get better. It is always worth it to take the time to study your kids. Once you know their love languages and you know what fills up their love tank, it helps you to use your time more effectively.
I’ll just quickly touch here on what the 5 love languages are: Gifts, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, and Acts of Service. There are books you can buy or borrow from your local library as well as a test you can take online to help you figure out the love languages of your children.
Taking the time to figure out and understand your children’s love languages is going to help you to help your kids feel loved even when you have a lot of kids who all want your attention at the same time. I will say this – kids really need to experience all of the love langues on a daily basis, but if you can find their one or two that stands out more, you are golden!
It does not need to be complicated, so don’t overthink it or you’ll never do it! One of my daughter’s love languages is words of affirmation, so throughout the day I just try to tell her how amazing she is, that she looks beautiful, how I appreciate all of her help, and that I’m so glad she’s part of our family. Sometimes if she’s not acting like herself or needs a boost of encouragement I will write her a note filled with all the words of how much I love her and am so thankful for her.
My son is one million percent touch. Guess how much of my love language is touch… 0%. I have to be really intentional with this one. The great thing with boys is that wrestling, tickling, and roughhousing can fill up a love tank just as much as a snuggle. This one was really important for me to learn because while I was nursing a baby for the last 10 years (off and on) my touch level would be tapped out and it would be easy to push the kids away and say things like “don’t touch me!” or “get off me!” but they couldn’t communicate in words that they needed me to touch them to let them know they are loved, and they also couldn’t communicate that me pushing them away left their love tanks feeling empty. Now that I have realized my son needs to be touched it’s easy to rub his head when I’m walking by, or put my arm around him when we’re sitting together, and folks, my 7 year boy still lets me hold his hand in public! Trust me, I savor that one because I know my days are numbered.
Gifts, in my opinion, is the trickiest of the love languages – especially when you have five kids. One of my daughter’s love languages is gifts, and at first I thought she just wanted all.the.things! Really though she was letting me know that she needed to feel loved, and as the middle child that girl just needs some extra lovin’ sometimes – am I right?! For a gifts love language person it’s not so much about what the gift is necessarily. It doesn’t need to be expensive; it’s more about “I was thinking of you and wanted to give this to you”. For me, it often looks like buying a pack of gum while we’re out grocery shopping together. That $1 can really go a long way. Sometimes my daughter will go into my jewelry box and ask to have my old necklaces, and I don’t say yes every time, but when I do, it’s almost like I can see her attitude shift and she becomes so loving and sweet. It’s not because she got something, but because she feels filled up and when we are full of love, it really does help us to be our best selves.
That brings me to my next point. When I am actively filling up my kids’ love tanks, guess what I find myself having to do less of? Crowd control and disciplining. When my kids are feeling loved they bring out their best selves. If I have taken time to be intentional about giving my kids what they need, it’s amazing how loving and sweet they are. When we are filled up with love, we can’t help but let it overflow out of us onto others.
This has hands down been one of the biggest helps in our family. Especially this summer my husband was traveling quite a bit and so I put a lot of focus on proactively filling up love tanks rather than having to reactively think of consequences. It was still difficult manning 5 on 1, but this certainly helped!
I’d love to hear your experience in this or tips you’ve found helpful for having multiple children and maintaining a strong connection!