How to deal with the misery of middle child syndrome

Author: Rachel Doherty | Tweens 2 Teen.

It’s not until it’s too late that you realise middle child syndrome is a real thing. For parents, there are three things you can do to overcome it.

For some kids, being a middle child comes with a heightened sense of comparison. They look at how they’re different and don’t fit in around everyone else in the family. There’s something tragic about not being the oldest or the youngest. And it’s this struggle that seems to be a constant source of misery for the middle child.

“I am the model middle child. I am patient and like to take care of everyone. – Jennifer Garner

I don’t think I’ve made my middle child feel less loved or special. In fact, I’m so conscious of it, I’m sure I’ve overcompensated. The problem of middle child syndrome seems to be more a consequence of birth order. That no matter how well we parent, will always remain to some extent.

This doesn’t mean we can’t do a better job of making middle children feel more valued.

How to help your middle child thrive

There are three things that kids need from their parents that money can’t really buy. Time, talk and a special bond. Sure having money helps, but even people with no money can give these things. And people with lots of money often struggle to.

If you want to overcome middle child syndrome, you’re going to have to dish out an extra dose of each one.

Giving kids our time

Showing kids you love them comes down to spending time with them.

The middle child needs plenty of one-on-one time. A chance to step out of the invisibleness that comes with not being the oldest, or the baby in the family. They need to have their moment of feeling like the centre of your attention.

It doesn’t need to be a big chunk of time. In fact, keeping middle child syndrome at bay requires small, regular doses of time. That special moment each day when it’s just you and them.

Creating space to talk

Family life is busy these days, particularly once your kids hit their tween or teen years. Make time for casual chats, deep conversations and a shared joke. This helps the middle child see that you’re listening to them. That you’re interested in what they think, what topics matter to them and how they see the world.

As kids move into the teen years, you have to be crafty and a bit opportunistic with these chats. It will depend on what mood they’re in and what they’re doing. But taking advantages of those trips in the car or a shared job can make all the difference.

Developing that special bond

What the middle child needs to overcome their sense of lostness is a special bond with their parents. Something that they share with you that the other kids don’t.

Finding a common interest can be a challenge.

Teenagers aren’t well renowned for their constancy, so what is a passion today may have faded next week. But there are some things that can work. Like a sport to watch or play together. Or a weekly activity that’s just for the two of you. A topic of interest, or even a favourite restaurant or part of town can work too.

It doesn’t matter what you find to share, as long as it’s unique to them.

If you can give your middle child a decent chunk of your time, the opportunity to talk and a common interest, you’ll be well on your way to dealing with any fallout from having that extra child.

What do you think? Do you have any tricks for dealing with middle child syndrome?