How does the number of children in a family usually affect a child? From being an only child to being one of many can sometimes add extra stress on children. It is fortunate that most children can bounce back from most types of conflict in a family setting, but it is impossible to change one’s position in the physical family structure. All too often being one of many children in a family can have an adverse effect on a child’s self-esteem.
At first glance, one would think that having multiple children in a family would give each child built-in playmates. This often is not the case. Differences in ages can range from one to fifteen years in some cases. The oldest child can sometimes not want to play with the youngest. In reality, they have nothing in common with them, other than being siblings. If forced, they will see this as a chore and come to resent mom and dad always made them look after their smaller siblings. Continued prodding in this direction can lead to long-term feelings of being used as a substitute parent. Instead of instilling a sense of protectiveness for their younger sibling, a feeling of dislike toward their siblings can occur.
When this happens, the older child will usually question their worth and feel remorse for not wanting to interact as much with their younger siblings. Leaning too heavily on the older child to round up the little ones can make them have feelings of lowered self-esteem. They will believe that they are only there to be a human playpen for the younger ones.
With large numbers of children in a family, some members can harbor feelings of being overlooked. It is tough to divide a parent’s attention between so many individuals evenly. This is of course not intentional on the parent’s part, just an outcome from having so many individual people to interact with. We often hear of the “middle child” syndrome.
You have of course the baby and who doesn’t love a baby. They are cute and cuddly and need so much attention. Then there is the oldest child. This one is on the cusp of adulthood and taking on so many responsibilities. Parents often call on them to be substitute moms and dads, and this gives them much more importance in the family structure. Now you have the middle child or children. They feel they have no significant function in the family and can see themselves as being in the way. They are not cute and cuddly and far too young for an adult like responsibilities. They question their role and doubt builds up as to their purpose. They tend never to build up their self-esteem and tend to get lost in the shuffle.
One must tread a delicate line when handling a large family. It is not a job for the weak at heart. Remember to foster an environment where all children are valued for just being them, and you will be on the way to building self-esteem in all your children.