When to Have the Second Child: What You Need to Know About Spacing Siblings

By Jennifer Bingham Hull
When’s the best time to have a second child? The best age gap for siblings? What’s easiest for mom and dad?

Parents often agonize about when to have the second child. And no wonder. One of the biggest factors affecting family life is the age difference between children.

Obviously it’s hard to time having a second baby exactly. But it is worth considering the advantages and disadvantages of different scenarios for spacing siblings.

Here’s what you need to know to plan your family:

*Three years apart is considered optimal. The consensus among experts is that three years between kids is the best spacing for both children and parents. It gives the first child a chance to get established emotionally and provides parents enough time to gather their wits before the second child arrives.

*Spacing siblings closely is hard early on. Parents with kids less than three years apart in age have to deal with two tots in diapers, two throwing tantrums and two wiggling out of their car seats. It’s a phase – however, it’s a long and often stressful one.

*Close spacing pays off later. Kids close in age tend to have the same interests, schedules and friends, making them easy to manage as they grow. They can go to bed at the same time, watch the same movies and go to the same school.

*Spacing siblings widely has initial advantages. Parents with children more than three years apart in age can give each child more one-on-one attention early on. An older brother or sister can also help with the new baby.

*Wide spacing becomes a stretch later. Siblings far apart in age have very different schedules and needs. Parents have to straddle two separate worlds, helping with potty training one moment and homework the next, shuttling from playdates to the prom.

*Timing determines how long you’re a hands-on parent. If your children are two years apart in age, you’ll have a child at home for about 20 years. If they’re 12 years apart, you’re on duty for a good 30 years.

*Sibling compatibility doesn’t depend on spacing. It’s easier for children to play together when they’re close in age. But in the long run, personality is more important than spacing in determining how well siblings get along.

*It works out. Parents tend to advocate whatever age gap their kids end up with, finding it hard to imagine life any other way. So don’t worry. You’ll enjoy benefits no matter when your second child arrives and probably feel the timing was just right.

(c) 2010 Jennifer Bingham Hull. Reprint rights granted as long as the article is published in its entirety, including the resource box and its live links.

About the Author

Jennifer Bingham Hull is an award-winning author and mother of two. Her book, Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life, looks at life after the second child. To learn more, visit www.growingafamily.com, where you can contact her to receive this Parenting Tips column and sign up for her free newsletter.

About Jennifer

A former journalist for The Wall Street Journal and Time, Jennifer is the award-winning author of Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life and pens the MidAge Mom blog.

She’s profiled exceptional women from the Middle East to Latin America. Widely published, her essays have been included in two anthologies.

Jennifer is also a frequent radio and TV guest. Full Bio

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In Beyond One, Jennifer chronicles her leap from one child to two, describing the enormous impact the second child has on a woman’s body, marriage, family life, friendships and work.

"Hull is the kind of woman many moms long to be friends with. . ." -The Cleveland Plain Dealer.


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