At this point, I should be a pro at this. My DDs are almost 7 and almost 4. That means I've had almost FOUR years to figure out how to juggle my time / emotional energy with them. But I think I am an epic FAIL at this and I want to know how you other mamas do this.
1. How do you give just one attention when the other is around? When 7yo has homework, 4yo quickly becomes bored. She's normally my child who can play by herself but if her sister's homework lasts a while she will start to interrupt and hover which drives DD1 crazy and things quickly turn into an unhappy screaming match. My 7yo has never been able to entertain herself. We work on this all the time but whenever I need to do something with DD2 she just can't bear not being part of it.
2. What about when one child always requires more attention? My 7yo is very intense. She has strong emotions and often I must spend time and energy to calm her down and / or guide her back out of an angry frustration over something. It eats me up how unfair this is for my 4 yr old. She's the younger child and it seems that she should be getting more of me as the older one grows out of needing me so much. But instead my older child has always demanded more of me.
When 7yo is having a tantrum over something, my 4yo will quietly pick up a book / toy and sit in a corner. When I am able to turn my attention to her, often the first thing she says is "I'm trying my hardest to be good because (my sister) is being difficult again." It breaks my heart!! Not to mention that I feel so spent after an episode with my older child I sometimes am just not the mother I want to be to either of them. I'm too angry/tired/depressed myself to be much good to anyone.
Anyone have advice on how to manage two very different kids so they are each getting fair mommy time? I can use any and all advice there is out there.
Fair does not mean equal. Fair is giving what's needed.
A book that is often recommended is siblings without rivalry. I've read it, but it's been awhile. I think I liked it.
From a parenting perspective, I'd recommend that you try to do something easy and fun (and kid directed) often-- try for once a day. Get them enjoying each other again. I'm thinking watercolors, playdoh, water guns, chalk, taking a walk togther at a park-- that sort of thing.
I don't think your typical 6-7 year old is having disruptive tantrums frequently. What things have you explored to figure out what the problem is? Red 40 triggering? gluten triggering? need more fish oil, need more sleep, etc?
If you allow children a household where acting up and tantruming is accepted, I think they often will even if they don't need to and even if they are growing up to be perfectly responsible and healthy adults. I think this based on accounts that people with large permissive families have reported about their childhoods.
But I really think it's up to your tolerance level; you have to create the home environment that doesn't drive you crazy. And it's OK for each child to not get their needs met from you the very minute they experience the need. There's only one of you.
In addition you might try having them share an aftercare type program so that they each have some time at home apart.