With children being raised by parents who both work full-time jobs, or by a single parent who works, a larger number of adolescents are left to take care of younger siblings. Depending on the stability and maturity of the older sibling, such a situation can have a positive or negative effect on both children 1.
Sometimes teens and preteens who appear up for the challenge of babysitting their younger siblings do so to be able to have control over situations. In some cases, this can lead to bullying of younger children 2. Being unfairly bossed around by an older sibling causes feelings of anxiety, depression and confusion in the younger child, which usually negatively affects cognitive and social development 1. By learning the difference between bullying and harmless sibling rivalry, you will be able to prevent future abuse. If you suspect that your younger child is being bullied, you should either put him in child care or find an alternative solution.
Adolescents without proper parental supervision are more likely to engage in delinquent acts, from occasional truancy to more severe infractions, such as property or violent crimes. When an older child is given the job of taking care of his younger sibling, he can be a negative influence and involve the younger child in delinquent acts 1. This is especially the case when the younger sibling is very impressionable or idolizes her older brother or sister.
A positive outcome of older children taking care of younger children is having the opportunity to learn responsibility and time management skills. Adolescents in this type of situation are still required to study and do homework, complete any assigned chores, as well as take care of their younger siblings. While it is a lot to expect out of most adolescents, some are ready for this level of responsibility. To assure that your older child is ready for this type of challenge, ask yourself if he can follow rules, if he is mentally and physically able to care for himself and his sibling, and if he is comfortable with the situation.
An adolescent who is mature enough to take on the task of looking after a younger sibling has the chance to become a positive role model for him. An older sibling can be a helpful influence in any younger child’s life in a variety of ways, such as helping with homework, teaching right versus wrong and aiding in the development of social skills. A younger child’s mental stability is also affected by how his older sibling responds to him 1. Children who feel as if they are a burden to their older sister or brother will have a harder time coping with social situations as they get older.
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