Living with Children: What’s ideal time spacing between children?


QUESTION: My husband and I have one child, age two. We’d like to have at least one more. What is the optimal spacing between children?

ANSWER: Research puts ideal sibling spacing at three to four years. A child three or younger may respond to the birth of a sibling by regressing behaviorally and even becoming aggressive toward the new arrival. On the other hand, a child who is an “only” until age 4 may have difficulty giving up the benefits of that status. In either case, the risk is greater of ongoing jealousy on the part of the older child. Whereas there are no guarantees in child rearing, only probabilities, spacing children according to the above “window” increases, as much as possible, the likelihood of the children bonding with one another and enjoying a good relationship for the long term.

Q: When should we tell our son, now 4, that he was conceived out of wedlock, and how should we tell him?

A: You are overthinking this. Your question implies that if your son discovers this on his own, he will either be traumatized in some way or feel betrayed and never trust you again, or both. Withholding certain information from a child is justified if the information is irrelevant and/or unhelpful. In this case, the truth of your son’s premarital origin is both irrelevant and unhelpful. Furthermore, your son will figure this out on his own at some point, assuming he acquires basic math skills.

Take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy your parenthood. Take it from someone who knows, you’ll be surprised at how quickly it races by.

[Family psychologist John Rosemond:, Copyright 2022, John K. Rosemond]