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We have a few family friends. Some happen to have all children about 5-6 years older than the oldest one here (so closest is 5 year old and 10 year old).

I'm thinking we should not spend as much time with the older kids, simply because in very little time the interests will diverge and the relationship will probably dissipate.

Better spend time with same-aged children, so the time/investment is not lost.

Am I wrong? Or is there some major benefit for younger children to socializing with the older ones that I am looking past

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See your friends because they are your friends. The age gap of everyone's children shouldn't be a primary concern. Parents need friends too. ;) –  DA01 Nov 8 '12 at 22:06
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@DA01: I love this advice. It's easy for kids to make friends. It's much harder for adults - because we have less opportunity to do so. Hold on to those you have! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 9 '12 at 6:44
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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

In general, older kids will be viewed as cooler kids, probably because they have more freedoms and do more complex/rewarding things. Because of this, the younger children will emulate them, for better or worse. If you think that these older kids are someone you want your children to look up to, then its good to have your children interact with them. If they behave poorly, keep your children away from them, for the same reasons. Older youth are more influential role models than same-age children.

Source: I see this effect as a leader in Boy Scouting constantly where it has good effects and bad effects. Bad effects tend to be more noticeable and quicker than good ones; you would be amazed how fast younger children will start using profanity if older kids are swearing. However, you can also be surprised at how an older youth can inspire maturity in younger children.

As far as it being better to spend time with same-aged children, I would not agree. Children need to get used to breaking and forming new friendships, because they simply aren't permanent. Having your child spent time with only children of the same age is artificial, and probably is not advisable.

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Children should be allowed to spend time with lots of kids from a variety of age groups as it helps to give them a more well-rounded sense of social skills. Different ages have different expectations. The interactions between kids change as their age differential does also. As long as the older kids are setting a good example and being kind to your little one there is no harm in having them "hang out". If they're good kids they'll learn from your little one too. There is also nothing wrong with setting up a play date or two with kids the same age as well, but there is no need to rush into that. If you plan on having your children in a mortar and brick school (public or private) they'll get lots of time with kids their own age - more than enough really. Most of your friendships probably center around similar interests, histories, and outlook, not age right? It really should be the same way for our kids.

In terms of time investment, it is pretty rare that most childhood friendships last into adulthood anyway. There is often one, maybe two really special friends, but most of your kid's friends will grow at different rates, find they have divergent interests or beliefs and grow apart anyway. No sense worrying about it. Good-byes are a part of life too and perhaps they will enjoy the time they have and the lessons they learn while they have it.

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