We love that our readers here at Two Came True tell us what they need to know more about because we strive to help twin mamas feel confident and supported! Unfortunately, we do not always have the answers to your questions due to the limitations of our own circumstances. So when we were asked how to prepare older siblings for twins, we didn’t quite have the answer.
So we did what all mothers do….
We reached out to our village of friends and other mamas who have experience in areas where we don’t.
This week, we are proud to feature a good friend of ours, Naomi, who has experience with preparing her older son to welcome new twins into their family!
5 Simple Tips to Help You Prepare Older Siblings for Twins (from Naomi’s eyes):
When I was asked how we tried to prepare to bring home our twins to an energetic and active 2 year old boy (not to mention a 3 year old springer spaniel!), I knew I could not give a universally helpful response about how to prepare older siblings for twins. Every household and every family has different dynamics and different circumstances, but I am confident that my experience will be relevant to a lot of mamas!
I had read books and blogs and talked to other mamas about preparing for the second (and third) child, but honestly didn’t have any real strategy about how to prepare our toddler for this transition.
And like many twins, ours decided to make their debut early at 30 weeks. There wasn’t an opportunity for us to adequately prepare our toddler even if we had found a strategic way to sit down with our son to get him ready.
And now that our twin girls have been home for nearly a month after their extended stay in the NICU, we are living our lives one day at a time. I am happy to share what we have learned thus far with our 3 under 3!
1. Before the birth:
Our son was curious about his mom’s growing belly and although we explained that the babies were growing inside, he didn’t really understand the concept that he was about to have two little sisters.
We read books about being a big brother, set out bouncers and set up cribs several weeks beforehand so that he could get used to the new baby gear in the house. We got him a small double dolly stroller and he pushed his Elmo and stuffed animals around the house.
Although we moved him into a twin sized bed to reuse his crib for his sisters, we emphasized that it was because he was a big boy.
We also chose to keep him in his bedroom even though his room was a little bigger and would be better suited for the twins. We didn’t want to disrupt his settings and make him feel like his little sisters were kicking him out of his room.
2. Surviving the NICU:
Hopefully most parents are lucky enough to have their twins come home with them after the birth.
Ours spent nearly 6 weeks in the NICU. They were born during cold and flu season, so the hospital restricted all young visitors, including siblings.
This made it difficult for our son to really understand and grasp the twins’ arrival. We told him that the babies were sleeping at the hospital and that they needed to grow and get stronger before they could come home.
We brought him with us to the hospital on some visits and took turns staying with him in a waiting room while the other one went to visit the girls in the NICU.
We took lots of pictures to show our son his new baby sisters and we jumped on FaceTime to try to make their existence more real, but unfortunately he didn’t actually meet and touch them until they were discharged.
3. Regression Happens, KEEP A CONSISTENT ROUTINE:
We intentionally did not begin any new routines shortly before the twins were born. We knew there was going to be enough change, so we felt that starting anything new, such as potty training, would only lead to frustration or disappointment.
Some friends have told me that their toddlers reverted back to “baby talk” and while we didn’t experience this exactly, our two year old was happy to climb into his old car seat and infant rockers.
He also rediscovered the pacifiers that had long been packed away.
Our son’s most noticeable change was in his sleep. His predictable nap and bedtime routines became a battle. There were a lot of tears and angst, but like all things sleep related, it didn’t last long.
After a few agonizing weeks, he is now back to his normal sleep habits, easily putting himself to sleep at nap and bedtime!
It was challenging to continue a consistent and structured routine when the twins came home, but it was very necessary! My husband and I soon realized that was what our son needed to feel secure and to adjust to his new normal.
4. Dealing with Jealousy:
Everyone says the novelty of having a new younger sibling wears off at some point, which I would say ranges from 2 weeks to around 2 months.
That tipping point for us was at about three weeks after our girls came home from the hospital.
Our son is generally a sweet, well-mannered kid (as I’m sure all parents believe their children are), but we began to notice more fussiness and defiance from him for a period of time. He seemed to demand the most attention or act out more when he saw that we were occupied with his little sisters.
The most difficult times ended up being when I was nursing the babies. I found it helpful to sneak away while someone else distracted him.
It’s normal for toddlers to physically act out when they cannot express their emotions verbally. I think hitting or biting often coincides with the homecoming of a younger sibling. Our little guy isn’t an aggressive child, so naively I thought we would dodge this issue.
He has hit the dog, slapped the babies feet and put his hand over their mouth when they’ve been crying.
We have had to keep a closer eye on him so we’re close by to immediately deflect his force and address the fact that his behavior is unacceptable. For the time being, we have learned that we cannot leave him unsupervised with his little sisters for even a brief moment.
5. Get Some Quality ONE-ON-ONE Time!
Allow for one-on-one time with your older children!
My husband has taken our toddler skating, skateboarding and to the hardware store.
I’ve taken him to the park and on playdates without his sisters.
Grandparents and friends have taken him to the Children’s Museum and the zoo.
Even if you can’t get out of the house, use the time when your babies are asleep or quiet to read or snuggle with your toddler rather than doing laundry or the dishes. We try to actively assure our son that he is still special to us everyday and to acknowledge his patience as we share our attention with his little sisters.
The bottom line is…expect things to be a little chaotic!
Having newborn twins is challenging enough. Throwing a volatile, egocentric toddler into the mix makes things interesting, but equally wonderful.
It melts my heart when our son gives his baby sisters kisses, lovingly places his favorite toys near them and covers their toes with his blankies.
We are blessed by each of our children and our newborn twins are lucky to have their older brother to welcome them into the family.