Preparing Older Siblings for the Birth of Twins or Multiples

Help Brothers and Sisters of Twins Prepare for Their Arrival

Big sister Jordan with twin siblings, Adam and Sarah.
Big sister Jordan with twin siblings, Adam and Sarah. Photo reprinted with permission of Cathleen Drew.

One of the most common phrases used to describe the emotions of expectant parents of multiples is total surprise. Though some parents may have had a higher predisposition to becoming pregnant with multiples due to age, fertility treatments, or family history, actually conceiving multiples almost always comes as a surprise. In a family where children are already present, multiples may be an even bigger surprise.

Many parents wonder how will they ever be able to take care of multiples when they have other young children at home. How will they be able to provide for so many lives? Preparation for the parents and the children at home is essential in providing a smooth transition for your exciting additions.

In most cases, families discover that they are expecting multiples several months before they are born. Take advantage of that transitional time to prepare your for your new arrivals. In a multiple pregnancy, it is to your advantage to utilize every possible week to get your home -- and your family -- ready for the birth. Here are some suggestions for preparing children of any age for the birth of multiple.

Educate Your Children

Depending on their ages, you will be able to explain in varying degrees what exactly is happening to Mom. Children understand much more than adults give them credit for. Your children need to know that being pregnant with multiples is a little different than being pregnant with a single child.

Take them along for sonograms and let them get a visual picture of what exactly is happening inside Mom's belly. Begin talking about how the family will change, always emphasizing how they will still be loved and how mom and dad will still be there for them as well.

Plan Activities You can Do While Sitting/Laying Down

Early in your pregnancy begin to prepare activities you can do in a sitting or laying down position.

Even if you are not confined to bed or reduced activity, you will need time to rest your body. If you are ordered to bed rest at some point during your pregnancy, you will need activities for your children that are easily accessible for the children and yourself. You may wish to clear off a bookcase close to your bed or couch and fill it with these items.

  • Games: Board games, card games, computer games
  • Surprise Boxes: filled with stickers, colors or other goodies for times when they are bored and need something fresh and new.
  • Crafts: Paper, boxes, markers, crayons, glue, feathers, beads, etc. for times of creative, quiet play
  • Books: Especially books related to new babies, or multiples in the house. If your children are old enough you may even want to get a few chapter books to read for long afternoons or lazy Saturdays.
  • Movies: Save some new, never viewed movies to watch later in the pregnancy when you will need something new and different to do.

Involve Your Children In the Pregnancy

Take your children shopping with you for the new nursery items. Allow them to help pick out an outfit or toys for the new babies. Ask for their opinion on what the babies might like in their room. Make them feel a part of the planning and preparation that is ongoing.

They want to feel included, not excluded. The older the child is, the more input and opinion you should seek from that child. While you may not always use your child's suggestions, at least your child will feel like s/he is a part of the process.

Expose Your Children to the Adults You Will Call On

In twin, triplet and higher order pregnancies, there is an increased chance that Mom will be confined to bed rest or even hospitalized. In that scenario, your children need to feel comfortable with the adults who will be taking care of them while you are incapacitated. Begin to expose your children to those people now.

It will make you feel better should you need to leave them, and your children will be much happier staying with adults they are comfortable with.

More: Help for Siblings After Twins Arrive

Suzie Chafin is a Dallas, Texas mom of four children, including identical twin boys. She is the author of Your Pregnancy Devotional. She writes and lectures about family topics such as postpartum depression, managing multiples, and Christian parenting.

In Part One, we looked at some ways to help siblings prepare for the birth of twins or more. Once they're on the scene, siblings still need some special attention to help them adjust to the new arrivals.

Hooray! You're the proud new parents of infant multiples. If you have older children at home, welcoming these new bundles of joy into the family can be a tricky situation. How do you balance the demanding needs of multiple newborns, as well as the existing needs of their older siblings?

Often the older children feel displaced as the attention of parents -- and visitors -- is focused on the newborns. Here are some tips to help you in these transition months.

Prepare a Special Surprise

Invariably the multiples will receive a barrage of gifts from family and friends who have eagerly anticipated their arrival. Many visitors are wonderful about remembering the older siblings during this time, but there will be some who will not. Should your older children begin to feel resentful at the amount of attention the newborns are generating and the sheer number of gifts they are receiving, it is helpful to have a few small items wrapped for moments when they are feeling low. Your older children will appreciate being remembered during this time.

Encourage Visitors to Notice Older Siblings

When the visitors descend, they will have a million questions about the multiples. This often leaves the older sibling sitting on the sideline wondering if anyone ever notices him.

Include the older sibling by telling the visitors about the newest things Johnny is mastering or enjoys doing. Try to talk about the siblings outside their relationship to the multiples -- in other words don't exclusively talk about how "Johnny is such a good big brother", or how "Elizabeth is such a good helper for Mommy."

Remember the older siblings as individuals and compliment them on their own individuality, such as " Johnny is really good at soccer now - you should see how he kicks that ball", or "Elizabeth has been painting some beautiful pictures, can we show you some?" Your child wants to be noticed outside their relationship to their multiple siblings.

Make One-on-One Time a Priority

Older siblings are not used to having to share parental attention. As much as possible, devote time in your day to the older siblings. When the babies are sleeping, play a board game or read a chapter in a book. If someone offers to help with the babies, use the time to take your children out for ice cream or another special treat. Where feasible, maintain special routines such as a bedtime story.

Praise Your Children

During the first few months, parents will feel emotionally and physically drained. In the middle of your fatigue, remember to praise your child. Tell her how much you love her. Help her feel like she is not forgotten in the middle of all the new changes. Emphasize that the babies will grow and they won't always require the attention they require today.

Suzie Chafin is a Dallas, Texas mom of four children, including identical twin boys. She is the author of Your Pregnancy Devotional (compare prices). She writes and lectures about family topics such as postpartum depression, managing multiples and Christian parenting.

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