Older Sibling

For many of us, facing the challenges of caring for multiple infants means facing those challenges while caring for and nurturing our older children, and we worry about how the addition of twin siblings will affect our precious children.

"In reality, I am more terrified about how [my son] is going to react than about any other aspect of having twins, sleep deprivation, baby care, etc. I cannot even describe in words how much I adore my son. He is the best thing [my husband] and I have ever done in our lives." - Twins-l Member

"I also was very concerned about what would happen to my relationship with my son when I found out it would be twins. There were many nights I spent crying because I was so upset about this." – Twins-l Member

You may be thinking about whether there are things you should be doing to prepare your children for the babies' arrival, what you can do to ease the transition for them, or trying to figure out how to handle your childs' concerning or undesirable behavior. You may be looking for ideas on how to cope and keep up with the needs of all your children during the challenging early months, or feeling overwhelmed and torn between the needs of each of your children.

This FAQ represents the collective experiences, advice and thoughts of twins list members who have older children, in addition to their multiples. If you have questions, comments or suggestions regarding this FAQ, contact twinfaqs@yahoo.com.


Preparing Singleton(s) for the Arrival of Multiples
Suggested Reading for Parents and Children
Introducing BIG Brother/Sister to the New Arrivals
Making the Transition to BIG Brother or Sister Status
Parental Worries and Challenges - Advice and Encouragement
Handling Behavioral Challenges
When your Multiples are IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Coping FAQ Table of Contents | Twins List FAQ Table of Contents

Preparing Your Older Child/Children for the Arrival of Multiple Infants

The arrival of new siblings brings about BIG change in the lives of your existing children. Their world will never again be quite what it was before their arrival. In the book, "Loving Each One Best" - by Nancy Samalin, the author illustrates the feelings of a young child faced with the arrival of a new sibling.

"A young child who hears, 'We're having another child because we love you so much,' is not warmed by such a sentiment. To his way of thinking it's not that different from a husband who says to his wife, 'I love you so much and I'm so happy with you that I want to double my joy. So I'm getting another wife. She may be a little younger and cuter, but you can share me, as well as all your favorite things, with her!"

In this case, your child/children will be welcoming two or more new siblings into the family at once. Multiple infants are more demanding of mom and dad's time than one, and can very often draw the spotlight away from their older siblings.

There may be things that you can do along the way to help ease your child/children into BIG brother/sisterhood.

Involve Him/Her in Preparing for the Babies' Arrival

The possibilities for involvement are endless, and even very young children can benefit from being included in the anticipation.

"We included the older girls as much as we could in the preparation for the twins such as taking the older to the baby shower with me, having them pray for their little sisters, and showing them u/s pictures. I made special t-shirts for the "babies" to give to them when they were born." – Twins-l Member

"I was concerned about my oldest son being jealous when I was pregnant. My concerns grew deeper once we found out we were having twins. I'd heard so many other parents telling stories of jealousy, and that was just with singleton births. My [husband] and I decided to include [him] from the beginning. He went to our first sonogram, and even named both of his brothers (we came up with 6 different names we liked, and let him choose)." - Twins-l Member

Some discover ways to get a head start on heading off jealousy and insecurity.

"Before they were born, I got out her baby books and pictures of me pregnant with her and told her the story of her birth and baby showers etc. This helps older children to see that every baby gets these special things and they got them too." – Twins-l Member

"When my boys were born everyone that came to the baby shower brought a gift for my [2.5 yr old] older son. As a Mom that simple concept touched my heart deeply and I have never forgotten how excited [he] was to be getting presents too. With the circus that usually surrounds a multiple pregnancy and delivery the potential for jealousy is that much greater and should be a great concern." – Twins-l Member

"While pregnant, I foresaw a possible situation that could result in future hard feelings and/or jealousy. I got lots of attention and questions from family and friends, always about "the twins". I was concerned that once they arrived, my older two would be invisible, so...I educated [my children, ages 11 and 14] on info about the pregnancy, and later on facts about the twins. When we were questioned on the size or appearance of the twins, [they] were able to respond with something like, 'our twins weighed just a little less than I did' or 'my baby brother and sister sure are cute'. '[Boy twin] kind of looks like my baby pictures'. '[Girl twin] looks a little like my baby pictures, except I was...'. Letting the older siblings tell the inquirer about the babies helped draw them into discussion and they were happy to be the one giving the info." – Twins-l Member

Help Him/Her Understand What to Expect >From Multiple Newborns

Especially in young children, it isn't uncommon for a child to be anticipating the arrival of babies who can already sit up and play. You can help your child to better understand how helpless newborn babies are... and how needy.

"My oldest was 27 months when my twin daughters were born. During my pregnancy, I pulled out home videos we had taken of her when she was a newborn. She REALLY enjoyed watching those and listening to me talk about what she was like as a tiny baby. I think these helped her get a good idea of what these babies in my tummy would be like. And, honestly, at her age the idea of having more than one baby at once was just normal to her." – Twins-l Member

The same can be accomplished in conversation. Talk to your child about all of the things you did for him/her as a tiny baby... fed, burped, bathed, rocked. If appropriate, talk about all of the things he/she can help teach these new babies... how to play, talk, laugh, eat, sit up, crawl, walk.

Be realistic with your child, without sounding negative, about life once the new arrivals are here.

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Suggested Reading for You and Your Child/Children

Books for Children

Twins Magazine has a section dedicated to children's books for multiples and siblings of multiples.

Books for Mom and Dad

Twins Magazine has a section dedicated to books on parenting multiples.

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When the Babies Arrive

Introducing your child/children to new siblings can be an uneasy event. A hospital environment can be intimidating to a young child, and seeing mom in this environment can be distressing also. No two children will respond to this unique experience the same way. However, there may be things you can do to make those first experiences less threatening and positive.

If Possible, Consider Heading Off Hospital Fears

If you have the opportunity, some consider it beneficial to tour a hospital nursery wing with their child/children before their siblings arrive.

"In some communities, hospitals even offer "Big Brother/Sister" classes to help prepare young ones, as well as introduce them to a hospital environment." - Twins-l Member

Make your child/children an important part of the babies' arrival.

Sibling gifts are an idea used by some.

"My oldest daughter was 27 months when the babies were born. Before the babies arrived, I took my daughter shopping to pick out gifts for her sisters-to-be. They were small, stuffed bears. Alone, I picked out gifts for her (one from each baby), which I wrapped and stashed in my hospital bag. Grandma brought [my daughter] to the hospital about 3.5 hours after my delivery. Both babies were in my room, each with a bear in her bassinet. [My older daughter] was nervous. I pulled her into my lap and pulled the bassinets right up to the bed. I pointed out for her that they had her presents. She liked this. I then gave her the two wrapped gifts ‘from her sisters’. She immediately tore into them (puzzles), and they proved to be an effective distraction for her hospital anxiety. To this day she remembers that she got those puzzles from 'her babies', as she calls them." - Twins-l Member

"My daughter was 4 y/o when her twin brothers were born. ‘They’ gave her a newborn baby doll when they were born that she got to take home from the hospital when they went home with mom. She still has the ‘doll that my brothers gave me’." - Twins-l Member

BIG brother/sister pictures are another idea.

"One thing that someone suggested to me that worked out very well was to tape a picture of the older sibling(s) in the babies bassinet. You can tell the older ones that the baby is looking at his/her picture, but what it really does is make it easy for the older child to identify his/her baby from the nursery window." - Twins-l Member

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Helping Your Child/Children Adjust -
Practical Suggestions and Advice

"How will my child/children react to the arrival of more than one new sibling?"

You will all be going through a period of adjustment when the new little ones come into your lives, and that includes your other children making transition to BIG brother or sister status. Remember that they are facing big changes, and along with that comes uncertainty.

Childrens' responses to the new siblings in their lives aren't entirely predictable. For some the transition is not only natural, but welcome.

"We found that our daughter immediately accepted the twins, was excited about having babies, and protective of them ("MY BABIES") from the start. They were rarely jealous. Life just continues or them." - Twins-l Member

"Our biggest problem was stopping her from mothering them too much." - Twins-l Member

"My son was 2.5 when the boys were born. In one year he got a new Dad and two brothers and I was so worried that he was feeling overwhelmed by it all and missing his Mommy time. I decided to take [him] on a Mommy and Son trip to DisneyWorld. We left the little kids with my [mother in law] and [father in law] and away we flew. [He] had never had any trouble flying before, but on both flights that day [he] threw up. He cried incessantly for his Daddy and New Brothers. We still went to DisneyWorld but every hour he cried for his family. I finally figured out that I wasn't nearly as important as I thought I was, and we headed for home 2 days early. [He] didn't cry or throw up once on the way home. I was the one who missed the special one on one time with my singleton. He was getting enough special time with both me and his daddy, and with his brothers. He LOVED being part of a family of 5 after spending his first 2 years as an only child in a single parent home." – Twins-l Member

For others, there are varying levels of uncertainty and a range of emotions. Routines become different, parents are tired and always busy.

"Once [my babies] were born [my older son] no longer got 100% of my attention like he had gotten used too. It became more ike 20% for a long time." – Twins-l Member

"It was occasionally hard for [our 6.5 yr old daughter] at first, especially not getting every need met the instant she wanted something. It's still hard. She is usually amazing with them and at other times gets very sick of them." - Twins-l Member

Things to consider during the transition.

Your children may need reassurance that they are still an important part of your life, and just as loved as they have always been.

Try to maintain treasured parts of your child's routine. "We always stick to [my older son's] bedtime routine (brush teeth, 3 or 4 stories, 3 songs) no matter how long it takes us to get the twins to bed. He can always count on that special time with us." - Twins-l Member

"As newborns, I made sure that we kept up with [my older daughter's] night time routine no matter what. Sometimes that meant letting a baby cry a little while so I could sing to sister and tuck her into bed." – Twins-l Member

Demonstrate your love. "Keep up the hugs and keep telling/showing him how much you love him." - Twins-l Member

Encouraging the relationship between your older child/children and the new additions can help prevent feelings of jealousy and encourage a healthy relationship between them.

Let them get to know one another. "I let her touch the babies, and hold the babies right from the start. I never isolated them from her. I also let the babies get used to her noise so that I never had to scold her with things like 'Stop doing that - you'll wake the babies.' My best advice is to just continue life as normal." - Twins-l Member

"We tried to encourage, rather than discourage, her interest in her sisters even if that meant she was touching them when they were sleeping at first. I didn't allow her to handle them roughly, but I also believe that my efforts to not be too uptight about her touching them helped to make her feel a part of things." – Twins-l Member

The needs of your older children, and things that are important to them, shouldn't always come second.

"In the constantly busy routine your lives are becoming, make sure [your singleton] isn't always the one who has to wait "just a minute." (my famous quote) Two infants can be very demanding of time, and it made [my 2yr old daughter] feel quite important to hear me occasionally announce to two screaming babies, "Just a minute girls. Mommy will be right back. I'm getting [big sister's] juice." I was trying to demonstrate to her that she didn't always take second (or third) place around here." - Twins-l Member

"I am trying to be as involved as I can in [my older son's] school right now, even though it sometimes means getting a sitter for the twins. I think that conveys to him that we feel school is important, and again being in school is something that separates him from the twins." - Twins-l Member

If your children are seeing the negative affects the new babies have had on their lives (having to wait their turn, not getting as much attention from mom and dad, etc.), point out the things that are GREAT about being the big kid.

Play up the benefits of being the 'big' kid of the family. "There are probably things that [your older child] gets to do that his younger siblings don't – even things as simple as walking to the mailbox with mom or dad, running to the grocery store with you for a gallon of milk, etc. There are probably toys he gets to play with that the babies aren't allowed to play with. Make him feel that his position in the family is important." – Twins-l Member

"[Our 6.5 year old son] gets to do things the twins don't--go to school, play soccer, take ski lessons. I think this really makes him feel special." - Twins-l Member

Big brother or sister to multiples is special too! "We've had a few new babies born in the neighborhood lately and she wants to know why they only had one baby. I tell her it's because she's so special that she got to have 2 baby sisters at once! So far, she agrees that she must be special but still would like to have mom's lap all to herself." -Twins-L Member

"We have pointed out how unique it is to have little sisters who are twins and try to make her feel special for being such a wonderful big sister." - Twins-l Member

"We also point out things to her that her sisters do that were just like her when she was little. Fortunately, they both look just like her, and one of them acts just like she did (she thinks that's pretty cool)." - Twins-l Member

Respect that they may need their own space and their own things.

"[Our twins] are 2 and [our older son] is 6 1/2. We only let the twins go into [his] room if he gives them permission. This means his room is really his own space, and this has really kept his things his things, and he shares them only if he wants to. (We do this for safety reasons as well, as [our older son] likes tiny Legos and Playmobil pieces)." - Twins-l Member

"[Our son] was 2.5 yo when [our twins] were born. The only thing that was a serious problem was to give him enough chance to play without getting interrupted by babies. He liked playing with Lego, the babies would try and eat that. He would try and draw or color, one of the babies would try and take away the pencils while the other one tore up the drawing. We did not want him to be alone in his room all day. That would have been bad for him. We solved that by putting up a gate in the living room. One half of the room was for everybody, the other half for just [our older son] and us. That way we could build and play with him while watching the little ones." - Twins-l Member

The early months with multiples are busy. With a little creativity you can find ways of including your older child/children in your everyday routine.

Allow and encourage your older child to be a part of the new babies' care and development.

Encourage, but don't force. Some children might resent being given "chores" with the new babies. But gentle encouragement may bring around even the 'reluctant' big brother or sister.

Don't leave him out of your busy schedule. "Some older siblings really enjoy feeling a part of caring for the little ones. If he shows interest, by all means encourage him to help. He is old enough to 'help' burp by patting baby's back while you hold. He could get diapers, wipes, burp cloths. He could hold a bottle, with your supervision. He could try to get their attention with rattles while you're changing diapers." - Twins-l Member

"I too have an older daughter, she is 5 1/2. The twins are 11 weeks old today. She loves to help as long as it is her choice." -Twins-l Member

Big brothers and sisters are great teachers! "We encourage her to help us teach the babies about the things she knows and understands, which makes her feel special that she is a part of their development." - Twins-l Member

Caring for your newborns can be work AND play.

Encourage her to make a game out of your routine. "She got to take care of "her baby" [doll] as mom was busy with the new babies." - Twins-l Member

Take advantage of moments where you can interact with your older child while tending to the babies' needs. "You posted that you feel as though you're nursing the little ones 24/7... clearly that is taking up a LOT of your time. You could try to find ways to interact with him while you're nursing them. Try getting him set up with an activity that he can do nearby (on the floor next to your chair), or setting up a nursing area that is near a favorite play area of his. What's coming to mind is that [my 4yr old daughter] loves to play games on our computer. If you could set up a glider or something near your computer you could work at nursing the little ones while still being involved in his activities. " - Twins-l Member

"I have a 5 yo, a 3 yo and 8 mth old twins. Our biggest trouble was with a lot of noise during nursing times. Finally, I started reading books to the big boys during this time. Everyone gets a little time with mommy. Even the babies seem to eat better." - Twins-l Member

'I tried really hard to set up activities where she could be near when I was nursing, etc. At a little over 2 she really enjoyed puzzles, by 2.5 she was very interested in electronic games where it would say a word and she would push the button with the right picture. ( ie. apple... and she would find the apple). These were things where I could be a part of what she was doing, even from a distance." - Twins-l Member

Create opportunities for special activities for your child.

You can consider setting up special play dates for your child, or arranging outings with the special people in his life like grandma. Don't forget that he needs your time as well, but time away from the changing routine at home can be enjoyable for him.

Turn ordinary chores into special one on one time with your older child. "I'll take just him on errands or to the grocery store when my husband is home. I really value our time in the car or doing errands." - Twins-l Member

"We have tried to give the older boys special time of their own even if it is just a trip to the grocery store, library or even the ice cream shop." - Twins-l Member

"Last week, I took a long lunch (I work full-time) and took him to see his first movie, Tarzan. It was absolutely wonderful! We really enjoyed eachother. We had hot dogs and popcorn and talked before the movie. He climbed on my lap and was perfect the entire movie. I just hugged him and kissed him throughout the movie as I realized what a wonderful child he has become. I love being a [mother of twins] but sometimes I am envious of my friends with singletons who can do things like movies with their kids without giving it a second thought." - Twins-l Member

Also, [our singleton son] and I have Mommy and [big boy] nights, where we go out to a park, McDonald, etc... He really enjoys that time." – Twins-l Member

Consider establishing special routines 'just for' your older child. One-on-one time may be less frequent, but a special time of the day or week when your child knows you will have time for him/her can help. For some, a short period of time every day works well. For others, a special weekly activity works well.

"We have tried to make sure they are all getting attention, but we can only do so much. We have enlisted the help of family, so we can spend time with all kids. Good luck." - Twins-l Member

A special outing with mom or dad once a week. "Our singleton is 5 1/2 and we take at least one day or evening a week to do something just with her. I really enjoy just being with her and she appreciates it, too. Sometimes she says misses her sisters and wishes they could be there, too." – Twins-l Member

"We have a 5 year old daughter and 16 month twins. I always take her out for dinner once a week, which we call "Girl's Night Out". - Twins-l Member

Some time alone together while the babies are napping. "I make a point of spending time with her doing 'big girl' things that she really enjoys and can't do while her sisters are demanding attention. We do things together like painting pictures or baking cookies. Sometimes she'll be thinking of something she wants to do and come whisper in my ear, 'mommy... when my babies go to bed can we...?'" - Twins-l Member

"When the twins are napping, my singleton and I play whatever he wants. If it's nice, we head to the yard. At night, the twins go to bed earlier than him, so we do an arts & crafts project. – Twins-l Member

"Make some special time every day for him." - Twins-l Member

"He always knew that he would have a time before bed when he got to do whatever he wanted with one of his parents. It was amazing how much he loved having this 15 minute of "free time". It doesn't even have to be that long but you can build it up and make it sound exciting for them in the beginning. " - Twins-l Member

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