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  Preparing Your Child for Twins

Adjusting to the news about twins was already a challenge enough. Now it's time to prepare the rest of your family. Maybe you're worried about how your older children will handle welcoming two babies. Or you're wondering how you'll nurse the twins and still tend to your four-year-old.

When I first outlined this course, I thought I'd have a little blip about how to handle your other children. After all, not everyone has other children when they're expecting twins. But so many people voiced their worries about their other children I knew I needed to talk a lot about it.

Preparing your child for twins

If you've ever felt apprehensive about introducing twins to your older child, you're not alone. I remember seeing my then-three-year-old's smiling face and thinking, You have no idea what's about to happen.

It's tough for kids to adjust to one baby, let alone two. He won't spend as much time with you like he does now. You'll feel more tired and likelier to snap and lose your patience. And it all the attention will go toward the two babies.

But starting now, you can begin to prepare him for what's to come. While he won't understand the changes right now, he'll feel better informed when they do.

Set the scene and establish expectations

Around the time you begin to show, explain to your child you're about to have two babies in a few months. Project the positives of having siblings, such as holding them or having future playmates. Mention any new babies he may have met for better reference ("Remember how we visited aunt Samantha and we saw her baby?").

As you explain the exciting changes about to happen, glorify his new role as a big brother. Praise him when he behaves or takes care of his toys (or even you!). And talk about how much he has to "teach" his new siblings, highlighting all the things he can do that they can't yet. Stuff like being able to play with toys, eating a meal on your own, or getting dressed.

At the same time, share examples of what he can expect with newborn twins. Describe a reality he can understand at his age. For instance, tell him that:

  • Babies cry to tell us what they need. Here it's also good to point out that they're not always distressed when they cry. If he assumes every cry means they're upset, he might grow anxious if they don't stop crying any time soon. Instead, when your twins cry, say, "Let's see what they want," or "What do you think he's trying to tell us?"
  • You'll be busy with the babies. Explain that there might be times when he asks for something and he might have to wait. Assure him you'll get to him first if possible, but sometimes the babies might need you as well.
  • You'll have visitors. Let him know that your house might be full with visitors who want to play with him and meet the new babies.

And finally, encourage him to play independently. Over the course of your pregnancy, you won't be able to be with him in ways he's used to. You could be too fatigued to sit up from the couch, much less walk around the block. Give him opportunities to play alone, even with you sitting nearby. That way, he'll know what to do with himself if you're busy with the twins.

Transition your child into new milestones

Along with newborn twins are the inevitable transitions your older child will go through. And if you're considering moving him to a regular bed so you can use his old crib, you're not alone. Many kids are "moved out" of their current set up to make space for their twin siblings. These changes can include moving to a new room or forgoing a highchair for his younger siblings.

Any time you transition your older child, don't "blame" it on the twins. For instance, tell him he's moving to a big bed so he's more comfortable (not because you need his crib). Or say you can't rough house because you're tired, not because you're carrying the twins.

Avoid blaming the twins for changes in his life so he doesn't resent them. Instead, phrase the changes as exciting and expected transitions.

What about your child's developmental milestones, such as potty training? It's tempting to push them towards milestones to make caring for twins easier. But allow your child to make that decision. Introduce the concept and begin preparing him for potty use, but don't force it on him if he's not ready.

Bring consistency into your child's life

With so many changes about to happen, maintain consistency in your child's life. Consistency and routine give him structure to balance the chaos at home. They're familiar standbys to rely on and feel comforting when everything else is crazy.

As much as possible, maintain your current routine. Keep bedtime and naps the same, as well as when he expects to eat and play. Even within his day, stick to your same bedtime routine of taking a bath, singing and reading books. These little actions remind him he still has a place at home.

And consider introducing other routines into his life before the twins arrive. Maybe enroll him in preschool, or begin a tradition of Fridays with grandma. Give him a space that's all his own that isn't tainted with anything baby-related. A place he can escape to and rely on.

Preparing your child for twins begins now. Set expectations early and at a level he can understand. Highlight the positives of having twins but give him age-appropriate expectations as well. Transition him into new milestones without "blaming" the twins for these changes. And build consistency and regularity into his life so he has a familiar routine to rely on.

But what do you do if your child acts up? He may already be throwing fits or regressing now while you're pregnant. In the next lesson, we'll talk about how to handle your child's behavior.