I believe the most difficult idea parents with an older child struggle with is how we will be able to give the same attention to our older child now that two babies require their full time and energy. Trying to keep normalcy and consistency is incredibly important for older sister or brother to feel as loved as ever. Keeping life as normal to them, in spite of the reality of our new family, is key for our firstborns. Here are a few tips that will help navigate new life with twins +1!
1. Gifts Between Siblings
One of the many things we did to prepare our older daughter for her siblings was to go to the toy store and have her pick something for each of the twins! It can be absolutely anything they want as long as they get to pick it. The pride they take in knowing she chose something for baby brother and sister was beautiful! I believe this helped to tame resentment for the two new little humans coming into her life. She felt proud and owned it. It also made her really excited to meet them when the day came because she couldn’t wait to give them her gift she chose!
On the same token, we got our older one a gift from them as a “we are so happy you are our Big Sister” gift! We waited for the gift exchange to be at the hospital; the first time they would meet. She was so excited, happy, and proud to meet her brother and sister and to gift them her presents.
2. Mommy’s Helper
This was especially important for me to include my older one in everything I was doing with the babies. I made her feel like she was my helper in everything and, in turn, helping to care for the well being of her siblings. She was all too eager to help, which filled my heart. She helped me fasten the diaper tabs, get the wipes, pick their pajamas, sing them songs, feed them a bottle, read them a book, push the stroller, and play with them while doing tummy time, just to name a few. She was indeed my other hand, as I was with all 3 from the get-go as hubby had to go back to work a week later. She became my little partner with the babies and there was something so reassuring and tender in the love and care she showed. To this day, 4 years later, my older one is a little mommy always caring for her siblings and making sure they are cared for with love and compassion.
3. One-On-One Time
Trying to balance everything you need to accomplish with 3 babies under 3 can be overwhelming. Trying to carve out time for one-on-one time with the older child seems downright impossible! Amidst the sleep deprivation, the endless dirty laundry, the struggle between showering and eating, sitting for a moment with that older baby, even if its 5-10 minutes, is crucial for them and for you.
If you have help, then it may be a bit easier for bonding one-on-one. But if you don’t, you may still find 5 minutes each time babies are napping to sit and read a book. Kill two birds with one stone and go shower with older baby, sit down and have a snack or meal just the two of you, or take a quick nap snuggling on your first born. It doesn’t require much time for you to finish those circles of connections with your older one. But I highly recommend to start making it a habit because as they all get older, those few and quiet moments just the two of you will be more difficult to find.
Having alone time will be important to keep some kind of normalcy throughout the transition. This individual time is important with Dad, too. This can be an opportunity for Dad to do bath time or bedtime just with older baby while Mom tends to the little babies for the bedtime feeding. This will help the older child reconnect with Dad after a long day, as well as giving Mom a bit of time with just the twins.
4. Refocus Attention
This was particularly important with friends and family when they came over to visit. Everyone was beyond excited to come by to see the babies! But I always asked for them to make a big deal about my older one being a Big Sister. They asked how she has been helping and made conversation with her rather than just coming in to see the twins. My thought behind this was that she was here first, and we tried to keep life as normal as possible through her eyes. The babies wouldn’t know any different who was there to visit, they’re asleep, but my older one will definitely notice. I didn’t want her to feel second place after she had been number one for so long.
As parents, we are very aware of our children’s feelings, but the outside world may not be (and not intentionally, of course). I felt it was my job to help my daughter not feel set aside because of her siblings, possibly causing resentment towards that family member or friend that came over. I wanted to be empathetic to her view and feelings of her new reality.
5. Enlisting Help!
Having help is always a goal with any parent, but more so with 3 kids! This help can be anyone from our partner, grandparents, and family members to a doula, a mommy’s helper, babysitter, or nanny. As you become a parent of one to three overnight, help is greatly appreciated and welcomed!
Any help can ease your load off the endless to-do list! This help from family and caregivers can take older child to the park, to after school activities, to play-dates, or even just out for ice cream! They may also help around the house just keeping older one entertained by playing, fixing them a meal, or a snack or just getting them bathed and tucked in bed. This will be immense help, as mom will have two little ones that require much of her energy and time for feedings and changes.
This help may also be an opportunity for Mom to leave babies in the care of someone else to take a bit of time for that older child and herself. This may be to go take them to ballet or soccer practice for an hour or just to do a quick errand just the two of you. However you will use that help, welcome it and ask for it, as life has just gotten a bit trickier to parent 3 at once!