Sibling rivalry is part of growing up for all children who have brothers or sisters of any age. Bringing home twin babies to the family when you have other children causes them to be royally ‘booted’ out of their position as ‘only child’ or ‘only girl’ or however your family dynamics work.
Some things that can affect their initial reaction to the new babies are their ages and their developmental stages, the amount of attention they receive from their parents and others and how much the births may have impacted them ( especially in cases where mom was hospitalized for any length of time away from the family home, or if the twins were born prematurely and had to remain in hospital and mom and dad are gone a lot.)
Some of the feelings your older children may feel if they are toddlers or preschoolers, are curiosity, annoyance and pride. Regressive behavior is common – things like wetting the bed, using baby talk, asking for diapers or a bottle and temper tantrums.Dad can really step up here and give extra special attention to the older child to make up for so much of mom’s attention being taken.
After the twin babies come home.
Some ways to minimize sibling rivalry , hurt feelings and unacceptable behaviors in your other children after the twin babies come home.
– let your older children be special helpers, picking out ‘the coming home’ outfits
– always greet your older children first and enthusiastically when you see them.
– allow their input in naming the babies with you.
– try to find ways to do activities with your older children while you are feeding the babies ( story time where you read and they turn the pages)
– know that you will get some requests to ‘be’ like the baby , or nurse like the baby. Just be relaxed in your answers, or even offer the breast – most older children will say no– they’re just curious and testing you.
– let your older children be the ones to introduce the twins to your guests.
– encourage your older children to be helper’s – getting you diapers, helping push the stroller, singing for the babies etc.
– make sure to mention to your older children how much the twin babies like them !
Avoiding dangerous sibling rivalry
Make sure that you are always on the lookout to protect your babies from your older children. Sometimes sibling rivalry creates a bit of animosity – there may be pinching the babies to make them cry, pushing the babies, taking something away from them, covering their mouths if they are crying etc. Young children do NOT understand either their own strength, or how fragile young babies can be – especially in terms of breathing. Never leave your babies unattended with a young child in the room , even while the babies are sleeping – it is safest to lock the door behind you if you are going to take a shower or go downstairs etc. Some terrible accidents can be avoided by being extra cautious.
This is not to say that your older children would intentionally hurt the babies – but something as simple as a pillow laid over their face while sleeping could have disastrous results. Our toddler daughter kept stuffing Cheerios in the babies mouths to ‘help’ feed them – just as an example.
Enlist help from other family members to help avoid sibling rivalry
There will be many stages in your family life and lots of ups and downs. Siblings will go through stretches of time where they seem to be fine and totally adjusted to the new babies. Then, you’ll get some new visitors to your home who maybe forget to say hello to your older children and then the hurt feelings and attention-seeking behaviours may return.
Grandparents can be a huge help to offer ‘special’ attention and time to the older children. Outings, stories, small gifts that are just for ‘big kids’ are all a big help.