So you’re having twins, except you already have an older child. Dealing with all three can be a challenge. Here are tips on raising twins and a toddler.
When the idea of raising twins sunk in, the next question was how I’d care for two babies plus a three-year-old. I had been expecting to juggle a preschooler and a baby, not two babies.
“I’ll be raising twins… and my toddler, too.” I had no idea if I could handle it.
Tips for raising twins and a toddler
Somehow I’m managing, and along the way I learned a few lessons about raising twins after a singleton.
Your singleton isn’t special because of the twins.
I made the mistake of professing my child being special because he was going to be a big brother to twins. I figured he needed an extra reason to love his brothers. Being a big brother to twins would set him apart, wouldn’t it? Make him extra special?
No—he’s special because of who he is, not because of his brothers. Making his brothers the reason would place his value on external sources, not within. He’s special, whether he had twin babies, one baby, or no baby.
I squashed those words and instead said that having twins was amazing, apart from him. “We’re going to have two babies—isn’t that neat?” I would say, and leave it at that, with no mention of how special or lucky he is. He’ll come to realize that on his own time.
Give your singleton an ‘out.’
I debated whether to enroll my son in preschool before or after they were born. Putting him in school a few months after would have saved us a ton of money. I’d be on maternity leave for several months, and my husband on paternity leave on top of that. We chose instead to enroll him in school a few months before the twins’ arrival, and I’m so glad we did.
Your child might embrace preschool or tolerate it at best. But having a place to go to outside the home helps him escape the madness of having twins.
Maybe it’s preschool, lessons, weekly playground trips or weekend stays at grandma’s. Providing your child with a regular outing can help him reclaim a space that’s his. A place that isn’t tainted by anything baby-related.
Where he can get away from the cries and the constant shushing and where he can be free to explore on his own.
Your singleton’s routine also provides you with a breather. The hours my eldest was in preschool afforded me some rest—it was one less child to attend to. And since my eldest stopped napping, I wasn’t always able to rest even if the twins were. With him in school, I could use those hours to rest or get things done.
Refer to the babies by name.
And not only as “the babies” or “the twins.” It’s important to address each baby by name. Twins sometimes suffer from being lumped in together from day one.
But they’re individual people and separate siblings. Referring to them as “the babies” might pit your eldest against them, in a “me vs. the babies” standoff.
It’s not. They’re siblings, and they can all develop unique relationships with one another. Your eldest can have a relationship between himself and both babies. And even between himself and each of the twins.
My eldest likes to play this game he made up where he’s on a “boat” (our reading chair) steering a helm (a pillow). Meanwhile, one of the twins crawls over and tries to take the helm from him (playing peek-a-boo). He only does this with that twin.
With the other twin, my eldest likes playing peek-a-boo while that baby is in his crib, waiting for a bath. He’ll hide under the crib and keep him entertained. Again, something he only does with that twin.
The twins will develop their own relationship with each other. But so should they develop one with their older brother as well, each on his own terms.
Lower your standards.
One of the most reassuring messages I repeated was that all this madness would be temporary.
My house will be messy, the mirrors not wiped or the windows collecting mildew, and that’s okay for now.
Meals won’t consist of freshly-cooked dinners every night. Instead we’ll rely on take-out, frozen food or donated meals.
My daily attire will include nursing tops, yoga pants and wet hair cinched into a bun. Not sexy, but it’s what works for now.
Set your expectations low because your household will be somewhat maddening. Adding on extra chores and the guilt for not maintaining your norm can make you miserable. Instead, realize that this is all temporary. In a matter of months, you’ll adjust and resume your standard of living. (Mostly.)
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Part of the challenge of raising twins and a singleton is how to juggle all three kids. The best antidote is to find a system that works for you and to prepare. Some of my go-to moves:
- Cook the night before or when another person is in the house. You’re not left with all three kids as you scramble around the kitchen.
- Cut, dice, and serve food a few minutes before dinner time. Once the kids are hungry, their plates are ready to go.
- Get bath- and bedtime items ready throughout the evening. At bath time, you’ll already have the pajamas, diapers, milk and towels set.
- Pack diaper bags long before you step out of the house. Expect the needs of your day and pack any supplies or food for your outings. Pack the stroller with your sunglasses, keys and phone if you plan to take them for a walk soon.
- Take advantage of nap times. This is the blessed time when I either: a) prepare for after the babies wake up, 2) get things done around the house, 3) spend time with my singleton, or 4) relax.
Encourage independent play.
I’ve long been a fan of independent play. It’s not judicious to spend our every waking moment entertaining or being near our kids.
First, they need time to explore on their own. They can’t expand their wings if we’re there cramping their space every second. Allow them to question, make mistakes, and choose the direction they want to explore. They’ll know when to come back if they need reassurance, and you can always be nearby to do so.
Second, babies and kids need time with one another. You know those cute videos of twins laughing at one another? My twins do that when adults aren’t around (or at least they don’t think we’re around). They’ll sit next to each other, and one will start laughing at the other one. Soon they’re both cracking up in that cute baby twins way.
Meanwhile, I’m putting dishes away, knowing that this moment may not have happened if I were nearby.
And lastly, kids playing on their own is good for you. Parents feel pressured to always engage with their kids, and sometimes it’s not fulfilling. We get bored. We’re burned out. And the guilt that we’re not parenting when we’re not engaging is an unrealistic demand.
So read a book while the kids play chase or crawl around the living room.
Now more than ever will you need help. You almost need one adult for every child. If you could get an extra one to cover the household that would be even better. My mom stayed with us a few weeks, and it helped because we covered all three kids.
A long-term helper is ideal because that person is familiar with your daily routine. They know when and how to change the diapers and feed the babies. They’re familiar with your singleton’s preferences and where to fetch the yogurt he likes. You can give less direction because this person has become part of the household.
If someone isn’t able to stay for several days, weekend visits would be the next best thing. Friends and family can drop off food so you don’t have to cook, or paper plates and utensils so you don’t have to wash. They can watch the kids while you nap or run errands or go for a walk. Every little bit helps.
Empathize with your older child.
It’s hard enough bringing home one baby to introduce to a child. Now imagine two. The whole concept of raising twins is hard enough for you to grasp, more so for your older child.
Try not to blame things on the twins. Or to make it seem like a twins vs singleton rivalry among your siblings. Remember that your eldest is also struggling with welcoming two new baby siblings.
Before losing your temper, remember she’s only dealing with her new reality in the best ways she can. She can’t understand what’s going on, and she’s relying on you to help guide her along. Be patient.
You’ve already been through this at least once. You’re no longer a first-time mom and may have even learned a thing or two from your first kid. Still, welcoming twins into the home can be different when you already have an older child.
But with a regular routine and a balance among all your kids, you’ll handle the transition from one to three.
Want to learn more about how to manage once your twins arrive? Enroll in my FREE 5-day email course, Bringing Home Twins: How to Survive the Early Weeks with Newborn Twins! You’ll also get my Feeding and Diaper Tracker instantly:
Get more tips:
- How to Avoid Excluding Your Non-Twin Child
- Check Out These Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Twins
- Just Found Out You’re Having Twins? Here’s What You Have to Do:
- From Feeding to Sleeping: How to Take Care of Twins
- Finding it Hard to Raise Twins? You’re Not Alone.
What are your concerns and questions with raising twins after your singleton? For parents who don’t have twins, what tips can you add when you welcome your subsequent kids? Share them in the comments!