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Twins and supporting siblings

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Life with newborn babies will be extremely busy for you as a parent. It may seem as if all of your attention is being diverted away from your existing child or children.

Brothers and sisters of twins can find it especially hard because of all the attention given to the new arrivals. A single, older sibling can feel isolated when twins arrive, as their mother and father make up a unit of two and so do the twins.

It's important to help siblings adjust to their new family unit and to help them welcome the twins. There are plenty of things you can do, even before your babies are born, to prepare your other children for their arrival.

Before the birth

Talk about the babies you're expecting. Older children will appreciate being involved from an early stage, while toddlers may not be interested until your bump begins to show.

Involve your child in choosing things for the babies. Let them pick out clothes, choose toys, or help decorate the nursery.

You could take your child along when you go for a scan, or show them scan photos to make them feel part of the pregnancy.

Ask your family and friends to take time to play with your older children as you may find it hard to run around with them in the later stages of pregnancy.

When your twins are born

First impressions can have a lasting effect. The way you introduce your child to their new siblings can help get their relationship off to a good start.

Introduce your child to your babies as soon as possible after they're born. It's a good idea to greet your child without your babies, then introduce them yourself. It can be hard for a child to cope with seeing their mother with her hands full of babies and unable to give them a cuddle.

Spend time each day with the older child without the twins. It doesn't need to be for long, but the older child needs to know that it will happen every day.

You could put a photograph of older siblings into the babies' cots to reinforce their relationship.

Make sure friends and family pay special attention to your older child as well as the new babies.

Once you get home

It can take a while for your family to settle down with its newest members, but you can make things easier for your older children.

It's important to build a separate bond between the older sibling and each of the twins, so they see the twins as individual babies and not a single unit. For example, take your child out with just one of the babies, or encourage them to play with one twin at a time.

You can also involve them in the care of the babies, without making it into a chore. Perhaps your older child could fetch a nappy, play with the babies or just put a teddy in their cot for you.

It also helps to create a routine that involves activities just for the older child or children, such as a bedtime story or a chat during the school run.

Playing up

Research has shown that almost twice as many siblings display behavioural problems after the arrival of twins than after the birth of a single baby. This difficult behaviour can express itself in several ways, including:

  • negative, attention-seeking behaviour - such as misbehaving or throwing tantrums
  • aggression towards the twins
  • regression - for example, a potty-trained child going back into nappies
  • silent anger and withdrawal
  • perfectionism, when a child tries to be too good to please their parents

The best way to combat these types of behaviour is to spend time with your child so they don't feel left out or ignored. Give them regular one-to-one time with you, which they will have been used to having before the twins arrived.

For more information, you can register with the Twins & Multiple Births Association and download the free Healthy Multiple Pregnancy Guide, which has tips on preparing siblings for the birth of twins. The Multiple Births Foundation also produces a leaflet called Relating to twins - As Parents, Partners, Siblings, Friends or Teachers, which is ¬£3 and available from its website.

Article provided by NHS Choices

See original on NHS Choices