8 Tips to Parenting Older Sibling to Twins

The other day while teaching a religious education class at my local parish, a mom of one of my students came into the classroom with her two young twins in tow. I turned to my student and bubbled, “Wow! You didn’t tell me you had twin siblings!”

The look of exasperation on my student’s face spoke volumes and I immediately regretted shouting out my delight and surprise. It was as if she wanted to yell back, “Not you, too!”

I should have known better as it’s always amazed me how often strangers and acquaintances alike would openly gush over my twins when they were young as if they were celebrities all the while completely ignoring my younger, singleton son. If we were out at a mall, for instance, and we were standing in line at the food court, inevitably someone would ask, “Are they twins?”

No sooner would I answer, “yes,” then a litany of questions would follow (“Are they identical?” “Who’s older?” “Are they best friends?”)  as well as the inevitable comparisons (“His hair is lighter than his brothers!” “He looks a bit heavier than his twin!”). My singleton would stand silently waiting for his turn to be recognized. It never came.

Three brothers standing together.

Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand everyone’s fascination with twins as I’m still fascinated by them (as I obviously expressed that day in class). It’s impossible not to be. Twins are cool! But this allure often comes at the expense of other children within the family. Yet it doesn’t have to be. Follow these parenting tips to help ensure strong relationships among all family members–twins as well as singletons.

 

  • If you’re expecting twins, let your older singleton feel included in the pregnancy.

Let her help with the design of the nursery by asking her opinion on paint colors, for instance. Have her help you narrow down the list of possible baby names, too. You can even have her come with you to your prenatal visits where she can hear the babies’ heartbeats.

  • There’s really no true way to “prepare” an older sibling for the disruption that young twins bring to family life as your singleton is often too young to fully comprehend the situation but you can try!

Talk about what’s happening often. Many moms-t0-be have had some success by giving their singletons a twin set of dolls as well as taking them on regular visits to another family with twins (you can hook up with other multiple families through a local Mothers of Twins Clubs). But the easiest way to ease your child into her big sister role is through reading. There are several good options from 13-year-old author and sister to twins, Paris Morris. (Morris wrote, I’m Having Twins, when her mom was pregnant with twins and couldn’t find any books on the subject.)

  • When you are all out in public together, throw strangers “off the scent” by dressing your twins differently and, if you can, take two single strollers instead of one double stroller.

If someone does stop to inquire about your twins, politely bring your singleton into the conversation. “Yes, they have beautiful curly hair. They get it from their big sister here.” Then move on quickly.

  • Although having an older child around when your twins are young can be very helpful, avoid putting your singleton in the role as the Nanny.

Never force her to “watch the twins” or “run and fetch their bottles” if you sense that she’s growing weary of it.

  • Protect your singleton’s privacy.

Although you may not mind that your young twins dump out your dresser drawers, your older child may. Early on, set boundaries with your twins explaining what’s off-limits.

  • Continue to make “alone time” with just your singleton even if it means finding a baby-sitter for your twins.

It can be as simple as snuggling on the couch reading together or as special as lunch out on the weekends. And remember–just like married couples out on a date who try not to talk about the kids, when you’re out with your singleton steer the conversation away from the twins and towards her interests.

  • Mix it up.

As your twins get older, swap roommates among all siblings so that everyone gets a chance to develop one-on-one relationships. Take one twin and one singleton sibling out for an afternoon of fun so that they can build connections and find commonality.

  • Reward positive behavior such as compromise, sharing and cooperation but ignore attention-seeking behavior such as tattling.

What are your tips?

28 thoughts on “8 Tips to Parenting Older Sibling to Twins

  1. Nikki

    I smiled at you admitting your “twin fascination”. With twin aunt/uncle, twin sisters and now my own twins, the fascination is still with me too. Great post – twins get so much attention (positive and not so, with both positive and no so effects) all their lives. Siblings just aren’t as exciting! I would love to read more about this and hope that some research in this area is being done. I wonder how many ‘twin books’ focus on more than just getting siblings ready for twins as opposed to getting ready for AND living with twin siblings? Hhhmmmm….

    Reply
    1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof

      I often feel sorry for my twins’ younger sibling but I also don’t want to “victimize” him. I just try to encourage all my boys to have a good relationship with each other. I don’t believe there is any research or books specifically dealing with singletons to twins. Would be very interesting. I also believe that it’s much easier on family dynamics if there’s more than one singleton in a family with twins.

      Reply
  2. RuthAnn

    My singleton is just 18 months older than my twins (all boys!) and now at ages 5 and 3, respectively, it is interesting to see the different relationships develop and change. My twins are always very close but one twin has developed a strong relationship with his older brother too. They often say they are “best friends”…. I agree with your advice to mix it up often- getting them out separately is important. And, we often have sleepovers for each twin in big brother’s bedroom, do a bath with big brother and one twin, etc.
    And I found too that people always comment on the twins when we are out. I make a point of adding “And this is their big brother!” so he feels included.
    Great post as usual…thanks Christina!

    Reply
    1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof

      18 months?? That’s close in age! My singleton is 30 months younger and I thought that was close! He, too, has buddied up to one twin more than the other. They have a lot in common. It’s my hope that it will continue throughout their lives. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  3. Erin-raisingtwins

    I loved your blog. I myself have a son and twin girls. Time and time again, we would be out and about and everyone would pay attention to the twins and not “big bro”. They would all ask oh, what are their names. I would always respond with. Hailey, Madison and this it their BIG Brother Mason. I always included him someway in the conversation to include him. I agree, how they can just get lost in the shuffle.

    Reply
    1. surprised mum

      Hi I have a 5 yr old and just found out that I’m pregnant with twins. I wasnt expecting them at all. I’m just wondering if you would be open enough to let me know if your twins were planned or shall I say were you planning to Get pregnant again or were they a huge surprise.

      Reply
      1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof Post author

        First, congratulations on your twin pregnancy! In answer to your question: My twins were my first. I was an older mom and the twins were a huge surprise (the twinning, not the pregnancy as we wanted to start a family). My second pregnancy (third child) was a singleton. He was born exactly 2 1/2 years after his twin brothers. He, too, was a HUGE SURPRISE. I like to say that he was “my glass of wine on a Friday night.”

        Reply
  4. Pingback: If “Clothes Make the Man,” Should You Dress Your Twins Alike? « Blog About Twins

  5. April

    I have 3 girls. 5 year old and 2 year old twins. My older daughter also has a closer bond with one twin over the other. I go on one on one dates with each girl, that really seems to help.

    Reply
    1. Archna

      Hi I was just doing Google search and came across your website. I have a 5.5 yr old daughter and I just had twin girls ( 2 months old). Like you mentioned, I keep worrying about whether my older one will have a close relationship with twins. I so wanted a sibling for my daughter but now I wonder whether she will love me or hate me for this. Though we have been careful to include her from the beginning and still spend one on one time with her. She is fine so far but I wonder what will happen as the twins grow and draw more attention.

      Reply
      1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof Post author

        First, congratulations! Second, simply by your worrying makes me think you’ll all be ok–it means you’re aware and clued in to the fact that your family situation is different. Just keep up the good work! As your twins get older, think of them as two siblings born on the same day, rather than “the twins.” The more you treat them individually, the more they will see themselves that way, enabling them to each have strong, outside relationships with others, including your singleton.

        Reply
  6. Nanner

    Ahhh, finally a problem I have successfully averted! :) Is there any research on the natural teet/babe ratio for mammals? That’s always my follow up comment when someone remarks on how odd it is that I have 2 sets of ‘natural’ twins. I reflect that it must not be THAT odd…after all, I’m not reproducing beyond the natural teet to babe ratio!
    Great post! Thanks!

    Reply
  7. Pingback: The Younger Singleton to Twins: Heaven or Hindrance? | Blog About Twins

  8. Gwen

    I just found out that i am having twins…honestly I was just shocked..theres no other word for it.I am of course excited now that it has sunk in and ive done a little research but in the back of my mind i keep wondering how in the world am I going to do this..how can i afford this ..will anyone be able to help me …will i be able to work because i have to for economic reasons.I already have four older children ages 4,5,7, and an eight month old boy.I want to be everything they all need but i cant help but feel scared and overwhelmed that i am not going to be able to fullfill the role they so deperately demand from me. i just need a good game plan to prepare myself and my mind for this incredible event. any advice or just positive feedback would make me feel so much better..Thank you so much .

    Reply
    1. Misty

      Hi, I see I’m a couple months late on the post. Not sure if you have had the twins but hopefully with multiple older siblings it will be s smooth transition. I also have a 2 1/2yr old and a 15month old and the twins are coming in 8 days. I also worry as you do.

      Reply
  9. saraburns

    I am in my 70s & being the elder by 4 1/2 years of my twin sisters has affected my whole life & given me an inferiority complex. They always (& still do) think of themselves as special & I was just the other one. Because there were two of them they had a stronger personality, were always part of each other even when they married & had children. There is still strong rivalry & jealousy between them &, when they argue, I try to make the peace. But when they are together there might as well be nobody else in the room!

    Reply
    1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof

      Thanks for your input. It’s so important for parents with younger/older singletons to be aware. Do you think there were things your parents could have done to improve the situation? Would love to hear them as they would be helpful to other parents.

      Reply
      1. saraburns

        Obviously it is so long ago cannot remember a lot but think my mother in particular made such a fuss of them (maybe because she lost another child in between my birth & theirs) & I was introduced as ‘the twins’ sister’.
        Whatever you do Mums, don’t say that to anyone! As a result I was very quiet & they were the sociable noisy ones! Later on I had another brother & think he also felt different because of them. (He is no longer alive so cannot ask him). No-one else in the family has had twins but, if they do, hope they come to me for advice as feel I am quite an expert on the subject!

        Reply
  10. Pingback: “I’m All Alone, Again.” The Plight of the Singleton Sibling to Twins | Blog About Twins

  11. Anonymous

    I am the older sibling of twins and have always felt the odd one out. Even at family gatherings I am the only singletons as all my cousins have just one brother or sister. What’s worse is that when the twins were born, one parent looked after one and the other parent looked after the other. I felt like I was alone and have always had to fend for myself in an argument. I never had a tantrum about it but have kept it locked up inside for so long. I feel unloved and hence don’t know how to love. All I have is me. I tried I really did try to fit in. Anyway don’t make the mistake my parents did and DO NOT compare the singletons to the twins. We should not feel the need to be the same if we are different.

    Reply
    1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof Post author

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. You can love; you can learn to love. Don’t give up.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *