Question of the Week: I have an eight-year-old daughter who loves to be the center of attention. She is the youngest of four children, and the only girl, and I will admit that everyone in the house spoils her. She is daddy’s little girl and the baby of the family. But now, I’m expecting twin girls in January. I’ve taken my daughter to my ultrasound appointments, and I’ve let her help us get the nursery ready for the twins. For my baby shower, I told the guests to bring presents for her as well as the babies so she wouldn’t feel left out. But I’m still worried about how she’s going to react when the babies are born and they take up a lot of our time.
Answer: First, congratulations on your twin pregnancy! Yes, your household, your husband, your daughter, and your sons are all in for a big change once your twins arrive but it sounds like you have this under control. Many kids struggle with jealousy when mom and dad bring a new baby home; many others do not. By merely being aware that your daughter may get lost in the shuffle tells me that she probably won’t. Try not to over think the situation (for instance, don’t keep insisting that it’s OK to be jealous—saying it once is enough) but I do have a few suggestions.
Expose Her to Other Twins
Do you know of any other families with twins, preferably a family with twin infants or toddlers? If so, see if you can pop by for a short visit. Let your daughter ask questions about the twins, such as what family life is like with new twins. Let her see a little bit of the chaos that naturally comes with twins. Later, talk about what she observed and her feelings about it.
Some parents have had great luck with giving their singleton children “twin dolls” to play with. Once your twins are home, and you need to bathe your infants, for instance, you can suggest that your daughter bathe her “twins” at the same time. This form of “parallel play” will give your daughter a strong sense commonality with you, strengthening her bond with you. Exactly what you need!
Or, you can always go the book route. I’m Having Twins is one of four books in a series about being a sibling to new twins. They are written by Paris Morris, a big sister to twins, who took to writing the collection when her mom was expecting twins.
Involve Her With Your Twin Preparation
You’ve already mentioned that you’ve taken your daughter to your ultrasound appointments and that’s great. Keep it up!
When it’s time to pick out the bedding and paint colors for the new nursery, ask her opinion. But don’t just say you love her choices and then go completely in another direction. (She’ll see right through that!) So ask for her thoughts on something you really need help with. But when it comes to the babies’ shower, no need to have others bring her gifts. That might be a bit excessive. Instead, have her help you open the gifts that you receive from others.
Take a Stroll Down Memory Lane
Pull out your old photo albums, the ones when she was an infant. Show her how much attention and love you showered on her when she was born. Explain that the new twins will require a bit more of your time, especially during the first few months, but that you will always be there for her.
Rely on Other Family Members to Pick Up Some of the Slack
You have three, older sons who can pick up the slack and spend a bit more time with their younger sister (maybe a private chat with each of them expressing your concern will put your mind at ease). Besides having them spend one-on-one time with her is also a great way to build up their sibling bond, too. Perhaps an occasional a date with Grandma (aunt, uncle, and so forth) will also give you a bit more breathing room.
Compliment Her Sibling Skills
Even if it’s something minor like your daughter picking up one twin’s binkie off the floor, let her know, “That was so thoughtful of you. I’m sure your (twin’s name) really appreciated your help.” Also, try to compliment her to others when she is within earshot and can overhear. “You should have seen how good she was with the twins when I was on the phone. I was so proud of her!” Your daughter will believe it even more if she thinks she is accidentally overhearing the praise.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Continue to be aware of your daughter getting lost in the shuffle in the coming months. Make time for her even if it means letting someone else take care of the twins for an hour. If that’s impossible, try for a short, ten-minute interlude every day—just the two of you hanging out together.
But don’t stress about it. Her personality and constitution are fully formed so she’ll be just fine. The last thing you want to do is make her out to be the victim.