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Resources Centre / Twins Tips Introduction / Twins Tips / Singleton Siblings of Multiples
Singleton Siblings of Multiples
With the expected arrival of two. three. four or more babies. there is a rollercoaster of feelings. The impending birth is exciting. exhilarating and anxiety provoking all at the same time. In addition. there will be a couple of practical issues such as coping with and affording all of these babies. Another very real worry is how is (are) your singleton child(ren) going to react to the new arrivals ?

The upcoming event should be shared with your child(ren). He/She (they) can easily pick up on your feelings of excitement and listen carefully to your explanations of what will be happening. You should be sensitive to your child(ren)'s needs as you explain that he/she will still be important to you and you will continue to look after. love and cherish him/her. As a caring parent. you try to explain some of the upcoming changes.

Many parents tend to consider having their second child when their first one is approximately two years of age. When the 'second child' turns out to be twins. triplets or more. the whole family needs to make adjustments.

The care of twins. triplets and more is challenging enough as we also try to find space for the nurturing and care of our singleton child(ren). With this thought in mind. the following provides some possible expectations and ideas for assisting your child(ren) in adjusting to the arrival of multiple birth siblings.

It is reasonable to assume that you will be very busy parents caring for. feeding. bathing. changing your new arrivals. Your singleton child(ren) will have had two parents available to him/her and ready to meet their every need. The arrival of twins. triplets or more dramatically and forever changes the balance from one of 'exclusive' to one where her parent"s availability has been drastically reduced. Their confusion. feelings of being overwhelmed and angry at a situation beyond their control. can cause many possible. negative behaviours. This list may or may not include issues your singleton child(ren) will show and are listed in no particular order.
  • more clingy
  • act or show jealousy
  • have temper tantrums (perhaps more often than usual)
  • becomes impossible to satisfy
  • refuses to speak or speech regresses
  • refuses to give up nappies or regresses to nappies once again
  • stops toilet training; wets pants; wets bed
  • may wish to breastfeed when he sees you breastfeeding the babies
  • refuses to give up the bottle or regresses back to the bottle
  • becomes demanding; has an angry outlook
  • looks for attention when you are least able to give it
  • rejects you when you are available to give attention
  • becomes pickier with food. bedtime. choosing clothes
  • unresponsive to learning; stops learning
  • purposely does things to get either a positive or negative reaction
  • withdraws. isolates himself
  • plays roughly with his siblings
  • can be nice to her siblings when you are watching but be aggressive when you look away
Now that we are aware of what some possible behaviours to look for. here are some ways to assist your singleton child(ren) make the adjustment to his multiple birth siblings.

  • Don't call them 'the Twins' or 'the Triplets'. When you do this. the singleton child(ren) is automatically left out by this label. Make it clear with family and friends that your babies are individuals and they need to be called by their names. Quietly correct them each and every time they forget.
  • Do not continually dress them alike. When they are continually dressed alike. they are perceived as a package. a package of which your singleton child(ren) is not a part. If you dress your singleton child(ren) the same as your multiples. you are sending the message to your singleton child(ren) that it is necessary to look like someone else.
  • Put aside a time each day to spend with your singleton child(ren). It could be bedtime with a story. bathtime. or even going food shopping. If you find that you cannot make a space for your child(ren) when he/she wants. tell them so and then make a promise for when you can. "I am really sorry. I am bathing your brother at the moment but in 20 minutes when I am finished. we will all sit down together and play with your blocks." Be sure and keep your promise.
  • You may ask the grandparents or another family member to do something special with your singleton child(ren). Or to take one. both or all of the babies while you go to the park. cinema. swimming etc with your singleton(s).
  • Some families have a positive response if their singleton child(ren) is involved in the care of the siblings. Even little ones are able to go get a clean nappy. fetch a toy or do other small tasks that will make him/her feel important. It is helpful to give positive feedback for this assistance. This doesn't work for all families. Some singleton siblings resent being made 'to wait' on the babies and refuse to help or cooperate.Don't push or force the issue or they may begin to feel resentful. If they do decide to help though. provide lots of positive reinforcement. It is important to remember that your other child(ren) is young too. Don't expect too much from them. While the babies are not the responsibility of your older child(ren). it is important for everyone to pitch in and be a part of the Family Team but there is also a fine line to be aware of and not expect too much childcare from your other child(ren).
  • Some parents have had success with a special gift for their singleton child(ren) when the babies arrive home from the hospital. The gift can take the form of the appropriate number of dolls and everyone looks after their 'babies' at the same time. It is very difficult for the singleton child(ren) to accept all of the attention and fuss made over the babies upon their arrival at home and a gift might smooth the way.
  • If your child is young. it may be helpful to 'give' them the words when they are acting up. "It is very difficult for you when Mummy can't come right away when you call me. I'll bet that makes you very angry." It also gives them permission to be angry or frustrated. It may also encourage some communication which would assist you in learning what your child is feeling. Obviously nothing is going to change and the babies are here to stay but it does help when a difficulty is acknowledged. If your child indicates that he/ she 'hates them'. don't take it personally or be worried about what the future may hold. Your child is merely expressing her feelings of the moment and it is important to acknowledge her anger and frustration and not ignore it or down play what she might be feeling. Further 'hating them' lets you know that she is reacting to the current situation of her multiple siblings. It is very helpful to know exactly what we. as parents. are dealing with.
  • Reward any positive behaviour. down-play negative behaviour.
  • Some children respond very well to going to nursery school or a play group. even for half days. This gives them a space of their 'own' and their own stories to tell about their day.
  • In order to give your child(ren) some feelings of control in the situation. allow him to pick out his own clothes for the day or to chose what he might have for lunch. You are also teaching him how to make choices and problem solve at the same time.
  • Your child(ren) may be of an age where he could have some input regarding setting up the babies' room. It could be the positioning of the furniture or give him two choices of colours to paint the room and let him choose which one. He could help put clothes into the drawers.
  • If you are feeling tired and frustrated or overwhelmed yourself and find yourself with a long temper and a short fuse. own it. Let your child(ren) know that you are tired and having a bad day. Everyone can relate to having a bad day and this way your child(ren) knows that he didn't cause your grumpiness.
  • One very difficult situation occurs when taking everyone out in public. For some reason. multiples are perceived as public property. As a result. your twin or triplet stroller will attract people like flies to the honey pot. This will be very difficult for your singleton child(ren) and you will need to be his advocate. Feel quite free to state: "This is David/Sarah. who is very helpful with his/her brothers." Speaking up on behalf of your child(ren) is important and failure to do so could add to his resentment and make him feel a lot less special than his siblings. People don't mean to leave out anyone but twins and triplets do attract a lot of attention. As parents. it is our job to make sure that each of our children feels special and loved.
  • Some older siblings of multiples have reported that frequently they are left out of conversations with family and friends. You may need to remind others to speak directly to your singleton child and to include her in the conversations and then to listen to her reply.
  • While it is not definate. it has been reported that in those families who already have two or more other children when the multiples arrive. the older children seem to have an easier time adjusting because they have already bonded to someone else and have someone else to play with when the parents are busy.
This list does not cover every possible situation with your single child(ren) but it will give you a good idea of what might occur. There are no guarantees that we. as parents. can quell every feeling of rejection that your child(ren) might have. but we can certainly give it a good try. It stands to reason that as parents of multiples. you will be busy and the demands. stresses and sleep deprivation on you will be enormous.

Don't try to be the "Perfect" parent. there is no such thing but there are plenty of "Good" and even some "Great" parents out there. Take it one day at a time. Strive to assist your child(ren) in dealing with the adjustment. They will soon pick up that you love all of them and there is enough love for all of your children. It is human nature to adjust. Didn't most of us adjust to the arrival of our own siblings? This too. shall pass.

Younger Singleton Siblings of Multiples
It isn't uncommon for families with multiples to have other children. Being the younger sibling of multiples has its own challenges. Initially. there will be no differences at all because that is all the newborn knows. They don't know the difference. Being the baby in a large family can be an ideal situation.

Things change when the sibling becomes mobile and gets into their elder siblings toys and treasures (as can in any situation when a new baby joins the family). Children with dizygotic multiple siblings (boy/girl or same sex who do not look at all alike) may not even perceive his siblings as multiples. Something that may be a factor in this regard is the age differences between the siblings - the closer together they all are in age. the less likely differences will be perceived.

When the multiples are monozygotic. there is more chance of difficulties. Being "the twins' (or triplets') younger sister" may affect your child's self-esteem. The perception won't be as an individual person but that of the younger sibling of a 'group'. This perception could make him feel insecure and unimportant. If your younger child is 'the odd one out'. he can feel very isolated as he does not have anyone to 'pair up' with.

Birthdays can be a very particular difficult time for a younger sibling(s) as it seems that everyone in the house is having and sharing a birthday except me! Where's the fairness in that? It will be necessary. initially. to find a way to make sure that your younger child is not left entirely out of the picture.

Many of the foregoing suggestions will work just as well for younger siblings as they. too. make the adjustment to having multiples as siblings. Time. patience and reassurances will. in the end. assure your child that he/she too is important and special.

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