The number of multiple births has risen considerably in the past several years. Most couples know that having children forever changes their lives. However, parents who are blessed with two, three, or more miracles may feel as though they've left the hospital and arrived home on another planet!
The arrival of multiple newborns presents unique challenges for parents. Financial concerns are doubled or tripled, the emotional impact is intensified, there may be unexpected medical complications, and the simple logistics of everyday activities can present even the most prepared parents with added strain. So what can parents do to make life with multiples manageable?
Following are several suggestions for staying sane under the stress of parenting multiples:
- Get help: This is key during your first year! Before delivery set up a schedule for people to provide help as soon as the babies come home from the hospital when you will be most overwhelmed. Talk with relatives, friends, and other trusted individuals about what your needs are going to be as soon as you discover you're having multiples. Remember, others have commitments that may need to be adjusted if they are going to be able to help out.
- Get rest: This is not going to be easy, but it is essential! Sleep when the babies do, allow for the fact that your house is not going to be as neat and clean as it was before, and let those trusted helpers do their jobs. Buy earplugs if necessary! Your well-being is crucial to your ability to take care of your babies.
- Organize and prioritize: Get prepared for the arrival of your babies ahead of time. Think about what changes you may need to make to increase efficiency. For instance, keep diapers and wipes etc. in more than one room, make a schedule that includes feeding times and keep it posted where others can see, and arrange for your helpers and guests to arrive at different times so there is help throughout the day and night!
- Set aside time to be together: Having a new baby can be stressful on a relationship. Set aside times when you and your partner can be alone. Take a walk, go out to dinner, or just sit and talk about something other than the babies. Remember, your relationship with your partner is the foundation on which your family is built!
- Spend alone time with older children: If you have older children, do something with them alone once a month or so. They need time off from the babies too.
- Take time to be with yourself: It might seem impossible, but it is vital to your mental and emotional health that you take time to be you! It's easy to get caught up in the day to day stressors of being a parent, but you will be a much better parent if you schedule the time you need to take care of yourself. Make it a priority to do something each week just for you. Read a book, go for a drive, listen to your favorite music, meet with friends for lunch, take a bubble bath, or enjoy a hobby.
Parenting issues with multiples:
Which is which? It is not uncommon for parents of multiples to get their children mixed up at first. Some parents paint each babies big toenail a different color or color code their clothing. As your babies mature and their personalities develop it will be easier to tell them apart.
Support their individuality! Parents often worry that their multiples develop as individuals. Some suggestions are to:
- give them distinctly different names
- refer to them by their names and not "the twins"
- give them separate cakes and gifts on their birthday
- allow them to go places apart
- avoid dressing them alike as they get older
- let them have their own space for toys and clothing
- try not to compare them to one another. All children develop and learn at their own pace.
Encourage language development- Multiples often develop language skills later than single birth children. Most often this is due to prematurity. Also, they spend so much time together they may develop their own special means of communication. Spend time speaking directly to each child individually as well as reading to them often.
Social Skills: Social skills may come earlier for multiples because they have always been with siblings. However, they seem to do less well in other groups. Oftentimes multiples prefer to play and socialize with one another and parents must deliberately arrange play dates with other children even at an early age. Allow them to spend time apart and encourage them to meet new people separately.
Multiples are built-in playmates for one another, and from early on it's apparent their relationship is a special one. Parenting multiples has its challenges, but the rewards are twice (or more) as great!