When I met my husband’s daughter, it was her fourth birthday. At the time, I was Daddy’s “friend” with the lovable dachshund. We threw her party together and everything I had been hearing about his daughter was true. She was bright, funny, and a gentle, sweet girl. She came to life around her Dad, and I could see they had a special bond.
Two short years later, we were married and my new step-daughter had a starring role as our flower girl. At the reception, she asked to take a picture with me. She had sketched, “I love you” on a chalkboard and wanted the photographer to take our photo with it. It’s one of my favorite memories from that day. I had made my way into her heart, the way she had mine.
When Mike and I decided to get pregnant, I knew it would obviously impact my stepdaughter. On our weekends with her, a few times a month, she was our sole focus. We went to playgrounds, amusement parks, and even a trip to Disney World. Now she would need to share her dad and stepmom with infant twins.
Here are 7 tips to help you in your journey to blend your stepfamily with newborn twins!
1. Let your children express their feelings
I had infertility treatments with daily injections and many doctor appointments. My stepdaughter began to worry about my health, so we opted to tell her that we were trying to give her a brother or sister, or as things turned out in our case, one of each. I would be lying if I said she immediately shared our enthusiasm. After the news had settled in, she asked if I would still have time to be her stepmom. She immediately realized her life would change.
Telling your children about your twin pregnancy is a personal decision, and one that you will have to make based on their age and ability to understand the concept. In our situation, since my stepdaughter didn’t live in our home full-time, she needed to hear that she would always be special to us, even if her brother and sister had more time in the home. Having the conversation and allowing your stepchildren to express their feelings, fears, and excitement can help you understand how to help them adapt to two new babies. Throughout your pregnancy, consider having conversations that continually let them open up so you can address problems head on.
2. Make them a part of the process
Allow your stepchildren to learn more about their twin siblings, and help build excitement for babies’ arrival. If you can’t bring your stepchildren to an ultrasound appointment, consider taking a video or pictures to share so that they feel included. On your weekends you can sit down as a family and review the videos and pictures and brainstorm names.
We also downloaded a baby tracker app that gave updates on the size and weight of the twins. My stepdaughter was particularly intrigued when we compared the twins to pieces of fruit; twin A is the size of a blueberry and twin B weighs in at a strawberry. It added humor, but gave her a sense of their impending arrival. When we talked to my stepdaughter on the phone, her first question was always the same: “How big are they now?” She was with us for the ride and grew to share our exuberance.
You can also plan your baby shower on a weekend when you have your stepchildren. Ask for their help decorating or assign a special task like decorating onesies or helping you open presents.
3. Have a plan for the hospital
We had a planned c-section date, but had to deliver early. It happened to be our weekend with my stepdaughter, so we quickly had to figure out who would pick up and care for her when my husband was in the hospital with me. Looking back, I wish we had a plan in place so that we didn’t have stress leading up to the arrival of the twins. Depending on your partner’s relationship with their ex, consider putting a plan in place that would cover child care for your stepchild on a moment’s notice, as well as permit you to take your stepchild for a few days after your twins come home, even if it is not your scheduled weekend.
A few things to consider as you develop your plan:
- Who will pick up and drop off your stepchildren if they are with you when your twins arrive?
- Who will your stepchildren stay with if both parents are in the hospital overnight?
- Do you want your stepchildren to visit you in the hospital? If so, who will drive them to see you?
- Are your stepchildren old enough to hold your newborns?
4. Plan a gift exchange
Before our twins came, we bought my stepdaughter a “Big Sister, established 2015” t-shirt in bright pink. When she arrived at the hospital, we had it wrapped for her with a card from the twins. We knew that the next few months would be filled with gifts for her brother and sister, so we felt it was important for her to receive something too. She still wears it proudly, smiling brightly when asked about her brother and sister.
My husband also took her to the hospital gift shop and she picked out balloons for the babies. Even though they won’t remember, we took pictures of that day so she can share it with her brother and sister when they are older. Planning a gift exchange lets your stepchildren know that they will always be special, even if new babies have arrived. It also fosters giving to others, which can strengthen their bond further.
Unprompted, a few months after we brought the twins home, my stepdaughter went into her room and pulled out her favorite stuffed animal and gave it to my daughter. She wanted her to have it when she needed comfort, she told us.
5. Encourage bonding
At the hospital, we asked my husband’s daughter to hold the twins, one at a time. At first she was a little afraid, but she quickly eased into the feeling and wanted to keep her new sister on her lap longer. Over the following weeks, she assumed the role of Big Sis, offering to feed, hold, and even clean up after the twins. Whenever she stays with us, we still have a nightly ritual where Big Sis reads a few books before they go to bed.
You can also encourage your twins to use easy nicknames with your stepchildren. It creates a unique familiarity that only they will share. Our twins call my stepdaughter, “Sissy,” which they learned how to say before most other words.
6. Ask for their help
Getting your stepchildren more involved will mean less work for you, and more independence for them. My stepdaughter is now 8, so we have asked her to take an active role in helping care for her brother and sister. When she takes on added responsibilities, we have noticed that she feels important and likes contributing to the family. Since our stepdaughter isn’t with us all the time, we want to spend as much time with her as we can, even if that is while we change or bathe a baby, so we always ask her to get involved.
For younger stepchildren, have them hold the bottle while you feed, help lather baby hair in the bath, or pick out clothes for your twins. For older children, ask for help with feeding, reading books, and getting the babies dressed.
7. Make 1-on-1 time
One thing we try to do is put time aside to spend with us. It’s expensive and difficult to get babysitters on weekends, so we take turns having alone time with her. Before we had two babies every weekend was time for just the three of us, so even if we can’t always be alone with her, we try to recreate that as much as possible. After your twins are on a more regular sleeping schedule, you can carve out family evenings for your stepchildren. We like to watch family movies or play card games.
Yes, life has changed, but I can gladly report that our twins are now 18 months old and my stepdaughter couldn’t be more in love with her sister, and occasionally her brother too. She even has nicknames for the twins as well. My daughter is her “Sharlie-boo” and my son is “Little Boyo.” I’m so glad we took the extra time and effort to involve her with twins and I know their special step-sibling bond will continue to grow through the years.
Becky Bavli is Mom to Charlotte and Jacob, her 21 month old twins, Alana, her 9 year old stepdaughter, and Gizmo, her four-legged fur baby. In her (not so) spare time, she is also an entrepreneur and marketing executive. She lives outside Manhattan in the quiet suburbs of Piermont, NY. It’s the kind of friendly town where you know your neighbors and the annoying “twin questions” are slightly less annoying. Becky invented a unique hair taming product for babies and toddlers that will be launching in Spring of 2018. Find out more at tisfortame.com and read her blog on her life with toddler twins.