God’s timing is perfect, so I won’t draw a conclusion that I was somehow in control and absolutely insane to have twins on the same timeline as E going through puberty. He knew what He was doing and continues to know what He’s doing. She was 10 years old when I was pregnant and delivered the boys. She is 13 years old now. The leap in maturity and stumbling through the challenges of her body changing, emotions and all the rest of the fun…these years would be especially trying without any other children in the house. Throw two toddlers into the mix and it’s absolutely bonkers.
The other important factor here is that E was an only child for a decade. The world literally revolved around her for years and years and years, and quite suddenly, she now has to share every part of her day, every bit of our attention and honestly, a much-diminished version of our energy and availability for her unique needs. It takes some major work on our part to make sure we don’t overlook her in the chaos of twin toddlers, and it takes a special child to adjust to sharing her whole world with two little crazies. She’s managed it like a champ and our house couldn’t function without her help, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our rough moments. Here are 8 tips to help with the adjustment of going from an only child to a full house.
1. Carve out solo time. This is the hardest one. Time is the hottest of commodities purely by necessity and survival. You have to be extremely diligent to identify and claim time for your older child. Make a weeknight dedicated just to them and stick to it. Even when things get totally out of control and you’re all just barely hanging on, knowing that special time will come consistently is a major win for everyone.
2. Be sensitive to jealousy. The green-eyed monster is alive and well. It’s hard to share Mom and Dad’s time, much less everything else. Jealousy can feel mean and annoying when you’re on the “receiving end,” but try to find empathy in knowing that the jealousy stems from missing the relationship and routine that existed before the new children arrived. It’s a huge adjustment and can dig up some pretty big emotions!
3. Expect acting out. We’ve heard everything from “Nobody cares about me anymore! It’s all about J & B!” to “You never let me do anything!” to “Shut up!!!! I’m trying to sleep!!!!!” Everyone’s patience is thin with young kids in the house. Couple that with transitioning as an only child to a sibling, puberty, and no one sleeping really well and that thin ice is splintering. Just like I sometimes found myself lashing out at my husband in moments of insane exhaustion after a long sleepless night of teething, we should also expect for our older kids to hit the wall sometimes and act out.
4. Identify activities. Find something that is just their’s and that they can dig into and busy themselves with. Whether it’s cheerleading or swim lessons or environmental club, help your child find an activity they enjoy and commit to doing whatever is necessary to make sure they can do it. Not only does it show value to your child and that you care, it gives them a focus and distraction from the changes at home.
5. Affirm. Take everyone opportunity to verbally affirm and encourage your older child. Say “I love you” and “I’m proud of you” at every turn. Remind them that you see them and they are important. Let them know you have not forgotten them and even though you seem preoccupied with laundry, bottles and diapers, you are paying attention and are interested and pleased with them.
6. Get them involved. Have your child dig in with the care of the new child (children). Make it a family effort and show them you trust them enough to let them play a part in raising this new addition. Use the opportunity to work together and spend time together, and help them to feel valued and needed.
7. Communicate. Ask questions. How do you feel about our family? What do you think we should do tonight? How was your day? Open the lines of communication and talk, talk, talk. Encourage your child to ask you questions too. Affirm their emotions and talk through life as you know it now. Together. Kids make a lot of assumptions, most of them being wrong. Keep them talking so that you have the opportunity to understand how they are feeling, clarify where you can and guide them back to home when their thoughts have led them astray.
8. Educate. When it comes to the newborn and toddler stage, time does not equal love. Time equals necessity and basic care. E has struggled most with how much of our day is spent wholly absorbed in J&B’s needs, the general care routine of toddler twins, and/or activities geared towards making them happy (i.e. keeping us sane). It can feel one-sided if you’re using the clock as your measure. Educating your older child that time is spent with the “littles” because you have to, not because you prefer them to your older child, is very helpful in adjusting to Mom and Dad’s busy new feeding/sleeping/pooping routine. Quality, not quantity.
My secret fun with E? We head out for photo shoots regularly. She loves to be in front of the camera, and it’s a great opportunity for us to share some intimate time together, have fun and get some updated images of her growing up. Every time I get a new lens or have a new creative project to try, she’s my willing model. Win all around! Here’s some of our fun together:
How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child’s Cues
Duh, duh, duh….the dreaded meltdown. With one kid, this can bring the strongest mommy to her knees. With multiples, well…the word “epic” takes on a completely new meaning. In the worst possible way.
Moral of the story? A little organization and forethought can go a long way. Considering WHY my kids were throwing tantrums and then exploring what I could do to prevent them before they started has saved me a million tears. Like I said, it’s not a perfect system. But every little bit helps.
How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child’s Cues
Every day I pick up my children from day care to hear “They are such great kids! They had a blast today and are some of the best listeners we’ve ever had. They’re so well-behaved!” Yay, Mama win! And then we go home and they act like total demon-infested, hell-raising psychos and won’t listen to a word I say. Weekends can be brutal and I sometimes find myself praising Jesus that I decided to keep working and not stay-at-home.
sweet kids from day care?
Best Thing I Ever Did: I went to pick the kids up one day and they were enjoying themselves, so I decided to just sit and watch for a bit and let them play. Funny thing happened. I started listening to how the day care teachers communicated with my children and how they responded. And the light bulb went off. I don’t know how to speak the language my kids understand.
I started listening harder. And then I came back the next day and did it again. Now, every time I drop off or pick up, I listen. How are they talking to my kids? What are they saying? How are the kids responding? And then I mimick it at home.
Major win!!! My kids are starting to see an extension of their daily routine back into the home and it’s making sense. I say certain words they’re used to hearing and like magic, they listen. Not every time (which I suspect also happens at day care), but the majority of time. Major improvement. We are starting to speak the same language.
Sometimes I forget (or refuse to admit) that I am not my children’s primary care provider. For those of us that work outside the home, most often our kids spend the majority of their time somewhere other than with us. Sometimes, being reminded of that hurts. A lot. But truth is, they develop routines, cues and references that we’re not familiar with. We need to learn the language they are used to hearing every day so that we can communicate our needs in a way they understand. I need to speak my children’s language.
Phrase Adjustments that Worked for Me:
- “Walk away please” instead of “No!” or “Don’t Touch!”
- “Are you using your listening ears?” instead of “Listen to me!”
- “I’m going to go to work for awhile, but Mommies always come back!” instead of “Say bye to Mommy. I have to go to work.”
11 Alternatives to Self Harm: Emily Speaks
If you’re just connecting with the Emily Speaks series, be sure to check out her first post, Cyber Bullying and Self-Harm, to catch up. Today, Emily will be sharing 11 alternatives to self harm to help those hurting to make healthier choices to cope with emotional struggles.
I know it can be hard not to self-harm if you’re being bullied, but you need to try to think of other ways to deal with the pain. Cutting leaves angry scars on your body. You should try to deal with your hurt in other ways. Here are 11 good examples that will hopefully help you out a little bit.
1. Try talking to somebody about what’s going on so that you can get it out of your system.
2. Go outside where nobody is around and just scream as loud as you can for as long as you want.
3. Take a rubber band and keep it on your wrist so whenever you feel like cutting you can just take that rubber band and snap it on your wrist (softly – not to where it harms you).
4. Get an old teddy bear or stuffed animal that you don’t want and take your anger out on that.
5. Go on a jog or go out and ride your bike or long board or whatever you have and just ride around to calm yourself down.
6. Go hang out with your friend(s) and get your mind off things that would make you want to cut or do anything else to harm yourself.
7. Sleep it out and take a long nap and see how you’re feeling when you wake up.
8. Go hang out with your family and just relax.
9. Listen to some music.
10. Read a book.
11. Get an art journal and draw out your feelings. You can paint, draw pictures, even just scribble hard.
These are some of the ways that I stop myself from cutting, because I do still think about it when things get rough. When that happens, I try to do these instead and it helps. It does! You need to do anything that would take your mind off of any bad thoughts you are having and make you want to hurt yourself. This might not be the best list of ideas, but if you take a chance and try them out, they might end up working for you. You’re not only helping yourself, but you’re helping everyone else around you by making a better choice to not self-harm.