Similar to my post about Thriving With A Toddler, doing the same with multiples requires four important steps:
· Accepting that tiredness, exhaustion, frustration, and relationship strain are going to happen,
· Planning ahead: creating routines and schedules and time to yourself,
· Establishing techniques to manage two or three children who are freaking out, and
· Addressing common challenges with thoughtfulness.
Having multiples can mean having more love, more fun, but also more tears. Here are ten common challenges facing parents of young multiples and what can be done to address those.
Make a plan to reduce physical exhaustion
Plan to be tired (sorry!). When you plan to be tired, you can plan to reduce that. When parents are rested, they can hear their own good wisdom and reduce the compromising state that often increases frustration.
Lowering exhaustion requires being mindful of what zaps your energy and carving out recharging time. Identify your priorities, establishing your important needs. What can you pull out of your schedule? What can you delegate? What can you let go of for now? What negative thinking can you stop? What can you do that is fun? What fuels you?
The time period of raising small children is not the time to start new hobbies, careers or huge projects. I know it can feel stifling to put so much time and focus on the children, leaving your aspirations for the time being, but that is what is necessary right now.
Your time will come! You’ll get your life back when your children are older. Really! This two shall pass!
Connect with others who have multiples. It is so important to know you are not alone nor need to reinvent the wheel. *Please see the resource list at the bottom.
Become a logistics expert
You likely already know that it can be a logistical nightmare to get two or three young children out the door. Succeeding at this requires being part orchestra conductor, part astronaut. Systems are your friend. Here are some suggestions to try:
· Create away spots for everything so you can grab all the items you need quickly.
· Stock up on supplies
· Have separate bags already packed with water, snacks, diapers, spare clothes, and distraction toys and either leave them by the door or in the car if they won’t freeze out there.
· Leave food and water for yourself in your stroller or vehicle, just in case! Replenish that weekly.
Remind yourself that you are raising two or three unique children
Your multiples are individual people—what works for one may not for the other(s). Also, each child might have a differently sized attachment tank so one might be fine with ten minutes of your undivided attention but another might need an hour or more. Consider altering your parenting strategies to meet the needs of each child.
In terms of individuation of them as people, helping your child to feel as one of two or three siblings rather than as “twins” or “triplets” will help grow their positive core beliefs and reduce power struggles. Different car seat colours, clothes, activities, friends, possessions and hairstyles, which they each pick, will help them to feel secure in their own skin.
Supporting each child to feel like an individual does mean recognizing their unique desires, favourites, and what helps them to feel seen, understood and important.
Find one-on-one time with each child
You likely have all your multiples with you most of the time; however, regularly carve out space for each of them to spend time alone with you. This can be done by inviting your partner/ helper or friends and family over to watch the one or two other one(s) while you take turns bringing one with you:
· Take one on errands with you
· Have “date time” with each child—a scheduled time each week where you take turns spending time with each child
· Have a short routine with each child at bedtime or wakeups, if possible
Attempt to meet their needs, but know it may be impossible
It can be very easy to feel guilty or heartbroken when one child is melting down, needs to eat, runs off or has to get to basketball when the other needs something else at the same time. If using hired help, systems or a volunteer isn’t possible, do your best, but please go easy on yourself when one of your children gets the short straw. I bet you feel like there isn’t enough of you to go around.
If that does happen, explain to your child what is happening and invite him/ her to problem solve with you. For example, “Angie is hungry (put up one finger on one hand) and you need a nap-snuggle (put up second finger). There is one of me (one finger on the other hand). What can we do?!” Even if your children are young, they will feel that you are trying and may feel less ripped off.
Continually facilitating the growth of positive core beliefs will sustain your child through the times when one feels he or she isn’t getting enough of you.
Ignore unsolicited advice
If you need to do things a certain way to maintain your sanity, but someone else is giving you the hairy-eyeball about it, as long as it doesn’t involve harm to the child in any way, go for it.
Plan how to handle the sibling fighting
It is really hard to address this BIG topic in one paragraph so I will suggest you make a plan and do some reading to handle sibling fighting, as it will likely be a great source of stress for you.
Firstly, stay calm, secondly, teach your children non-violent anger calm-down plans and communication. I know the books SIBLING WITHOUT RIVALRY and POSITIVE DISCIPLINE, the first three years aren’t specifically written for parents of multiples, but the information is fabulous and can be adapted.
Prepare your children so they learn that things are not always equal
If you give each one a turn pressing the elevator button or count out the same number of Cheerios, explosions may happen if, for example, one’s swimming goggles go missing and it’s time to buy only one replacement pair. “But MOM! SHE’s getting a new pair—why can’t !?!” You, “But you still have yours. You don’t need a new one.” Her, “THAT’S NOT FAIR!!!”
There is a difference between being fair and being equal. “Equal” means treating the kids in exactly the same manner regardless of differences, like having a same bedtime. “Fair” means responding accordingly to the situation, conditions, and differences. An example in that case is letting one who had a longer nap stay up longer than the one who did not.
As much as they can understand, train your children that you will treat them fairly, but perhaps not equally—it will depend on the situation.
Manage the mess tornado
Here are suggestions to calming the clutter storm:
· In addition to having away places for everything, spend fifteen minutes or “three songs” of tidy time with the children at the end of each day.
· Use it or lose it! When something is no longer used/ worn, get rid of it.
· Use labels to identify what items are whose.
· Assign age-appropriate responsibilities
· In the car, have a “what goes in, must come out” policy
Here is a list of resources that were recommended by parents of multiples on my Facebook page:
If you have a favourite multiples resource, please add it in the comments below so they can all be posted in one spot. Thank you!
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