When I found myself pregnant with twins, I worried a lot about my five-year-old son. For most of his life, I had been his sole parent; then, in a matter of a year, he found himself in a new family with a new dad, brother and sister--and twins on the way. Though he loved having other kids around and had adjusted pretty well to the new family life, I was concerned that he would resent two new babies taking his place as the youngest in the family.
It wasn't until the babies were a month old and things settled down a bit that I had time to notice my older son was having a lot of problems. He constantly got into trouble at preschool, having tantrums and angry outbursts at both other children and the teachers. Always an active child, he went into overdrive, becoming totally incapable of sitting still during circle time, and spending much of his day in time outs or individual play, away from the other children.
Instead of being supportive, my son's teacher often met me at the door with a litany of my son's "sins of the day"; these soon were repeated by other children in the class. It became apparent that I would have to pull him out of preschool, because no one there was interested in helping me address my son's emotional issues in a positive way.
At home, he became defiant towards me and my husband, and it seemed like he tried to make every situation as difficult as possible. Around the babies, however, he was wonderfully tender. He asked if he could hold them, enjoyed entertaining them, and talked about all the things he would do with them when they got older. Though I was pretty sure the root of his anger lay in the fact that these new little guys had showed up, he was smart enough to know it wasn't their fault--it was Mommy's!
I began taking my son to a therapist, and then had his IQ tested. We've found out some things we really already knew--he's very smart, persistent, and likes to push the limits. With the help of his therapist, though, he is learning how to express his emotions more clearly. We've had good talks about how the babies have changed our lives, and how we can work on doing more together. I've started using techniques detailed in this marvelous book, 1-2-3 Magic!, and also instituted a "poker chip" system of rewards for good behavior. Recently he enrolled in Tae Kwon Do, and so far it seems to really be helping him learn to focus, as well as providing him with an outlet for all of that energy.
Adding twins to a family creates shockwaves through all of the relationships in the family. However, I think it can be hardest on children who are too young to process their emotions, negative and positive, and express them in productive ways. As parents and caregivers, we need to listen to an older sibling's actions and words, and allow them to express both negative and positive feelings. We need to help them redefine their place in the family, using whatever means necessary to let them know that they are loved and valued just as much as these new little bundles of joy.