Raising Multiples Is A Different Parenting Challenge
By Kerry Martin
The twin relationship has been touted as one of the most unusual and intimate of human bonds. Although I am not raising multiples, I am an identical twin. My brother not only has identical twin sisters but his mother-in-law is also an identical twin. Oh, and his daughters are identical twins, too!
Identical or not, multiples share a bond no single human being can understand. Raising multiples or growing up as the sibling of multiples is fun but can be challenging.
In her book Raising Twins: From Pregnancy to Preschool from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Shelly Vaziri Flais, MD, FAAP writes, “Whenever I meet someone who happened to grow up as a twin, I always ask if there was anything he would have preferred his parents to have done differently. Most of the time the response I hear is some variation on a similar theme: I wish our parents didn’t…‘give us the same thing for our birthday,’ ‘dress us in identical outfits,’ ‘expect us to share everything.’”
Treating multiples as individuals, which they are, is important. Reading separate bedtime stories, creating opportunities for personal space that they don’t have to share and giving distinctive gifts on holidays and birthdays are some of Vaziri Flais’ suggestions for emphasizing multiples’ individuality.
As important as it is to encourage multiples as individuals, it’s equally important to encourage single siblings to find their role within the family. It’s not always easy to be the sibling to multiples. Singles may compete or choose not to and simply withdraw.
Christina Baglivi Tinglof of “Talk About Twins” blog and author of three books on parenting twins, reminds parents to focus on the whole family, not just the twins, tune into your singleton’s feelings, intervene in public when attention is drawn to the multiples, intervene at family gatherings when family members take too much pride in their multiple relatives, create one-on-one time for the single sibling, and foster relationships between each multiple and his or her single-born siblings.
All kids are blessings. Understanding them and encouraging their individuality, whether multiples or singles, is the most important thing we can do as parents, relatives and mentors.
Kerry Martin is the Office Coordinator at Youth Resources.