Parents with new babies are always sure to attract attention when they go out in public, and when that stroller holds two, three or four babies, that attention is… well, multiplied! “Are they twins?” “How do you find time for yourself when you have triplets?” “Your quads are adorable!” Friends and strangers alike usually can’t help but refer to your babies as a package deal (“the twins” or “the triplets”). So how do you make sure your children grow up feeling unique and valued as individuals while still embracing their lifelong special bond?
Recognize their differences
“First of all, I would recommend never referring to your twins as ‘the twins,’” says Amy Theodor, clinical counselor at St. Benedict the Moor Catholic School and mother of four month-old twins. “I like to refer to them as ‘twin-dividuals.’ Nurture their special bond, but praise their unique characteristics and differences too. Those differences will emerge naturally and it’s important to acknowledge them.”
Dayton mom Leslie Williams agrees. Williams has twin girls who are 16 years-old and says, “We let them know early on that they were not competing against each other. We told them to find their own purpose and go for it. People don’t even realize the girls are identical twins because one has really short hair and the other has dreadlocks!”
Rhonda Mercs, another Dayton mom of teenage twin girls, says that while she and her family talk about their girls’ special bond, she agrees that parents should help their multiples develop a sense of individuality. “We dressed the girls differently and even got them each their own birthday cake.”
Indeed, as author Joan Friedman, PhD of Emotionally Healthy Twins: A New Philosophy for Parenting Two Unique Children and The Same but Different: How Twins Can Live, Love and Learn to Be Individuals says, “Twins who aren’t encouraged to develop their own sense of self often feel guilty, frustrated, disappointed or confused when trying to go about their daily lives as adults.” Friedman is also an identical twin and mother of five, including fraternal twin boys. She suggests parents try another tip of buying a single stroller so that each child can be taken out separately to spend one-on-one time with parents and grandparents. Also, if possible, allowing each child to have his/her own room, or at least an area that is just for them, lets multiples have some alone time to develop their own sense of identity.
Appreciate their special bond
That’s not to say that multiples shouldn’t celebrate their one-of-a kind relationship. When Dayton Parent Facebook readers were recently asked about their experiences raising multiples, dozens of readers chimed in. Natasha L. writes, “Our 8 year-old identical boys are nearly identical in personality, too. We make sure to spend individual time with them, taking each to his favorite restaurant and place to hang out by themselves. Honestly though, they always want to hang together and do a lot of the same things. Most of the time, whichever one we are out with will wish his brother was there to share the experience.”
Twin Kaylynn D. wrote that she and her sister are extremely different in their personalities, but says, “We’re opposites but I like to think that makes us a good team.”
Having a twin or triplet really is a special kind of sibling relationship. Who else can say they have been with you from the very beginning? Encourage your multiples to appreciate what makes their connection such a unique bond.
Learn from other parents
Raising multiples can be daunting, but thankfully there are resources available. In addition to providing support to parents of multiples, The Dayton Mothers of Twins Club hosts many special events and twice-a-year clothing and equipment sales.
Another opportunity to share common experiences and celebrate your multiples is at The Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. Twins Days is the largest annual gathering of twins and other multiples in the world and takes place the first full weekend of August.
Whether your baby arrives on his own, or with a sibling or two in tow, each child deserves to develop his own interests, talents and unique way of looking at the world. Enjoy your front row seat as you watch their journey unfold!