The Joys and Challenges of Raising Twins

By Ginsberg, Susan | Work & Family Life, November 2014 | Go to article overview

The Joys and Challenges of Raising Twins


Ginsberg, Susan, Work & Family Life


Over the last 20 years, the rate of multiple births has risen dramatically all over the world. These days twins are everywhere. Even so, people are still fascinated by them.

Here's how things have changed. We are now the parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins and grandparents of twins. More kids grow up with twins as friends, and more grownups have colleagues or friends who have twins. More coaches have twins on their teams, more teachers have at least one set of twins in their class and, of course, more and more kids are themselves a twin.

Beyond the immediate challenges of feeding two babies at once and which stroller to buy, the parents of twins have larger issues to think about: How do you help an older sibling accept new twins? Should twins be in the same class together? How can you help twins become individuals while still supporting their twin bond? Can you love twins equally but not the same?

We'll respond to some of these questions by drawing on the experience of twins themselves, parents with twins, and professionals who have studied families with twins.

getting to know two babies

Many parents express concern that they're not able to give enough time to each twin to develop that all-important bond between them and their child. Bonding takes time, and with twins it takes a little longer. After all, you are reacting to two infants who may have different temperaments and ways of relating to you. You might get frustrated-for example, if one is a fussy eater and the other is not.

As the new parents of twins, this is the time to take advantage of any and all offers of help from family members and friends. People can help with cooking meals, doing shopping or laundry, bringing you material from work, or taking an older child to a movie.

helping siblings adjust

Since twins, either identical or fraternal, demand a lot of attention from their parents and attract attention from friends and strangers as well, it's easy for siblings to feel left out. How older kids react to new twin sisters or brothers depends a lot on their age and whether they feel threatened by the babies. Toddlers and preschoolers are more likely to compete for parents' attention. But whatever their age, the parents of twins need to make sure that siblings share the spotlight.

For example, if a stranger in a store is gushing over your twins, draw attention to the other child at your side. Say something like how helpful she was in teaching the twins to be kind to your family's dog or how he helps you make dinner.

In her book Twin Sense, Dagmar Scaslise advises parents to include siblings in new family routines. Let them hand you towels when you're giving the twins a bath. Ask them to pick out books to read to the babies and choose toys for the twins' room.

Just don't force a "big sister" or "big brother" role, she says. Children like to "feel older," but they don't always feel protective or want to "be nice." Expect some regression and allow for it.

Declare some of the older child's things "off limits" to the twins: a blanket, a few toys or even a spot on the sofa at a certain time of day. Set aside 10-15 minutes daily to be alone with your older child, unrelated to a goal such as getting ready for a bath or doing something for the babies.

Equal but not the same

It's a myth that parents love twins exactly the same. In fact, they see and respond to each child as an individual, just as with any siblings.

"As long as you are treating each twin fairly, appreciating each twin and valuing the unique gifts each brings to the family, then you are loving your twins in the best way you can," says Eileen M. Pearlman, PhD, coauthor of Raising Twins.

Spending time with each twin is the best way to discover his or her unique personality. And this gets easier as children get older. In her book Emotionally Healthy Twins, Joan Friedman, PhD advises parents to give each child some exclusive attention. …

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