These days it’s more common to have twins because of increased use of IVF and women having children at a later age. Teachers, coaches, families, and friends spend more time around multiples now, but may be unsure of how to deal with the unique situations that may arise with siblings the same age. Although these tips are geared for families with multiples, they may also be useful in parenting siblings of different ages.
- Encourage others to call your twins by names not ‘the twins.” If they are identical, teach the kids to politely correct people if they mix them up or tell others that it’s okay to ask who is who.
- Develop “one on one” time. As the kids get older, find time to spend with one kid apart from their sibling so you can bond with each twin individually and they get time to develop their independence and an opportunity to express themselves uninterrupted. Whether it’s an hour at home reading or an all day outing for lunch and a trip to the park – make it special by giving it a name (we call it “one on one” time), planning your outing with your child, and marking it on the calendar.
- Birthday Parties. Important for each child to feel special and not always lumped as a group. Have two cakes or at least give each child a chance to be sung to. We encourage separate cards but try to avoid gift overload. When my boys were younger we opted for no gifts from friends or politely suggested what the kids need/want. As they have gotten older we invite people to donate to a group gift certificate.
- Teach twins respect for individual space. If someone does not want to share or wants time alone, that’s okay. Although they may share toys, books and even a room, give each child their own space in their room, toys and books. Teach each child to ask first before using the other one’s book, toy or bedroom area.
- Allow each child time to talk. Even if stories are repeated, allow each child a turn to share their day, along with the good and bad parts of it. This validates their experiences as their own and allows each child to express their own feelings about what has happened to them (whether they are together or apart). We always end the day by asking each “What was your favorite part of the your day?”
- Same/Separate classes at school. Because my boys are identical, I wanted to make sure they were treated as individuals – I went against school policy and split them up in kindergarten. Each school has their own policy and you may have your preferences. We have since let the teachers decide which teacher is best for each child. Sometimes that has meant same or separate classrooms.
- Handling the competition. In our house it’s not always about wanting to be better than their sibling but wanting everything to be equal. We are still working on this one. We try to reinforce the message to our children that things balance out over time – you cannot measure cookie crumbs or what happens on a “one on one” day. If our boys want to continue to select/receive things that matter to them even when their sibling is not around (and may not have the same experience/treat/activity as their sibling), they should not complain but enjoy their time/treat/activity.