Dear Dr. Robyn,
I just found out that my sister is having twins! We’re all curious about what’s in store for all of us. What are the challenges of having twins?
–Christine, Danbury, CT
Having a child is a joy! Is having twins double the joy?
First, congratulations on the great news! Everyone over here in the Powerful Words family is excited for your family!
There’s been a steep increase in multiple births over the last few decades.
- In the US, between 1980 and 2000, there was a 74% increase in twin births.
- The National Center for Health Statistics reported that the US birth rate for multiples rose 28% between 1990 and 1998 to 29 births per 1000.
- The rate rose still more to 32 births per 1000 in 2004.
- According to the CDC, in 2004, the number of twins was 132,219
- Some factors that can increase chances of twins: Fertility drugs, number of times pregnant, maternal family history, race.
The Challenges…and the Solutions
Yes! Twins are double the joy! But…be ready for…that’s right…double the challenge! Caring for them and raising them is not an easy feat. Here are some insights from interviewing a clan with seven sets of twins and a set of triplets:
- The challenge: Most of the time, as accurate as a computer program, the babies would wake up one after the other, wanting to be fed.
- The solution: If you can and choose to breastfeed, always have a bottle filled with Mom’s milk ready. Mom’s milk output can be increased by pumping frequently – at least six to eight times a day – and breast massage (Hill, et al, 1999; Jones, & Spencer 2000). Make sure that you also take ample amounts of water and juice during the day. Expressed milk can be refrigerated, and warmed to body temperature when the babies are hungry already.
- The challenge: Giving enough attention to one child is a task already, giving sufficient time to twins, and equal attention at that, can be daunting.
- The solution: While Mom is attending to one child, try talking to or touching the other one. Involve the other child in attending to the child in need, and make it appear like Team Work between the three of you.
(3) Seemingly Unending Chores
- The challenge: More kids, more chores to be done, and they never seem to end.
- The solution: First, if you can, get some help. Parents need to work as a team in order to get chores done. Second, Prioritize from 1 to 10 and let go of 2 to 9. The world will not come to an end if the plants are not watered, or the laundry was not done for the day. Be kind to yourself. If you’re not, who will be?
(4) The Bonding Between Twins
- The challenge: As the twins get older, their bonding becomes stronger. Parents might initially feel that they’re developing their own language or communication style, and other members of the family might feel left out.
- The solution: Watch in wonder at how these beautiful individuals create their unique bond and that you have the honor of being a part of their lives. Even though their closeness is more than that which develops among siblings, the twins need this stage to develop their unique personalities, and to be able to compliment each other, too. This special bond is a gift! Of course, the twins can spend some time apart—but you must start this process early or it can backfire. Starting early ensures that they understand the practice as commonplace. In this case, these special dates allow each to bond with family members one on one.
(5) Clothing Preference
- The Challenge: Parents have the tendency to dress their twins the same or in complementary styles. There will come a time when they will insist on wearing different clothes.
- The solution: When the twins show signs of clothing preference, do not take this as a sign of rebellion. Allow them to express their individuality and let them choose for themselves. Praise them for their choices. Of course, there’s nothing wrong if they choose to wear the same clothes again.
(6) Conflicts in Play
- The challenge: When engaging in play, conflicts may arise and the tendency for the blame game begins.
- The solution: When this happens, take this as an opportunity for language and character development: Let them take turns in narrating and recalling events that happened. Allow both of them to express themselves fully. Be calm and be patient. You’re not there to resolve the conflict for them; your role is to help them find their words to help them resolve their own conflict.
(7) Limited Social Life
- The challenge: Twins may have the tendency to limit their “social life” to each other since they have been together since conception.
- The solution: When parents notice this, be sure to take them to the park, playground or a children’s party where they can meet other children and play with them. The community day care will be ideal as this gives them the opportunity to socialize with both adults and children of various ages. Again, get them accustomed to sometimes going separate places so that they can build up their unique friends, interests and personalities just like singletons.
(8 ) School Life
- The challenge: Some twins in the same class may experience being compared and pushed to compete with each other.
- The solution: This is a touchy and sensitive subject for parents of multiples. Should you separate the twins? For ultra competitive twins, it may be best to talk to the school administration about having them in different classes to avoid comparison and competition. This will allow them to form their own social circle, let them develop their individuality, and excel at their own pace. This particular issue is worth a lot of discussion since no sets of twins are alike and there is no one answer about whether they should or should not be separated in Kindergarten.
Indeed, life with twins will make you see double – double joy, double smiles, double laundry, double trouble…but at the end of the day, all that matters is that you have double the love and joy of two beautiful children.