The experience of raising multiples isn’t really more complicated than raising a single child, but it can be misunderstood. First-time parents of multiples have lots of questions, and it’s rare that they have time to find the answers. Even if you haven’t found yourself totally confused in the face of the future for twinhood or triplethood, there are still some things that you should know about your babies’ future relationships.
The relationships your children will have with one another is one of the most awesome things about having multiples. But it’s also important that each baby is aware of his or her own identity, and that they each have a strong sense of self-reliance.
What are some common misconceptions about multiples’ dynamics?
People are fascinated by twins and multiples. And you can expect yours to get a lot of attention through childhood – and beyond! But this can also be problematic because lots of people have assumptions about multiples that aren’t always correct. Here are some examples of the things that people might think.
- False: Multiples develop at the same rate, and it’s bad if one is ahead of the other(s). The reality is that all children develop at their own rate, and multiples can develop at different rates from each other, just like any other set of siblings.
- False: Multiples hate being apart, and are only ‘whole’ when they’re together. Whether they are separate or together, all multiples are unique individuals who need time apart to explore their own interests and grow.
- False: Multiples are each other’s best friends and it’s essential that they get along at all times. Many siblings might be each other’s best friends but this isn’t guaranteed, and they’re allowed to argue or compete as much as any other siblings. Why should multiples be expected to work out their problems better than other kids their age? Relationships also change and develop as children get older, so the way they act with each other today could have nothing to do with how they relate to each other as adults.
What’s the caregiver’s role?
Multiples can have very close bonds. This can make it easy to assume that some of the common myths about multiples are true. But it’s really important for parents to encourage their children to develop separate interests and friends, instead of reinforcing the beliefs above.
Here are some things to take into consideration when you decide how to interact with your multiples, and how to guide them in interacting with each other.
- Respect and encourage their individual interests: One of your multiples might want to play basketball, while another might prefer to play an instrument. You want to make sure that you’re letting them do separate things with their free time, if they want to, and even encouraging their separate interests. This way they can figure out what they like, and spend more time doing it!
- Have consistent periods of one-on-one time with each child: Just like siblings who are five years apart, your multiples want attention and validation from you and their other caregivers. Establishing alone time with each one reinforces that you see them as separate individuals.
- Don’t compare them to one another: In the future, it will be easy to wonder if one child has more friends, or to worry when one does worse in a class. But it’s unfair to hold them to the same standards as each other, and this could actually end up making them competitive with each other. As they continue to develop and mature, take the time to appreciate their differences, not to worry about them for not meeting the same milestones at the same time.
- Don’t assume they are two halves of a whole: This applies more to twins than to multiples, but some parents find it all-too-easy to assume that twins complete each other – for example, if one is quiet, one is loud; if one is mischievous, the other behaves. Try your best to understand that dynamics like these aren’t fixed, and that treating them as if they are can leave young multiples feeling boxed-in by these kinds of characterizations.
- Be careful about how you refer to them: Right now, they love having each other close. But in the upcoming years, some multiples start to resent being referred to as a single unit – ‘the twins,’ or ‘the triplets,’ so try to be sensitive to how they might perceive these kinds of group identifications.
- Try to be diplomatic and understanding during fights: Constant fighting among siblings will test any parent’s patience, but there’s a lot of pressure on multiples to be close, best friends, ‘partners in crime,’ or just generally alike. Sometimes disputes are necessary and actually helpful. So whether it’s one against one, two against one, or even two against two, try not to get frustrated and just offer them all your support.
The best things about multiples’ dynamics
None of this information should scare you about parenting your multiples. Your babies will share a connection that is unrivaled in any other part of their lives. They will share countless moments of laughter, amusement, and understanding, as well as incredible fun with and enjoyment of each other. They will be important parts of each other’s lives, and their relationship with each other will help define the rest of the relationships they form over the course of their lives. So really, it’s impossible to list all the good things about your multiples’ future dynamics.
There are many widespread beliefs about multiples that actually aren’t true. And it turns out many people don’t quite have an accurate picture of what their dynamics are really like. But don’t worry – regardless of all the confusion out there, if there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that you’ll do an amazing job raising them.