8 Challenges Unique to Twins - and How to Solve Them
Having twins brings its own set of parenting dilemmas. Here's how to navigate the most common twin problems.
Twins are becoming more common in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the twin birth rate rose 76 percent from 1980 through 2009, from 18.9 to 33.3 per 1,000 births. Having two babies at the same time is hard, but the challenges don't end once twins become toddlers. Here are eight common problems you may face while raising twins and what you can do to solve them.
Since twins are the same age, they'll often play with the same toys, take part in the same activities, or even be in the same class. That makes competition unavoidable. To keep competition healthy, be sure to emphasize each twin's strengths and accomplishments, and look for things where they can excel separately. You might say, "Your brother won first place at the science fair, but you really nailed your piano recital!"
- Identity Issues
Your twins are individuals, so try to refer to them by name and not as "the twins." Don't always dress them alike, and if they're identical, give them distinguishable features like different haircuts so people can tell them apart. And even if it's more convenient, don't put them in all of the same extracurricular activities. It's important for twins to explore their own interests and cultivate their own friendships. You might just have to nudge that along.
- Splitting Your Attention
Two children the same age generally need the same level of supervision and attention a nearly impossible task when there is one of you and two of them. To make it easier, plan activities both twins enjoy. If you have younger twins, visit places where they're less likely to get hurt or run off, such as a gated playground or an indoor soft play gym. And remind yourself that it's OK if one twin cries for a few minutes while you tend to the other he'll learn a valuable lesson in patience!
- Birthday Challenges
Once twins reach preschool age, joint birthday gifts and cakes won't cut it anymore. Twins deserve their own presents and cards. A joint party is fine, but serve two smaller cakes and sing "Happy Birthday" to each twin individually. If your twins can't agree on a theme, combine two themes.
- Having a "Dominant Twin"
If one of your twins is assertive and the other is shy, encourage the quiet one to make his voice heard. If you ask, "Where should we go today?" and the assertive twin says, "Let's go to the park," ask the other if that's what she'd like to do. Discourage one twin from answering questions for the other.
- Separation Anxiety
Twins do nearly everything together, so it's natural for them to grow attached. But sometimes, the attachment is so strong that one or both twins can't be without the other. If that happens, it's important to give them regular time away from each other. Maybe one twin can do something special with Mom while the other spends time with Dad, and then they can switch. Twins who are too attached should also be placed in separate classrooms so they can learn to navigate life independently.
- Sharing Possessions
Sharing toys and clothes is a fact of life for twins, especially if they're the same gender. But it's important for twins to have things that are theirs alone. So buy two of certain toys and clearly designate which one belongs to which twin. Also let them pick their own clothes and put their initials on the tags.
- Limiting Labels
People love to label twins "the quiet one" and "the shy one," or "the artsy one" and "the jock." But such labels can be limiting for twins, who may feel they have to stay within their designated roles. Simply allow your twins to be who they want to be at any given moment, and you may find their personalities evolving.
If you're a parent of twins, are there any big challenges that we missed? Leave a comment below and let us know!