From birth onwards, all children need to develop a sense of self. Their relationships with their parents, care givers, siblings and wider family help them to form this. The process is more complex for multiples, but it's just as important for each child to develop a sense of self and individual worth.
Multiples are born with a deep bond that can be a lifelong source of strength and mutual affection. This bond makes twins, triplets and more unique, and it is an important part of each child’s identity.
At the same time, these children will one day need to make separate choices at school, each according to their interests and abilities. They will need to develop their own social skills and friendships, and one day choose paths that lead them on to separate homes, relationships and families. So, while their bond as multiples is central to who they are, there is a balance to be struck in supporting their development as individuals too.
Twins Trust has produced a very useful factsheet called Enhancing Individuality in Multiples including lots of top tips from our members.
Multiples, especially identical twins, can find it hard if they are different in any way to their brother / sisters. It sometimes happens that one child holds themselves back from outperforming a less-able sibling or some non-identical multiples may respond by becoming fiercely competitive.
Sometimes parents are unsure how to respond when one child achieves, above the other(s), and can play this down for fear of the others’ reaction. This may become problematic if one child consistently outshines the other/s.
Feeling favouritism is a fairly common emotion in parents of multiples. Who the ‘preferred’ child is may change depending on the situation or your multiples' developmental period. Accept that this may happen, but try not to dwell on it. Here are a few tips:
- Avoid labelling your children with a particular trait such as ‘the clever one’ or ‘the naughty one’, and ensure others avoid using these labels too.
- Allow children to have individual goals which are realistic for them.
- Be consistent when managing each child’s behaviour.
- Find something in each child to encourage and praise.
- Try and provide time for each child’s interests; give turns to the children for choosing activities.
- Try to give each child the opportunity to spend time apart from their sibling(s).
- Encourage activities that children can do on their own for example drawing, writing and making things.
It is important to remember that twins, triplets and more are individual people. Lots of behaviour issues can come from them wanting to find their own identity and not always wanting to be labelled as the ‘twins’ or the ‘triplets’.
By spending one-to-one time with each of your children you can promote individuality and increase your individual bonding. One-to-one time could be a five minute story or a cuddle using both knees rather than having to share the knees with their siblings.
If you have an older or younger sibling don’t feel you always have to take the singleton alone and the twins together, if you have a partner or help at home take your singleton and one twin to the supermarket for example and next time the other twin on their own
Society automatically labels twins, triplets and more ‘he looks like the cheeky one’ or ‘she is the loud one then’. It is so important not to label your multiples as they may live up to these labels
If you want to learn more please sign up to our Parenting and Behaviour webinar. It is aimed at parents of multiples between the age of 1-8 and looks at common behavioural problems and ways you can handle them. For details and dates please visit the Courses page.
Twins, triplets and more shouldn’t be expected to share cards and presents on their birthday or other special occasions They might prefer separate parties too, it is important to ask them what they would like. Many multiples do share parties at least until they are at school.
You can still make each child feel special by giving them their own cake and singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to each in turn. It is important to let each child invite their own friends and encourage family and friends to give the children separate presents and cards.
Multiples usually learn to cooperate with other children at an earlier stage than many singletons. Parks, parent-and-toddler groups and multiples clubs are all great places to start making friends. If you are able to you could also explore the possibility of playgroup or nursery - apart from giving you a much-needed break it will give the children a chance to socialise with other children.
Twin mum Lucy Playford was wholehearted in supporting her daughters’ individuality.