Tips for Parents of Preschool-Age Twins
Raising twins is hard. It’s an amazing journey but it’s not easy. The newborn stage feels like a blur now. I just remember being so tired that I understood why they use sleep deprivation as a torture tool. My poor husband walked through a glass window at work as he was so spaced out!
I recently re-read the chapter ‘The Preschool Years’ in the book Emotionally Healthy Twins by Joan A. Friedman, Ph.D. It’s a really insightful book and one that all twin parents must read! Parents of twins are usually so overwhelmed during their first few years of their children’s lives that the preschool years seem like a welcome respite. They easily become each other’s playmates, which can be helpful to stressed-out parents, who desperately need a little time to themselves.
But is there such thing as too much togetherness?
While parents of singletons must become their child’s social secretary, scheduling playdates and classes in order to ensure their child has time around other kids, parents of twins consider themselves lucky to be freed from making such arrangements. The twins have each other. But is there a thing as too much togetherness at this stage in your children’s development? It may not occur to you they might be missing an important part of their social and emotional education by not have the experiences that singletons have.
When they cling to the safety net of their automatic friendship with their twin, many children have difficulty forming relationships and making friends outside their family. A healthy twinship evolves when each sibling goes through the process of developing an individuated self. Parents need to encourage this process by spending alone time with each child and providing each twin with enough opportunities to be separate from the other.
The Importance of being their own person
At the preschool age, young children begin to become their own advocate, making choices about what they want and statements about how they feel. While challenging for parents, children are supposed to do this at this age. They challenge their parents in order to test the boundaries between what they desire and what parents will allow. At this stage in the lives of your twins, each child needs you to recognize their separate sense of self.
What to wear…a seemingly simple issue, is cause for some typical parent-preschooler power plays. To help avoid those meltdowns, offer each child a choice of two shirts, two jackets, two shoes etc. This honors the need of each for self assertion and control without instigating a battle over dressing.
Should you teach your twins not to share?
According to clinical psychologist Barbara Shave Klein, twins are inherently predisposed to sharing from the time of conception. So one of our responsibilities as parents, is to help our preschool-age twins realize that they don’t have to share everything with their same-age sibling. Since twins are called unto to share everything from their toys to their parents’ attention, it is important for twins to learn not to share all the time. Feeling entitled to what is theirs and theirs alone helps children gain a sense of their individual place in the world. With this in mind, make sure they have their own personal items, just like singleton siblings, such as different clothes and some toys.
Not being required to share everything with their same-age sibling doesn’t mean that your twins don’t need to share with other children when they’re at preschool or on a playdate. Learning to share with other kids is one of the key lessons of preschool socializing, and chances are your twins will find this easier than many of their singleton classmates.
Separate and Fun: Playdates and Activities
Taking turns engaging in separate activities is a great way to make sure that both children have a chance to explore something they enjoy doing. It’s important for each twin to experience being on their own as they try something new, meet new people and have new adventures.
Separate play dates are a great way to introduce the idea of being apart. Preschool age is a time when children want to get together to play with one special friend. The whole idea is so that your twins won’t have to share a friend. Instead, they’ll learn more about themselves and other kids.
A birthday Party of Their Own
Can you imaging always having to share your birthday? A birthday party, after all, is about celebrating a person’s life; for a small child, it’s about being the star for one day-having all the attention turned toward you and enjoying all your favorite things. As a twin, you have to share the cake, the party theme and the same presents. It’s as if they are being penalized for being a twin because they can’t enjoy the normal surprises and special feelings birthday girls and boys feel.
When my girls turn four and start Pre-School (in September), they will go into separate classrooms. This will make it easier to do individual birthdays as they will have separate friends to invite.
Adjusting to Preschool on One’s Own
A child’s first real test of coping with separating from their parents is their successful transition into preschool. For twins who have always played together and had little experience socializing on their own with other children, there is an important adjustment: separating from one’s twin. Enrolling each child in a separate pre-school class ensures a very positive step forward toward self-assurance and social maturity.
Waiting One’s Turn
In an effort to be fair, you promise each twin that he’ll have a turn, and then you end up feeling badly when one twin gets upset because it isn’t his turn this time. You’re tempted to give his turn to him then and there, thus depriving the other twin of his separate activity. In a word, don’t. It’s perfectly fine to be empathetic toward one child who’s feeling left out; it’s not appropriate for you to feel guilty and cave in. Your lack of parental backbone can contribute to your children’s inability to respect you as the dependable authority figure. Young children, as well as older kids, need their parents to be consistent in adhering to rules. Otherwise, they feel lost and insecure because there is no one they can count on to control their impulsive behavior.
There is a healthier way to deal with the disappointed twin who feels left out when he has to wait his turn. Compassionately assure your child that if he waits (until later in the day or tomorrow, for instance) and is respectful of his brother’s turn, he will have his own time to enjoy what he wants without having to share the time with his brother.
This is the age of learning to tolerate frustration and control one’s disappointment, and it’s not an easy lesson, which is why teaching impulse control, as well as modeling appropriate social behavior, is an important parental responsibility. When a young child learns that he can’t have exactly what he wants at precisely the moment he wants it, he’ll be well on his way toward becoming a big kid!
Why is alone time so important?
Alone time with each child is particularly important as it can contribute to your child’s language development. Research suggest that some twins develop language skills more slowly because they often spend less time alone with their parents and fewer words are spoken to each child. Young children need their parents to focus repetitively on individual words in order to reinforce their meaning and pronunciation.
Remind yourself not to compare
There are so many developmental milestones to be reached during the preschool years that parents are understandably concerned about their children’s arriving at each to them ‘on time’. It’s important to remember that they will proceed along different timetables as they strive to master their preschool skills! You will always be tempted to compare their strengths and struggles, but it’s best to see their developmental differences as a blessing because they help you acknowledge that each twin is unique.
If you want to read about all of this information in more depth, please pick up a copy of Emotionally Healthy Twins by Joan A. Friedman. xx