A parent’s challenge is to respect the multiple-birth bond, but also encourage their children to become happy, healthy individuals. It can be easier to do things within the group and there is certainly much less pressure to socialize multiples, but are we doing them a favour when we constantly see them only or the majority of the time as a part of group? I don’t think so. I also think it is better for the children to be introduced to their separateness while they are still young, the younger the better. In that way, doing somethings without their co-multiple(s) becomes a natural part of their lives and who they are. Here are some ideas on encouraging your multiples to also go it alone:
1. Encourage individual preferences, likes and dislikes amongst the children. This can range from food choices, to book choices, to sport choices, to course choices. Letting them choose their own clothes for the the day can also help them feel comfortable with choices that pertain to each of them individually.
2. Grandparents may take only one for a sleepover. This is so win/win for children, parents and grandparents.
3. Going on an errand? One on one time can be hard to have happen with multiples, so work that time in in the natural flow of things. Take only one child on the errand: to the bank, for groceries, to the drugstore. These little times apart present opportunities for parents to learn about each child’s particular ideas, thoughts, fears, and interests. Helps with bonding as well.
4. Don’t constantly dress them alike. When they look like a package, they will be perceived as a package by everyone.
5. This also goes for rhyming names. We can do our children a huge disservice when we chose their names. We are not always present to protect them as Larry, Harry and Gary need to go it alone sometimes. Don’t help make them a target of ridicule over something they have had no control over even though the names may be a family tradition or because the parent thinks it is “cute.”.
6. Separating their school classrooms can be an obvious choice. They still see each other at lunch and recess but lessons are separate. Stories at the end of the day are individual, with no competition between them.
7. There is another very important reason to help our multiple-birth children also be able to be apart. They arrive in the world together but they most likely will not leave the world together. Giving them tools to learn to be separate from each other may be an important step in helping them deal with the future when their “We” will become “I.” I have worked in multiple-birth bereavement support for nearly 25 years and it breaks my heard to hear from grown-up surviving multiples who cannot accpet or go on without their co-sibling. They are stuck, in unbearable grief and cannot go. Some are also suffering from survivor’s guilt. Of course they will miss this very close person whom they have been together with since the beginning, that is natural. What we don’t want is an inability to move forward, live a good life, and be happy just because their co-multiple has died. A worse case scenario would be if the survivor(s) wished to join their deceased multiple. Giving them some tools to be separate from each other at the beginning of their lives, while still enjoying and celebrating their bond, could be a gift that will present itself many years down the road. You, as the parents, may not be alive to console and hold, so it will be even more important that the survivor(s) be able to work through their grief in a healthy manner. Please remember that your children are individuals and multiples.