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Archive for the ‘encouraging individuality’ Category

I have been supporting and writing resources for bereaved parents, grandparents and surviving multiples for over 32 years and a few thoughts come to mind for the latter, i.e. surviving co-multiples (SC). SC, even when they lose their co-multiple in utero, at birth, shortly thereafter or in early childhood, can grieve enormously for their special womb mate(s). Survivors who have had their co-multiple for years and decades before he or she dies, find it extremely hard to go from “We” to “I.” One man stopped shaving when his MZ twin died, because he could not bear looking in the mirror. It is not uncommon for a survivor to want to die, kill themselves, and join their co-multiple.
 
I have thought long and hard about to better prepare, if it is at all possible, the SC for when the time came when they must be alone. Of course there will be difficult days, unbearable grief, fear, loneliness, emptiness, feeling incomplete and so much more. But what if parents did better at the beginning of their multiples’ lives? By better, I mean teaching and encouraging their multiples to not only enjoy their multiple relationship but also be comfortable with being alone and separated from time to time from their co-multiple? Some ideas I have in mind are quite a few “DON’Ts”:
 
-DON’T give them rhyming names, or names which begin with the same letter as this presents them as a package;
-DON’T call them “the twins” or “the triplets” which also presents them as a group and there is no individuality in these labels, nor is their gender known;
-DON’T continually dress them alike. Once again, it presents them as a group and it can impossible to recognize the individual;
-DON’T always take them out only together. Split them up from time to time for errands, groceries, doctor appointments, sleep overs at grandparents and so much more. This helps them be apart, yet they can enjoy each other’s company upon their return. Parents also get one-on-one time;
-DON’T keep doing their hair alike. Let each individual personality shine through;
-DON’T insist they only sleep together or in the same room. Give them each their own space. Room in your house may be a challenge but there are ways to “divide” a room so that each area can reflect the personality of the occupant.
-DON’T insist they be in the same classroom because they are multiples. When possible, let them develop without them always being under their co-multiple’s eye.
-DON’T dress them alike each day for school. This is not only hard on teachers having to use their names and correctly tell them apart, but it is confusing for peers too. Not everyone appreciates your children dressed alike.
-DON’T insist that each be invited to the same parties. This can cause problems for any multiple not originally invited. Allow each to branch out, have their own friends and then do something special with the one not invited.
-DON’T force them to be in the same sports or after school activities. Allow each to shine on their own merits.  Yes it means you drive to only one place, but it also can negatively effect your multiples over the long run.
 
No studies have been put in place to see if any of these ideas would help support SC get through their loss experience later in life, but I wonder if it would be worth a try to see if encouraging and supporting individuality within our multiples would help over the long run. We CANNOT get caught up at the front end of our children’s lives with items that “make parents happy (such as dressing them alike all the time or giving them rhyming names),” when at the end of their lives they will need to face their permanent separation with no tools in their toolbox to cope. There is a good chance that we may not be around to help our survivor cope with the magnitude of their loss so it stands to reason that parents need to look at outfitting their multiples from birth for the time when they will eventually have to stand alone. Based on this, can we not consider some of the above, and maybe other DON’Ts as well, in order to ensure that our survivors have the best chance possible of not choosing the idea of killing themselves in order to be with their co-multiple???
 
For more in depth information on Survivors of Multiple Births, please see my Web Site at http://www.jumelle.ca
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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.

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