Whether identical or fraternal: twins present parents with very special challenges when it comes to parenting. Finding a balance between individuality and unity is just one of them.
"Congratulations, you are having twins!"For many parents-to-be, this announcement comes as a bit of a shock at first, because after all, you don’t usually expect two little people to grow up in mommy’s tummy at the same time. Yet the number of multiple births in Germany has continued to rise in recent years – also because of the increasing number of artificial inseminations. According to the Federal Statistical Office, every 29. child was a multiple child. 20 years ago only about every 42. child was born with one or more siblings. Twins make up the majority of multiple births (98 percent).
Having twins: double happiness or double stress?
Before the birth of a child, parents ask themselves a thousand questions about what will change in the family after the child is born – for parents of twins, there are even a few more: Does each sibling need their own room or is one enough? Should both go to the same or different kindergartens? Do we get special support and help with twins? And how can we ever manage to do justice to both equally??
We spoke with multiple birth expert Inga Sarrazin of Maternita. As a mother of twin girls herself, she knows exactly what challenges twin children present to their parents – and how they differ from siblings of different ages. "There is a different kind of rivalry between siblings and multiples, and so the challenges for parents are different. Twins usually have a similar stage of development, similar interests and motor skills – but above all similar needs. In principle, there is always a rival from birth against whom one must more or less assert oneself. Rarely does a child get full attention all to themselves."This naturally leads to early quarrels about toys and the attention of the parents.
Do we have to buy everything twice now?
No, not at all! Twins have to learn to share earlier in their development than other siblings and to be patient for a moment until it is their turn to play with a certain toy. "In addition to the common things that belong to both, the twins should also have their own toys, their own cuddly toys and clearly assigned clothes (preferably with name labels)," advises Inga Sarrazin. The fact that these things only belong to one child should be clearly communicated.
Encourage individuality in twins
Because twins are always together from birth, many parents are inclined to think of both children as a single unit and treat them accordingly, Inga Sarrazin knows. Therefore, she advises parents: "It can help to be aware of the individuality of the children again and again and, above all, to observe oneself and one’s children. For one thing, you should observe the children each on their own: How do they behave? What is the distribution of roles?? Is one more dominant? The other more quietly?"In this case, care should be taken to give the reticent twin the opportunity to be in the foreground for once, for example, by addressing it first.
However, parents should not only observe the children’s behavior, but also their own: "It is important to address the child directly and make eye contact. This is a first and easy step towards giving each child the feeling of being personally noticed." If parents want to promote the individuality of their children, sentences like "Well, you two?" or "Twins, come over here!" is better avoided, according to Inga Sarrazin’s advice.
Appreciate advantages of being a twin
Besides all the support for the twins’ individual development, parents should nevertheless not lose sight of the wonderful advantages of having twins. The lifelong relationship between twins is often even closer than that between other siblings. In the first years of life, they spend so much time together that they develop an intimate bond with each other. According to studies, this closeness – especially with identical twins – becomes just as intense later in life as it was in childhood.
"From the beginning, there is another reference person besides the parents, who experiences you in different situations and can usually assess you well. This is a precious good, which parents should also appreciate, promote and not destroy because of their parenting style." Inga Sarrazin recommends that parents find a healthy balance between unity and individuality in their upbringing. As is often the case, there is no one right way for all parents. Rather, attention should be paid to what is good for the children in their twin constellation.
The right childcare for twins
Sooner or later, even for parents of twins, the question of suitable childcare support arises, for example when both partners want to return to work after parental leave. But this often turns out to be more difficult than finding care for a child.
Young babysitters in particular, who do not yet have children of their own, often do not trust themselves to take care of twins without help. Inga Sarrazin has also made this experience. "In principle, more experienced mothers or even grandmothers are willing to take on this task," she recalls. An experienced daycare provider or nanny who already has experience caring for multiples may be a better option here.
Parental leave: special features for parents of twins
Parents of multiples are also entitled to three years of parental leave for each child until the child reaches the age of three. A special feature is that parents of multiples are allowed to take twelve months’ parental leave per child at a later date, namely until the children are eight years old. This means that they can take an additional year of parental leave for each child and are thus entitled to a total of five years of parental leave. However, your employer must agree! Therefore, seek early the conversation with your boss.
About the person Inga Sarrazin
Inga Sarrazin is a mom of twin daughters and co-founder of Maternita, a pregnancy concierge and baby planner service. At Maternita, as a neutral and independent consultant, she looks after women during pregnancy and the first time with the baby and supports them in structuring organizational aspects so that there is more time for anticipation. She also moderates the NetMoms expert forum on the topic of multiples, where she provides mothers with advice and support on all matters relating to multiples.
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