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Multiples in School

To separate them or not? Parent Tips.

 

A concern of raising multiple-birth children is whether or not they should be together in the same class or separated and which would benefit each child’s personal development.  In some schools there may or may not be enough classes of the same grade to facilitate each child being in separate classes so the decision is moot.  Also some school systems have the blanket rule that all multiples must be separated.  In order to assist you in making the decision regarding placing your children, the following offers consideration for both separating the children and leaving them together.

Pros to Separation

Although there is no substantial evidence to support the policy that multiples must be placed in separate classrooms in order for them to grow and develop as individuals, there are some circumstances which would indicate that separation is advisable.  Here are some examples when separation may be in the best interests of each child:

  • constant “togetherness” is hindering the development of social skills in one or more;
  • a “division of labour” exists;
  • insensitive comparisons by teachers or peers have led to feelings of inadequacy in one or more of the multiples, “your brother can do his math, why can’t you?”;
  • the multiples form a “power unit” which is causing disruptive behaviour, won’t stay in their seats, throw objects at each other, constantly talking to each other;
  • the kids use their status to exploit, cheat or play tricks, e.g. bullying, exchange places, blame their sibling or others;
  • one or more of the multiples appears to resent the lack of privacy resulting from sharing a classroom “She won’t leave me alone,” sullenness on the part of one;
  • one multiple proves to be a constant distraction to the other;
  • in opposite-sex multiples, the female (usually) is overprotective or “mothering” of the male co-multiple;
  • in skill-grouped classrooms where the abilities of one multiple are far above those of his co-multiple; and
  • the multiples WANT to be separated.

Evaluations/observations of multiples’ behaviour and development need to be regularly as well as annually monitored as issues can be evident in one year and absent the next.

Cons to Separation

Sometimes there are valid reasons for keeping multiples together:

  • major emotional upheavals may have occurred within the family, e.g. death, divorce, moving house, illnesses, etc and the presence of their co-multiple can be a calming factor;
  • only one classroom is available;
  • unequal education due to two different teachers employing different teaching methods and each multiple’s learning abilities; and
  • multiples are at or near the same skill level in a skill-based classroom.

Recommendations regarding school placement:

  1. It is not recommended to separate multiples who want to be together. Forced separation can damage self-esteem, inhibit language development and delay learning.
  2. It is not recommended to automatically separate multiples in their first year of school. There are many firsts in primary school: lining up, waiting your turn, noise levels, day run by a clock, away from Mom and Dad, new routines, etc. so why should they also be separated from each other at such a young age? Separation can add to the stress of starting school and may actually increase the multiples’ need to be together.
  3. All multiples need as much independence as they are ready/able to handle. Multiples flourish when allowed to separate on their own timetable. Together or not can be evaluated each year. As the multiples grow older, they will have input as to whether or not they should or want to be together.
  4. Encourage multiples to choose separate classes and preferred activities as they gain confidence in the school situation.
  5. Decisions as to whether or not the children should be together needs to be made by a team approach: the parents, teachers and principal. Educators need to realize that parents know their children best and for an easier transition to school, a parental opinion needs to be considered.
  6. If multiples are in the same classroom, they can still be in separate settings within the classes.
  7. Especially if your children look alike, make it easy on the teachers and students and dress them differently so that they are easily recognized and seen as individuals;
  8. Parent/teacher interviews need to reflect how each child is doing as compared to the other children in the classroom and not in comparison to each other.
  9. You may wish to indicate you would like an interview per child. Sometimes teachers expect one interview to talk about the multiples together and that can be confusing and unfair as comparisons tend to be to each other rather than their peer group. When compared to each other, one or more is usually presented as “better” than the other(s).
  10. In middle school, I didn’t point out that my girls were twins as they were in separate classes and wanted them be evaluated on their own merits across the board. In a phone conversation with a teacher, my inner voice was letting me know it felt uneasy about the way the conversation was progressing. I felt the need to say, “You do realize that she is a twin?” (my girls do not look or act alike at all). “No,” she said, “I just assumed one failed. That explains a lot.” Without my speaking up, my one twin’s file would have reflected her as “Failed” for the rest of her school journey. Recognize when to speak up and when to let things be as normal and individual as possible.
  11. It is recommended that class placement in classes be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, reevaluations occur on a annual basis and that parents, teachers and principals are included in the decision-making. As the children get older, it is also recommended that they have their input considered as well.

 

Pat Preedy (UK) provides this important note for Parents:  “The critical thing is developing “mature dependence” starts as soon as the children are born.  For multiples who are mature dependents, it actually doesn’t matter whether they are together or apart – they function as individuals and enjoy being a multiple.”

 

Sources:

Multiples in School, Multiple Births Canada, www.multiplebirthscanada.org

Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School, A Guide for Educators, Multiples of America (formerly National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc.) www.multiplesofamerica.org

 

Additional Resources:

Web Site:  www.twinsandmultiples.org, Educational Web Site for Multiples in School, Pat Preedy, M.Ed., B.Ed. (UK) and Professor David Hay (Australia)

Books

Parenting School-Age Twins and Multiples, Christina Baglivi Tinglof, 2007

Understanding Multiple Birth Children and How they Learn, John Mascazine

The Joy of Twins by Pamela Patrick Novotny, 1988

Twins, Triplets, and More, Elizabeth M. Bryan, 1992

The Art of Parenting Twins, Patricia Maxwell Malmstrom and Janet Poland, 1999

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5 Secrets of Successful Parenting of Multiples

Children don’t come with instruction manuals and even though there are some wonderful books available providing hints and tips for successful parenting multiples, these hints and tips are missing the emotion that also occurs around a child’s challenging behaviour.  It isn’t unusual to feel discouraged, realize you were not as patient as you might have been, or raised your voice to an “outside voice,” or even to contemplate resignation from the position of parent – some days are just like that!  All parents get discouraged and wonder what the heck is going on with their own behaviour.  Sometimes speaking with parents with children a little older than yours is really helpful and allows you to see a possible light at the end of the tunnel.

Raising multiples has challenges, not the least of which is having two, three or four children of the same age, which does not ensure a one-rule policy will work, or that each multiple will respond the same way to the household rules.  Add to the mix the different sexes within the multiple set and things can be very bumpy indeed.

Here are some ideas and hints to help you with your parenting duties and hopefully make things run a little more smoothly in your household.  Keep in mind that this is not a complete list……

Keep Calm and Carry On – If you think you are really going to lose your cool.  Make sure the children are safe and step out of the room for a short while.  Take a bathroom break or make yourself a cup of coffee.  If the children are old enough to understand, indicate that you cannot talk about what is going on at the moment and you need to take a break and you will talk later.  There is no rule that says you have to have all the answers immediately.  Giving yourself a time out can be wise; get your act together and go back some time later for discussion and feedback.

The Same But Different – Do NOT compare the children to each other.  It can be difficult enough for singletons to be compared to each other, maybe you’ve had that experience yourself as a child.  Just because they have arrived in twos, threes, fours or more, they will not like the same thing at the same time, have the same interests, same abilities, creativities or skills.  Don’t let anyone else compare them to each other either.

Another point here – do NOT constantly dress them alike.  Big mistake, as the boundaries blur and they become a lump rather than distinct individuals.  Ask yourself “Am I dressing them alike because I like the attention it brings to me?”  If the answer is “Yes,” please carefully reconsider and think about the future for your children who will have to go it alone and who will be hindered by their reinforced presentation as a package rather than as their own person.

Mark my Words…. – There are conflicting thoughts on making you, as a parent, carry through and I have often read that once you’ve made a decision, don’t go back on it.  Mostly I agree with following through with discipline, but I found as my children got older and were able to explain why such-and-such happened, I sometimes felt I needed to rethink the punishment.  I had been making a decision from my perspective and with the explanation, it became clearer why the culprit (in my eyes) did what she did.  The argument against reversing your decision is that the children will see you as “weak” and try to take advantage at every turn.   For me each interaction needs to be assessed on its own merits and if there is a very good explanation, I have no problem with doing a flip with the punishment.

Joined at the Hip – Your multiples are NOT required to be together 24/7.  Encourage them to each have their own friends, hobbies, likes and dislikes.  They do not have to go everywhere together. Don’t go calling a parent who invites only one multiple to a party (that parent may not even be aware they are multiples – it is most likely not personal).  Each child is a separate entity and needs to have the time and space to separate from their co-multiple and be free.  In this way each can grow to enjoy their origins and also learn to fly on their own.

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The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Book Review

Elizabeth Pantley has, thankfully, added another book to her “No-Cry” series. This latest one offers discipline solutions for toddlers and children, aged 2 to 8 years. All types of potentially difficult situations are covered such as bedtimes, tantrums, not brushing teeth, hitting, bitting, meal times, inappropriate language use and more. She covers not only what the child might be feeling but also the parent’s feelings. A very helpful section looks at anger, what it means, possible triggers and how our own anger can affect the situation and sometimes make things worse. Pantley offers useful suggestions on keeping one’s own emotions in check, turning the situation around with distracting methods (make a song out of what you want done, use humour) and offers appropriate consequences when or if necessary.

The No-Cry Discipline Solution, Elizabeth Pantley, 2007, McGraw Hill, softcover, 235 pages

My favorite section has to be Part 4: Specific Solutions for Everyday Problems.

When my girls were small (twins and a singleton 22 months their elder), I just didn’t have time to read psychologically-based, drawn-out solutions for situations which generally had one child, one adult and the general message “follow this advice and all will be well.” Yeah right! Not in my house where the parents were outnumbered by little ones feeding off of each other’s behaviour.

I needed quick, helpful, supportive feedback with several possible suggestions to consider in turning things around. Flying by the seat of your pants and/or “learning as you go” doesn’t always equal good parenting skills.

Pantley clearly and concisely states a situation, for example Sibling Fights. Each begins with a story from a frustrated parent. Pantley asks us to Think About It (in this case Sibling Fights) and addresses what such fights can mean for the child. She then offers step by step ideas on What to Do and, perhaps more importantly,What Not to Do.

Pantley cross-references to other areas of the book for additional suggestions. In this case, Biting Other Children; Bossiness, Hitting, Kicking and Hair Pulling; Playtime Behaviour. Most topics are covered in two pages, making it quick and simple to grab the book (topics are alphabetically listed), peruse the appropriate area, absorb some techniques and get back to the home situation, all in a timely fashion. That’s my kinda guide!

If you have kids aged 2-8 years, this book is a must have. I hope that Pantley will soon add a “No-Cry Discipline” focused on preteens and teens.

Lynda P. Haddon

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Raising Multiple Birth Children

Although the rate of multiple births has skyrocketed in recent years, many parents of twins and triplets find that they are struggling to cope with the emotional, psychological, and financial pressures of parenting more than one baby. This book by William and Sheila Laut is a survival guide for the parents of multiples. It contains a compendium of tips and techniques collected from parents of multiple births across the country.

Raising Multiple Birth Children By William and Sheila Laut, 1999.

The chapters include:

Raising Multiple Birth Children1) “Congratulations, and Fasten Your Seat Belt!” focusing on pregnancy
2) “‘Time To Feather Your Nest’–A Guide to What You Will Need”
3) “‘Will They Ever Sleep through the Night?’–The First Six Months,” addressing sleeping, feeding, colic, and finding help
4) “‘Life Will Never Be the Same!’–Your New Lifestyle,” concerning parent adjustment
5) “‘Are They Natural?’,” on responding to personal questions
6) “‘Bringing Home the Bacon’–Financial Issues”
7) “‘Who Are All These Little People?’–The Second and Third Years,” focusing on teaching social skills, discipline, and toilet training
8) “‘The Instant Family Doesn’t Come with Instructions’–Making It Work and Building Quality Relationships”
9) “‘Can We Come Too?’–Around Town or Around the World–Traveling with Multiples”
10) “‘Another Year Already?’–Birthdays and Holidays”
11) “‘Quick, Give Me an Idea, FAST!’,” including tips regarding shopping and cleaning up
12) “‘It’s Gonna Take More Than Sit-Ups’–Tummy Tucks,” concerning plastic surgery
13) “‘I Miss the Kids Already and They’re Only Sleeping’,” containing parents’ reflections on their children’s growth
14)”Where To Turn for Information and Support.”

I haven’t yet read this book on raising multiple birth children by the parents of triplets, but it has come highly recommended to me. With the birth of triplets, William and Sheila Laut went from DINK (double income, no kids) to SINK (single income, numerous kids) desperate for advice, but finding little. Their book on how to raise multiple children is packed with practical tips for parents raising twins, triplets, quadruplets, and more. They also include suggestions for getting organized, baby gear you will need, coping with sleep deprivation (I like it already!), gift ideas, funny stories, (we can always use those) and more!

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Mothering Multiples: Book Review

Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding Twins, Triplets or More covers every possible breastfeeding topic. A mother of multiple babies will likely have an assortment of questions. Can she produce enough milk? How will she coordinate feedings? Is breastfeeding even an option? The simple answer: Yes!

Kerkhoff Gromada offers valuable information with an emphasis on breastfeeding and attachment-style parenting. All aspects of caring for multiple babies are addressed. These include possible complications of pregnancy, preparing for a multiple birth, coping with newborns who might need to spend time in a NICU, establishing a milk supply for multiple babies, adjusting as a couple, and caring for toddler multiples.

Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding Twins, Triplets or More, Karen Kerkhoff Gromada from La Leche League

mothering multiplesMothering Multiples provides valuable information with an emphasis on breastfeeding and attachment-style parenting. It features various aspects of caring for multiple babies, including possible complications of pregnancy, and preparing for a multiple birth.

An encouraging and essential read for breastfeeding, Mothering Multiples also contains excellent photos and topics of interest.

About the author: Karen Kerkoff Gromada has worked with thousands of mothers of multiples as a La Leche League Leader for more than 30 years and is a registered nurse and lactation consultant. A popular speaker on the topic of multiples, she has been published in the Journal of Human Lactation and various nursing journals. She co-authored Keys to Parenting Multiples for Barrons Educational Series and was a pioneer columnist for TWINS magazine.

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Unwanted Advice on Raising Multiples

Once upon a time a hurt, tearful and frustrated friend of mine recounted a story. Her sister was pregnant with her first child and my friend was wishing her the “worst behaved little child ever born”. The reason for this comment was because her sister had always given my friend feedback and advice on how to raise her 3-year old monozygotic girls. This feedback was offered under the guise of “advice” and often went something along these lines: “You should be stricter. They are out of control.” “You are too soft with them. You let them get away with murder.” “If they were my children, things would be different!” “If they were my children, they would be sleeping through the night by now.” An alternative to the last comment is,“…they would be toilet trained by now!” Do any of these sound familiar to you?

Over the years, many parents of multiples have expressed anger, frustration and guilt as a result of “advice” meted out to them from well-meaning family and friends, who, I might add, were also NOT parents of or raising multiples. Several mentioned that the feedback began even while they were pregnant, “You’re not resting enough… eating properly… how come so many doctor’s visits?…” The main gist of the “advice” was judgmental and negative, leaving the distinct impression that, given the same circumstances, the unsolicited advisor would be making far superior decisions and is the much wiser parent.

One of my own experiences came in the form of a neighbour blessed with a 4-year old and a newborn while I merely juggled two 18-month olds and their sister, nearly three. On the surface, her words were benign enough, “You have no idea how busy I am!”, but that was not how I received them. In a split second I was on a downhill slide and felt defensive, angry, a failure, ridiculous and ready to kill! I find that these helpful folks usually fall into one of three categories, a) childless; b) have singletons either many months or even years apart; or c) are family members and as such, feel completely justified in providing feedback in the name of Love. The majority of ‘Ann Landers Wannabes’ tend to fall into the latter category, i.e. family members who are long on “advice” and short on empathy or practical experience.

There are some suggested plans of action for handling this situation:

Plan A – Kill the Offender(s) – NOT RECOMMENDED!

You will notice where Plan A appears on the list but this Plan needs to be scrapped about as quickly as it develops in your mind. Although very tempting, implementing it will drastically reduce your “hands on” approach and availability for parenting. Plan A is legally and morally unacceptable and while it may appear to have its satisfying side, is neither recommended nor endorsed.

Plan B – Ignore the Advisor

This Plan, while on the surface, may sound appropriate and even doable; there are some drawbacks. When the Advisor is met with silence, even a stony one, they don’t always “get it” and could interpret silence as 1) agreement with their advice; or 2) you want (need?) to hear more advice. With many witnesses in attendance, ignoring the Advisor may work in the short term. Be prepared, however, to have to implement another Plan in the future in case the Advisor feels your silence is a result of your agreement with their “advice.”

Plan C – Humour

This is an excellent Plan and can alleviate feelings of rancor, bitterness and resentment in one well-expressed and well-timed retort! You may need some practice or some run through scenarios in front of the mirror beforehand, as you rehearse your responses. Here are some samples for specific occasions:

Comment: “If they were my children, they wouldn’t act that way.”

Response: “Show me the adoption papers! ”
Or: with an added a tinge of sarcasm to your response: “Thank you, for that very helpful advice.”

Comment: “Better you than me!”

Response: “Hey, no contest! I couldn’t agree more!”

Comment: “Boy, do you have your hands full!”

Response: “Yes, and I love every minute of it.”

Comment (to a Dad of triplets): “How many times did you have to do ‘it’ to get triplets?”

Response: I am afraid you are on your own with this one but I have every faith in you to come up with an appropriate response. I never did hear back how Dad responded to this individual who obviously had no background in Biology.

Plan D – Tell it Like It Is

There is no real answer as to how to avoid the inadequacy that others can make us feel as we parent our multiples. While I relied very heavily on Plan C, I didn’t always feel humorous nor have time to practice my deliveries. As a result, my responses were ‘less than I would have hoped for’ as I gave in to my emotions and snapped back a response, broke down in tears or felt genuinely inadequate for long periods of time. In order to cover as many situations as possible and to end up retaining as many of my good feelings about parenting as I could, I also developed a Plan D. I sometimes responded to the Advisor, being sure to make eye contact, “You may not agree with how I am handling my children but I am doing the best that I can, not the worst that I can.” This direct response often humbles the most critical of Advisors, at least for a little while.

I sincerely hope that you will not be humbled, feel inadequate or ‘break down in tears’ to unrequited feedback on your parenting style. Go for ‘The Humor’ and feel very comfortable in educating your well-meaning critic that you are, indeed, feeling very comfortable with your parenting style and would appreciate it if they would ‘hold a baby’ rather than offer unwanted advice.

If you need further proof that you are ‘doing a great parenting job’, be sure and join your local Multiples Support Group. Here you will find compassion, consideration, and lots of excellent advice, no judgements and respect as you all travel the road of living with multiples (and their siblings?). After all, no one knows better exactly what you are going through and feeling than someone else sharing ‘your road.’

Good luck and enjoy your children!

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Household Tasks: Teaching the Kids to Pitch In

Sharon Schnupp Kuepfer, Mom to five children ages 4 to 10, including twins, is the author of a book Homeschooling Moments and Child-Friendly Recipes: A Collection of the Unique Adventures of a Mennonite Family. The following hints for encouraging children to assist in the day-to-day household tasks are adapted from her book and an article in The Toronto Star (27th April, 2002).

Delegate – Each child takes one weekday to help with lunches and suppers. Sharon’s oft repeated rule: “If everyone does a little bit, no one has to do a lot.”

Assign new jobs periodically – As the children get older, they can handle more challenges. A five year old can easily handle the job of bringing the laundry down to basement on washdays. By aged three, Sharon’s twins were capable of putting the clothes in the washer, then transferring them to the dryer. To make the job easier for them, she bought them a two-step stool. They were thrilled!

Assign the same task for long periods – Not only does this lighten the workload, it makes the children competent in their assigned task. Sometimes they may even enjoy the task. At 9 years old, her daughter had had floor care for a year. Not only did she become adept at floor cleaning, she advised that she liked her job.

Use the five-minute motto – Sharon told her children that a job shouldn’t take more than five minutes. It is helpful to a child to realize that a job doesn’t have to take “half a day” to complete. Five minutes to empty the dishwasher, five minutes to sweep the kitchen floor, five minutes to sort the laundry, five minutes to wipe down the bathroom. Soon the jobs are done.

Kids complete chores even if there is company – Company kids are invited to join in the tasks, but don’t have to. Often when company sees your own children working, they will pitch in too. The timer is set for five minutes and everyone works like mad and Sharon finishes what is left. *Everyone contributes to the mess and everyone contributes to the clean-up. 

Let them work when the mood strikes – Sharon wanted to spend some time with her only son. “What shall we do?”, she asked him. “Let’s organize the closets”, he responded. While Sharon had had a play task in mind, she didn’t argue with his suggestion.

Be a role model – Even when the kids were not in the mood to work beyond their regular chores, Sharon cleans regularly. In this way, the kids observe that there are other tasks around the house that also need attending to.

Be consistent – Sharon notes that she is a stickler for having the tasks completed. Unless the child is very sick (or has another good reason), tasks must be done!

Make moves and minutes count – Sometimes multi-tasking is really helpful and even the children learn how to double up on their chores. Sharon’s seven-year old daughter advised “While I am waiting for my hot chocolate to get warmed up, I do my dishwasher. This way I have less to do later on.”

Make sure you have the right cleaning and organizing tools available – Make sure that you have the right tools on hand to complete tasks. Purchasing a good dust mop, for example, saved Sharon’s daughter a good deal of time daily when mopping the floor. It’s no good to begin cleaning the mirrors or glass, for another example, if you do not have the right products on hand to do so.

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A day in the life of a mother of twins

Hi everyone, hope you are all doing well! Since I never have time to talk on the phone anymore, here’s a long update email. I can’t believe I’m telling you that our babies are already two months old – amazing. They are doing just great. Brandon is now wearing 3-6 month clothing for the most part, and Cara is starting to fit nicely into her 0-3 month clothes. Brandon is approx. 10.5lbs and Cara is approx. 9.5lbs. Although their weights aren’t much different, Brandon is thinner and longer which means he needs bigger sizes.

We are hoping to get some portraits taken this week (could be an interesting juggling act!) and the babies will be having their first vaccinations on Monday. We are very thankful that we did manage to find a wonderful pediatrician who agreed to take us on – poor guy had no idea what he was getting into!. (Not sure if it’s the case in Newfoundland/Labrador, but here it’s very hard to find doctors taking new patients – almost impossible.)

Cara is now starting to really focus on things around the nursery and she often holds our fingers and sometimes grabs our clothes while we feed her. Brandon is still our lively boy who just desperately needs food the minute his eyes open. He is always looking for the next source of food and I had a good laugh yesterday when he was lying next to Cara in her crib and he managed to latch onto her cheek! She got a slurpy kiss that she wasn’t expecting!! He did a sweet little cooing noise and grinned at a picture on the wall that Aunt Barbara made this morning – his first coo! Cara is getting more smiley all the time, and thankfully she continues to be patient and relaxed. She really enjoys the swing.

Yesterday Keith and I managed to get out for breakfast and get through the entire meal with both babies sleeping. Woo hoo! Babies get tons of attention when we are out. At first this was thrilling for me, but already I find myself sometimes pulling down the sun shades on their stroller so that we can get in and out of stores without too many people stopping us.

Since Grandma and Poppy left last weekend, we’ve hired a nanny named Tiffany to help me out during the day. She’s a part-time university student. She’s really nice and is great at helping out whenever and wherever needed – she seems to be enjoying getting to know the babies and dogs. I must admit that although I first thought I could easily do this myself, I really appreciate the second set of hands and being able to run a few errands during the day that would otherwise have to be done when Keith’s at home.

That’s all for now- Cara’s waking up and Brandon is asleep on my chest… so time to do another switcheroo!

Tracy