Tips on choosing a stroller for multiples

One of a multiple birth families most important pieces of equipment is a stroller to fit, two, three or more babies, and sometimes toddlers as well. It is also one of the most expensive items you will need. Investing in a good stroller is essential for several reasons:

    • multiple births families tend to use their strollers longer, i.e. not unheard of for the kids to be at least 4-years old. It can be because the babies were premature and therefore smaller at birth or because a parent has better control over where the toddlers might wander. If they can be securely fastened into a stroller this stimplifies the outing.
    • it is impossible to carry two or more tired toddlers, so having the stroller available ensures that all tired kids can be transported with a minimum of fuss;
    • a twin or triplet stroller gets A LOT of use and therefore needs to be of a good quality to withstand a lot of handling in and out of vehicles, and the bouncing of two or more active toddlers.
    • it is tempting to buy the cheaper stroller but keep in mind that your stroller will have to earn its keep transporting two, three or more infants and then toddlers.
    • Buying cheaper may find you 18 or so months later buying another one as the first one gave up the ghost.

Multiple birthd - stroller 2     Multiple births -stroller 1

When considering a stroller, here are some important tips to consider prior to purchasing:

    1. Before making a decision, set it up and down in the store. The salesperson can assist in clarifying the oddiities of collapsing and setting up the stroler. Make sure that you can do it quickly and easily.
    2. Talk a walk in the store using your regular stride. Taller parents have been known to knock their skins on one which does not work well with their stride. Is the handle is too short? Hunching over while pushing a stroller will soon become a pain in the shoulders and back!
    3. Ask what is included in the stroller’s price. Not all strollers come with a rain cover, basket or sun roofs. Sometimes these cost extra.
    4. Double wheels can trap ice or rocks or swivel in opposite directions, making pushing it challenging. Larger, single wheels are an asset in Canadian Winters as they move more easily through snow and slush. It is helpful to know if wheels can be easily replaced if necessary. Ask how they clip on and off and how/where to purchase replacement wheels.
    5. Ask which parts, including frame, may have a replacement guarantee.
    6. A full handle length gives the pusher an advantage in controlling the stroller. The umbrella-style handles are sometimes set too far apart and making pushing them when the kiddies are on board a challenge, especially for shorter parents.
    7. Will it fit into the car? More than one family has pushed their new purchase to their car, a nd….it won’t fit in!
    8. There are pros and cons to each seating style of stroller:
    9. Side by side: Pros: allows you easy access to each baby/toddler when needed. The babies can easily interact with each other and most will fit through store doorways.
    10. Cons: The babies can easily interact with each other and as a certain stage, biting can be an issue or clunking of the other with a toy.
    11. Tandem (front and back seated): Pros: fits nicely through doorways and store isles.
    12. Cons: As the babies grow, it can be difficult to lift up over curbs and it may necessitate a trip around the front of the stroller to lift over a curb. It is impossible to quickly reach the baby fartherst from you in time of need. It is helpful to have the farthest seat positioned facing you in order to be aware of what that child is doing. When facing away from you, the child in front may constantly try to stand up to turn around in order to see what s/he might be missing.
    13. Some strollers are called “twin strollers” but in reality they are for a toddler and a newborn. The area for a newborn does not have adequate space for the legs of a toddler and the toddler area may not fully recline to accommodate newborns.
    14. There are wonderful joggers available for twins, triplets and more. If you like to jog, this may be the best stroller for your needs.
    15. Graduated seat heights make it easier to see each baby in the stroller.

Stroller 1     Stroller 2

Now that you have made your decision, here are a few more handy hints from parents:

    1. If your babies are weight discrepant, rotate them with each stroller use so that the stroller wears evenly.
    2. Your stroller is an expensive item. By taking care of it properly, you can ensure that it’s resale value is high. Protect it against the elements and wipe it down if caught in the rain. If you bought your stroller new, it is well looked after (no rust or rips) and it is clean when offered for sale, you might expect to recoup one-half to three-quarters of your original purchase price, depnding on the make of stroller. Advertising through your local Twin and Triplet support chapter (here is a captive audience) will ensure a good resale price.
    3. As noted, expect to use your stroller for up to 4 years, especially if your babies were premature. When the children are older and get tired while on an outing, you will need a place to safely carry them, and the stroller is the perfect place. When they both (all) want to walk, it is a great place to put the diaper bag and/or purchases.
    4. A stroller is expensive but it does make a great collective gift for a Babies Shower or for relatives to get together to make the purchase. They are also available secondhand through local Twin and Triplet support chapters. Sometimes eBay has them for sale as well.
    5. If you need a quick repair for your stroller, check out the local bicycle repair shop. They are usually able to help out.

Places to look for twin, triplet and quadruplet strollers. These are some of the best Canadian Sites I could find. Please note that some sites come and go quite quickly. Happy shopping!

www.babyproofingplus.com
www.mountainbaby.com

….and don’t forget to check eBay and Kijiji. There are some amazing bargains!

Considerations when purchasing or borrowing car seats

As parents of multiples, it stands to reason that we will need several car seats. Many of us have other children as well, so car seats can be a huge issue.

The following has been put together to give you some hints to consider before you either purchase or borrow any used car seats in attempt to cut expenses. If you are in any doubt about the used car seat you are purchasing or borrowing, don’t do it. After all, your most precious cargo will be using these seats and they are depending upon you to help keep them safe.

NOTE: This information is provided as a set of guidelines. If you have any doubt about any used car seat, check with Transport Canada (contact information below) or the car seat’s manufacturer.

  • Car seatCar seats have carried a manufacturer’s date for some years now. The date is usually stamped on the manufacturer’s label on the back of each car seat. Make sure each car seat is not more than 10 years old. Our Canadian extreme temperatures, over time, break down the plastic in seats and, depending upon how old they are, they may not be as safe as when they were manufactured.
  • If a used car seat is 8, 9 or 10 years old, you may wish to pass onit as multiple birth children tend to use their equipment somewhat longer than a singleton child. In these cases, the ‘best by’ date is nearly past and you may not wish to have to repurchase newer seats at a later date, thereby doubling your expenses.
  • Each seat should have its manufacturer’s instructions showing how to install the seat into a car and how to correctly place a child into that seat. No instructions, then pass it by! If you are purchasing a new car seat, keep the instructions to go along with the car seat when/if you pass it along yourself.
  • Assess the interior of each seat. Are any of the straps worn, buckles missing? If yes, pass on the seat. Is the interior pad torn? If yes, consider the cleanliness of the car seat. Hygiene within a car seat, as well as safety, can be an issue.
  • Check the tether strap for forward-facing car seats, i.e. the strap that anchors the seat to the car frame. It needs to be in good condition.
  • Make sure you know if the used car seat has been in a car crash whether or not there was a child in the seat at the time of the crash.Even in the case of a minor accident, there could be stress fractures to the seat. If you can’t determine an accurate history for the seat, don’t risk using it.
  • If you have a car seat that has been involved in a car crash, even without a child in it, it is now deemed unsafe. Make sure that it is safely destroyed. Don’t risk putting it out at the curbside in case someone else picks it up to use. By the same token, NEVER pick up a car seat from someone else’s curbside.
  • Do notpurchase a new or used car seat manufactured in the United States. American seats do not meet Canadian safety standards.
  • Make sure to read Multiple Birth Canada’s Fact Sheet “Car Seat Tips” for other important information regarding car seats and your children. Learn how to assess when each child is ready to graduate to the next size car seat. Remember that each child may not be ready to graduate to the next size car seat at the same time.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON CAR SEATS, contact Transport Canada at 1-800-333-0371 or visit their Website at www.tc.gc.ca/roadsafety/childsafe/notiavis/en/index.htm

When multiples are the bullies…

It is probably safe to say that all siblings argue, fight, and  bully one another.  You may remember your own battles with siblings.  Sibling arguments occur even in loving families. Arguments have an upside (although it is difficult to see any when the fur is flying and your ears are ringing from the taunting and screaming) and can offer fertile ground for learning to compromise, share, take turns, patience, and sometimes for the aggressors or bullies, to feel badly about their behaviour. Or not.

When children fight, a parent may step in for a variety of reasons:  escalation of the argument, things are getting physical (or dangerous such as throwing things) and someone can really get hurt, the fight has no obvious ending, or the fight is taking place during a car ride, making things dangerous and distracting.  A parent may try to mediate, teach compromise tactics or try to make sense of who did what to whom, and perhaps why.  If the argument began in another room or at school, there is no hope to truly figure out how things began.

When the aggressors or bullies are the multiples, things can really get challenging.  Because of the bond multiples have, they may “gang up” on younger, and even older siblings.  As a gang, they can be a force to be reckoned with.  It doesn’t seem to matter the multiples’ genders as they learn that as a group, they are more apt to be able to enforce their will.

sibling-bullying-thinkstock-100526086-617x416A twin Mom shares she has 10-year old twin boys, a 6-year old boy and 3-year old girl.  The 6-year old tries to emulate his older brothers and they, as a team, pick relentlessly on him causing melt-downs and chaos as a result, “you’re too small; you’re too young,” “such a baby” and so on.  They race ahead knowing their much-younger brother cannot physically keep up.  Younger brother does a lot of screaming, yelling and acting out while the two older brothers “look innocent.”

Another Mom of 12-year old twin boys shares that they relentlessly pick on and irritate their 8-year old sister.  The tears and resulting chaos make their home life next to intolerable.

A Mom with a 12-year old boy, 9-year old girl and 6-year old twin boys shares that even though their twins have a special relationship, they idolize their older brother and want to do whatever he does, giving him no peace.  When they have to go to bed before their older brother, the screams of “It’s not FAIR” reverberate off the walls.  With their combined reactive behaviour, the household is in turmoil.

In some cases, multiples will carry this “gang-type” behaviour into the classroom and school yard.   As a team, they can be formidable and the more they look alike (and are dressed alike?), the teachers may not be able to decide who is actually the culprit.  Punishing both, or all, may happen no matter how many were originally involved.

If these stories reflect some of what may be occurring at your house, there are some ways to deflect the gang-style behaviour and hopefully make it less likely to continue

  • first and foremost, congratulate yourself for reading this article.  You have recognized that there are issues in your household and you are attempting to rectify them.  Good for you!
  • avoid referring to the multiples as “the twins,” “the triplets” and so on.  This reinforces the package deal and in truth, they are individuals who happened to arrive together.  Use the children’s names at all times even when speaking to friends, family and peers to reinforce their individuality.
  • not dressing them alike is helpful to all so that they are not perceived as a package.
  • think about defusing the situation by giving the multiples their own rooms (if possible).  This action gives them less time together to scheme.
  • splitting up play dates, errands, sleepovers dilutes their “power” and helps them learn to separate from each other as well as  dramatically changes the family dynamics.  The bonus is that you get to spend time with each of your children in a completely different fashion.
  • try to put them in separate classes at school.  It will help each (all) develop their own friends and give them less opportunity to get together to collude.
  • foster a relationship between your other children if you have more than one other.  This relationship is also special and can become lost within a multiples’ relationship.  Even if they are different sexes, they can enjoy being and playing together.
  • set aside a “King/Queen for a day” day where each child gets to pick the family activities, chores, perhaps menu, outings.  Making each child feel special is great for self-esteem and learning patience until it is there turn to be in charge.
  • connect with other families in your area with children about the same ages as yours so that they can pair off and each have their own special friends.
  • reinforce common interests amongst all the children.  Depending upon their age ranges, it could be the park, colouring, skiing, skating, sports, music and so on.
  • look for at least one special skill in each of your children and help foster that skill, so that they will feel good about themselves and help them stand separate from their siblings.
  • give your other children the tools to handle bullying.  Screaming and crying only makes things worse. Providing tools to help control their environment empowers each child.  There are some good books and Web Sites to help you with those tools.*
  • making each child a part of the solution and not a part of the problem is not always easy, but is in the best interests of all.  With practice, positivity replaces the negativity and again, empowers each child.  No matter how small the good behaviour, focus on it and unless they are putting each other in physical danger, ignore the bad behaviour.  When one of the multiples is praised for passing the milk to a sibling for example, eventually that praise takes precedence and replaces the behaviour of refusing, ignoring or “you didn’t say please” type of behaviour.
  • realize that what is “fair” is constantly changing over time as your children grow and develop.   It will be affected  by the maturity level and capabilities of each child.  A later bed time, for example, may be negotiated and influenced by behaviour during the day, if it is a school night, and the age of the children.  Flexible and changing rules help children understand that some goals are earned and teaches them about negotiating and consequences.
  • try to keep calm.  Children, even young ones, pick up very quickly on the mood and tensions around them and will try to exploit it to their advantage.  It isn’t always easy but keeping calm, using a low voice, being consistent and working together as partners (i.e. Mom and Dad agreeing with how to handle the situation so the children can’t play one against the other) goes a long way to helping the children remember who is in charge.  If you are really angry about something that has just occurred, indicate, “I am really angry right now and cannot speak to you.  When I have calmed down, we will talk about what just happened.”  This statement lets them know your limits and boundaries, and rather than immediately flying off the handle and doing/saying something rash, taking the time to cool down and revisiting the issue at a later time is the wisest step to take.

RESOURCES

Books

  • Parenting School-Age Twins and Multiples, Christina Baglivi Tinglof, McGraw Hill, 2007
  • The Bully and the Bullier and the Bystander:  From Pre-School to High School – How Parents and
  • Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence, Barbara Coloroso, 2008


Websites

Googling Bullying turns up many helpful sites.  I am not listing any here because they change so often.

Birthday Parties: Planning those important birthday celebrations

The majority of us aren’t required to share our Birth Day with another family member and therefore get to revel in our own celebration with each of us at its centre. Such is not the case for children born on the same day.

If you are anything like me, that is non-creative and can’t bake to save her life, but feel birthdays are special, important and fun to celebrate, then you will appreciate the following ideas for celebrating your multiples’ birthdays.

Don’t limit the celebration to just these ideas – you are no doubt more creative than I – but making the day special for all (singles’ birthdays as well as multiples) of our children makes the memories last a lifetime. And don’t forget to keep the camera handy to record it all.

While some of these ideas will work for any of our children, the focus is on those birthday that are shared.

  1. Sometimes our babies are born on the either side of midnight or perhaps in different years, i.e. 31 December and 1st January. At least this way, everyone has their “own” day. You may consider two separate parties in this case or some families will do separate parties nevertheless, a week apart (or sometimes, two days following each other). I never found I had the stamina nor the inclination to subject myself.. I mean to organize, two separate parties. Important Note: For two (or three) separate parties, and depending on the natures of your children, you might need to make absolutely sure that each party, if held separately, does NOT in fact fall on one of their actual birth-days! This could open a Pandora’s box of fallout because one might feel that they had “one upped” their co-multiple(s), and we don’t want to go there!
  2. The first birthday is often kept fairly low-key and may be limited to family and close friends. We gave each daughter a cupcake for her first birthday and kept the camera rolling as they “dug in.” We still cherish the photos.
  3. I always made sure each child had her own cake – yes, there should always be ONE CAKE PER CHILD. This is so important for a couple of reasons: 1) Why shouldn’t they each have their favorite flavour? As impossible as it may seem, not everyone prefers chocolate; 2) With two (or three, or four) cakes, you can focus on each child individually – bringing in one cake at a time with lit candles and singing Happy Birthday for each child, singly. Each child needs to feel special on their birthday, even though they are shared. I broke this “rule” once in our daughters’ lives – I had to go a wedding on their 11th birthday and just couldn’t deal with the visitors in the house, getting ready for the wedding as well as making and decorating two cakes. I didn’t get about to baking a cake until about 3 and a half months after their birthday – and they particularly enjoyed reminding me of my failure. Heavily greased with a coating of guilt, I finally took a large, rectangular pan and divided the cake into two with icing, cross corner to cross corner. I iced their names and ages on the cake, we sang Happy Birthday twice, whipping the cake away in between to reset the candles and focus on the other child. Luckily my girls love to laugh and the opportunity to begin again, with the same cake, provided us all with some jocularity and good memories.
  4. You may have gathered by now but in case I wasn’t too clear, I prefer One Party. I just didn’t have the energy for two parties and truly admire those who will go to the lengths of preparing two separate parties. Nevertheless, we did have really neat party themes. One year we had a Tea Party using their toy dishes. We had applejuice, grape juice and various flavours of Kool-Aid ‘tea’. I made teeny, tiny sandwiches and cookies, to fit the small plates. Everyone could serve themselves and were thrilled at playing grown up. Note: Use a white, double sheet for a table cloth. It doesn’t matter if stuff is spilled and goes right into the washing machine. Oh yes, and everyone came in their best dress up clothes. You might pick similar themes for the party for boy/girl combinations, say Bat Man and Wonder Woman or G.I. Joe and Barbie. Once again this allows a focus on each child but within the same party context, on the same day! ?
  5. We always had each child sit at one end of the table, surrounded by the invitees of their choice. This, too, allowed for the focus on each child individually.
  6. For other party ideas and depending upon the ages and interests of your children check out the following in your local community (most of these places will do everything for you, including loot bags): Wave Pool, Cinemas, Community Centres, YW/YMCA, Athletic Clubs, Museums or Library. You can “rent” Magicians, Clowns, “Scientists”, and Reptile Specialists (unless these are off limits for you ?). On our girls’ 13th birthday, they each invited one friend and we went White Water Rafting. My husband took the day off work and we had a trip to remember. It was not only a wonderful experience, but also a great family outing.

Individual, Happy Kids: Priceless!

Have you got Birthday ideas that worked for you or Birthday photos and you would like to share them?  Please send me a note and I will be pleased to add them to the list.

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.

Multiples in School

Pat Preedy became interested in school issues around multiple birth children in 1992 when nine sets of twins showed up at her school in Solihull, West Midlands, England to begin primary school. This brought the number to ten sets when added to the set already enrolled.

Pat Preedy, Ph.D., Key Note Speaker, Multiple Births Canada Conference, Ottawa, 23rd May, 2003, Submitted by Lynda P. Haddon

Pat began working with Professor David Hay of Australia and together, luckily for parents of multiples worldwide, created an important resource Web Site,www.twinsandmultiples.org, for parents asking the important question: should they be together or separated? Taking their research even further, Pat and David have also provided important feedback for educators in assisting each co-multiple to be the best they can be.

Pat began her talk by explaining that she and David had identified three main categories of multiples: Extreme Individual, Mature Dependent and Closely Coupled. Here are the traits as they identified them:

Extreme Individual

  • likes own friends, doesn’t share friends
  • plays mostly alone
  • opts out of the interaction if his co-multiple is successful
  • polarises his/her behaviour, goes to extremes (angel/devil)
  • is excessively competitive
  • dislikes co-multiple(s)
  • refuses to dress alike
  • tries to dominate

Mature Dependent

  • shared and separate friends
  • are happy either separated or together
  • supportive of co-multiple(s)
  • has developed as an individual with own identity
  • may choose the same or different interests from co-multiple(s)

Closely Coupled

  • unhappy when separated, want to be together most/all of the time
  • respond to each others’ names/group name, e.g. “Twinnie”
  • cannot recognize his/her image in the mirror
  • uses twin “language” (cryptophasia)
  • each slows down/speeds up to keep together, especially in school
  • few or no individual friends
  • combines to form a unit
  • dress and behave identically

Pat presented some ways to assist and support multiples in becoming individual thinkers, both by parents and educators alike

  • make individual eye contact so that each child is aware that you are speaking only to him/her.
  • use the child’s name at the beginning of the sentence, followed by your request or instructions. This gets his/her attention and there is no confusion for the children as to whom you are addressing.
  • ensure that each child speaks for her/himself and that the other does not do all/most of the talking/responding.
  • if you are having difficulty in “getting through” to one, both or all of the children, use play to engage them in conversation. Through playing a game with them, the parent or educator can create scenarios and engage a child, asking how they might respond, or what they might be feel if such a such a situation were to arise. When done through play, most children will let their guard down and express what they are thinking. A play situation vs an actual situation permits relaxed feedback from the child.

Pat reminded us that one of the “problems” experienced by multiples is their lack of privacy from each other. Pat cited an example: if the parents send one multiple to camp, they are usually sending two or three. Hence multiples do not have the same experience as if only one child was going to camp. Sent together they do not have time away from each other, are not encouraged to make individual friends or develop individual interests. They are inadvertently set up to continue to rely on each other and hence experience a lack of privacy from each other.

Pat stressed that both parents and teachers have the ability to assist multiple birth children in becoming the best they can be. Both need to be aware of the categories of twins as identified above and into which category each set of multiples may fall. When it can be determined as to how the multiples may be linked, both parents and educators can be properly assist and support the children reach their full potential. Pat advised that failure to recognize the challenges that multiples face from either being together or separate in their early schooling years is “unconscious incompetence.”

Pat’s talk was well attended by 100+ delegates, mostly parents, whose children are at or near school age and whom want to make the right decisions regarding their children’s class placement. Even though advance notice of Pat’s presentation was made several times to the local School Boards, including those up and down the Ottawa Valley and Eastern Quebec, attendance by educators was disappointing and pretty well limited to those with multiple birth children.

Schools don’t yet realize the part they can play helping/supporting multiple birth children and their parents with placement challenges. Nor do they recognize their important support role in assisting multiple birth children in making the transition into school and in separating from each other. The lack of representation for Pat’s Key Note and Workshop presentations from daycares, educators, principals and School Boards reinforces for me, that Boards underestimate and may not recognize the importance of their roles in class placement decisions, in being informed regarding the issues around multiples in school and therefore indeed function in an “unconscious incompetence.”

Multiples in School: Parent Tips

Two concerns that arise for parents with multiple-birth children are whether they should be in the same class at school or separated, and which type of placement would benefit each child’s personal development.

In some schools there may be enough classes of the same grade to facilitate each child being in separate classes. It isn’t unusual for some schools to make the blanket policy that all multiples must be separated. In order to assist you with your decision making, the following offers some considerations for both leaving the children together as well as for separating them.

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 sometimes some circumstances which would indicate that separation is advisable. Here are some examples for when separation may be in the best interests of each child:

  • constant “togetherness” is hindering the development of social skills in one, both or more;
  • a “division of labour” exists;
  • insensitive comparisons by teachers, peers or even each other have led to feelings of inadequacy in one or more of the multiples;
  • the multiples form a “power unit” which is causing disruptive behaviour;
  • the kids use their multipleship to exploit, cheat or play tricks;
  • one or more of the multiples appears to resent the lack of privacy resulting from sharing a classroom;
  • one multiple proves to be a constant distraction to the other;
  • in opposite-sex multiples, the female 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 separate.

Wise parents and educators will realize that some of the above issues may be evident in one year and not the next. Evaluations/observations of multiples’ behaviour and development need to be regularly monitored.

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, etc;
  • only one classroom is available;
  • unequal education due to two different teachers employing different methods of teaching;
  • multiples are at or near the same skill level in a skill-based classroom.

Recommendations regarding school placement

  • It is not recommended separating multiples who want to be together. Forced separation can damage self-esteem, inhibit language development and delay learning.
  • It is not recommended to automatically separate multiples in their first year of school. Such a separation adds to the stress of starting school and may actually increase the multiples’ need to be together.
  • All multiples need as much independence as they are ready 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 themselves, will also have input as to whether or not they should be together.
  • Encourage multiples to choose separate classes and/or other activities as they gain confidence in the school situation.
  • Decisions as to whether or not the children should be together is best made by a “team” approach – the parents, the teachers and the principal. Educators need to realize that parents know their children best and it is important, for an easy transition to school, that a parental opinion be considered.
  • If multiples are in the same classroom due to lack of other classes, they can be in separate settings within the room;
  • The placement of each set of multiples needs to be evaluated on a family by family basis, placement evaluation needs to occur on a annual basis with parents, teachers and principals included in the decision-making. At some point, the children themselves will also have input into the decision.

Some Additional Considerations

  1. If your children look a lot alike or very similarly, dress them differently to make it easier for both teachers and peers to easily identify them. Different hair cuts or styles for girls can help too;
  2. Avoid referring to them as “the twins” or “the triplets” as this labels and reinforces them as a group and encourages the public to see them as such rather than the individuals they are;
  3. For parent/teacher interviews, make sure each child is described in comparison with their peers and not solely as compared to each other;
  4. If possible, scheduling parent/child interviews separately can be helpful in allowing you to focus on each child individually;
  5. Be a positive voice for your children and recognize their individual strengths as well as what may make the situation more challenging vis-à-vis them being multiples.

Pat Preedy (UK) provides this important note for Parents: “The critical thing is developing “mature dependence” which needs to begin 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, Revised 1999
  • Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School , A Guide for Educators, National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc., 1991

Additional Resources

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

Website

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
  • 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

 

Multiples in School: A Guide for Educators

Parents of twins, triplets or more face a challenge as their children begin school: should they be together or separated?

Some schools have a policy based on the separation of multiples. Such a policy doesn’t allow for input from the parents nor the children themselves. Not all multiples want to be together and some do well together and need to be able to at least catch a glimpse of their co-multiple across the room to be the best they can be. The important thing is for them to develop “mature dependence.”

In order to assist Educators, the following offers a brief overview of both points of view, i.e. together or separate, and provides additional research material at the end of the article.

Reasons for Separation

While there is no substantial evidence to support the policy of separation in order for each child to grow and develop as individuals, sometimes circumstances exist which would indicate that separation is advisable. It is helpful to recognize that some behaviours may be an issue one year and not the next.

  • Their constant “togetherness” is hindering the development of social skills in one, both or all;
  • A “division of labour” exists;
  • Insensitive comparisons by others have led to feelings of inadequacy in at least one multiple;
  • A child’s problems are attributed to the fact that he is a multiple;
  • The multiples form a “power unit” causing disruptive behaviour;
  • Multiples exploit their multipleship to cheat or play tricks;
  • One multiple appears to resent the lack of privacy resulting from sharing a classroom;
  • One multiple proves to be a constant distraction to the other(s);
  • There is (excessive) competitiveness between the multiples;
  • In opposite-sex multiples, the female is overprotective of her male co-multiple(s);
  • In skill grouped classroom activities where the abilities of one multiple are above that of his co-multiple(s);
  • The multiples WANT to be separated.

Reasons for Not Separating

  • Major emotional upheavals have occurred within the family – i.e. death, divorce, move, new siblings, etc.
  • Only one classroom is available;
  • Unequal education due to different teaching styles of the educators;
  • Multiples are at or near the same skill levels in a skill-based classroom;
  • The multiples do NOT want to be separated. Forced separation, with all of the other “firsts” children face, especially in their first year of school, can add undue stress, regression and affect self-esteem.
  • Separation in the first year of school should not be an automatic decision. The added stress of separation with all of the other firsts (e.g. leaving Mom, rules, increased noise levels, schedules, new friends, etc.) might actually reinforce their need to be together.
  • Allow multiples as much independence as they are ready to handle. They flourish when allowed to separate on their own timetable.
  • Encourage them to choose separate classes as they gain confidence in the school situation.

Tips for Teachers of Multiples

  • Encourage them to sit apart for different class activities if they are in the same classroom. This assists you in identifying who’s who and discourages them from completing each other’s work;
  • Look for differences in the multiples, not sameness, e.g. voice differences, left/right handed, birthmarks, hair growth. Being able to address each multiple by their individual name, assists them in recognizing that they are individuals;
  • Refer to each child by their own name. This helps you identify each child and sets a good example for their peers to also address them individually;
  • Expect differences in test scores, neatness, behaviour but don’t be surprised if they are very similar;
  • Avoid insensitive comparisons, e.g. “You are not doing as well as your twin.” This sets up both multiples to have poor self-esteem;
  • For parent/teacher interviews, compare each child to their peer group and not to each other;
  • if you are having difficulty in telling the children apart ask the parents to dress them differently. This helps everyone recognize their individuality.
  • If one multiple (especially monozygotic [identical] multiples) is markedly behind his co-multiple, investigate the cause:
    1. Check to make sure that each multiple is doing his/her own work.
    2. Plan a conference with the parents to explore the situation.
    3. Don’t rule out the possibility of a learning disability in one of the multiples.

Recommendations Regarding School Placement

It is best if each set of multiples is evaluated each year to ascertain which is the best situation for them, i.e. together or apart. The final decision as to which it will be needs to be made by the parents, the teacher, the principal and at some stage, the children themselves.

Compiled and adapted from “ Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School, A Guide for Educators” a publication of National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc., 1991

Additional Resources

Multiples in School , booklet by Multiple Births Canada,www.multiplebirthscanada.org
Multiples in School Support Kit by Multiple Births Canada http://www.multiplebirthscanada.org
Twinline Services, “ Twins in School: Together or Apart”, Berkeley, CA, 1983

Website

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

Books

  • Parenting School-Age Twins and Multiples , Christina Baglivi Tinglof, 2007
  • The Joy of Twins , Pamela Patrick Novotny, 1988
  • Twins, Triplets and More , Elizabeth M. Bryan, 1992
  • The Art of Parenting Twins , Patricia Maxwell Malmstrom and Janet Poland, 1999

Multiples and Co-bedding

Co-bedding is the term used to describe putting your babies down to sleep together in the same crib. Most parents co-bed their babies for at least part of the time once the babies arrive home. Our girls slept in the same crib for 4 months until they began to disturb each other. Co-bedding for multiple birth babies just seems to make sense and there are some practical reasons to do so.

Some parents of low birth weight (LBW) or preterm multiples wish to co-bed their babies right after birth in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) but not all hospitals have a co-bedding policy. It’s a tough call and hospitals have some valid reasons for not co-bedding, not the least of which is that the beds may not be big enough to comfortably accommodate two babies. Thankfully though, some Canadian hospitals are rethinking co-bedding issues and as a result, there could soon be some good news for parents of multiples.

Babies co-beddingA quick poll of parents with twins regarding their experiences resulted in the following comments regarding the co-bedding of their babies in NICU:

  • takes less room by your hospital bed, which is important if you are sharing a room;
  • there seems to be less confusion in the nursery as the staff only has to worry about one bassinet;
  • helps the babies conserve body heat, regulate their temperatures;
  • helps the babies settle better as they seem to comfort each other;
  • one mother felt it helped them get over the trauma of their births as they took comfort in being together once again;
  • continuity of their being together from the womb;
  • sometimes babies have been placed in their own bassinet in different nurseries within a hospital setting, making it difficult for the parents to split their time between the two babies and leaving them feeling guilty about whom they were not with. Or the parents would split up to spend time with each baby, thereby not permitting parents to take joy together in their babies;
  • parents generally felt better themselves that their babies continue to be together, as they were in the womb;
  • one family reported that one of their sons was too sick. It just wouldn’t have worked for them; and
  • it is very cute in pictures!

Healthcare professionals have some valid concerns regarding co-bedding

  • if one (or both) babies are sick and are co-bedded, there could be a mix up with their medications. In separate bassinets, the potential for medication error is minimized;
  • if only one baby is ill, there could be cross-contamination to the other baby;
  • if one baby has a birth anomaly, e.g. spina bifida or Downs, it would be better for the babies to be in separate bassinets;
  • there could be unnecessary exposure of a baby to oxygen;
  • there could be sleep disturbances which may impact on a baby’s ability to become healthier;
  • bassinets are not large enough to hold two babies;
  • one baby may interfere with the tubing of the other baby; and
  • there could be temperature instability between the babies.

There may be a specific time when NICU hospital staff would decide, or it might be hospital policy, not co-bed multiple birth infants. Such a decision occurs when one, or both babies, is ill (usually due to their prematurity) and to be in close proximity might have an adverse affect on one or both of their health, e.g. disturb their sleep, thus impeding healing. In such cases, a co-bedding decision is based on the best possible outcome for each baby.

Once the babies are home, most parents of multiples, have co-bedded their twins (and sometimes triplets or quads) for various ranges of time. What usually brings co-bedding to an end is when one baby or toddler continually disturbs the other, as in one likes his sleep and the other likes to play and may be looking for a playmate. At the end of the day in this scenario, there are at least two cranky babies and two cranky parents, which makes for a very cranky household. The solution = separate beds, maybe even separate bedrooms, and pronto!

Co-bedding at home offers some other distinct advantages for both babies and parents

  • the babies usually enjoy being together and will often settle down quicker and more easily. As the babies grow, parents may continue to have their multiples share a room, each in their own beds, because they enjoy being with each other. Don’t be surprised to find them sleeping in one bed together when you go to get them up in the morning;
  • co-bedding cuts down on the amount of laundry with washing only one set of sheets and blankets at a time instead of two or three;
  • you can go to one spot in the room and attend to a baby while the other still has full visual contact with you;
  • initially some parents keep one crib upstairs and one downstairs (for the daytime naps). Not having to go up and down the stairs several times a day helps preserve energy levels; and
  • even parents with triplets have co-bedded their babies, initially lying each baby across the crib. A bonus is easy access to each baby as needed.

If you want your premature or LBW twins co-bedded while they are in the hospital, check out your hospital’s policy before you deliver. Ask your attending physician to make the corresponding note in your chart indicating that you want the babies co-bedded if at all possisble. The more often we ask for what we want or need, the more often the hospitals will listen and change will be implemented.

P.S. They do, indeed, take great pictures when they are snuggled up together in the same crib.

Got a co-bedding story you would like to share? Send me your story.

Keeping the Couple in A Relationship After Multiples

Your relationship after multiples: A new baby brings emotional and financial challenges, new routines, loss of sleep, and so much more to a relationship.  Even more complex issues are added to to a relationship after multiples. Once a diaper has been changed and a baby fed, burped and soothed, we aren’t finished – it needs to be done again, and possibly again and again.  It is estimated that every time we add a baby to the mix, we are adding a baby and a half’s worth of work.

Parents try hard to meet the needs of the new babies, the house, make meals, do laundry, grab a shower, a quick bathroom visit at an opportune moment and fit in some much-needed sleep.  As parents juggle work outside the home and the physical, mental, emotional and financial demands of 2, 3 or 4 new little ones, their relationship, can be pushed aside and virtually ignored.  Without meaning to, the martial relationship is often one of the last items parents tend to as it falls victim to the “parenting relationship.” Sleep deprivation is HUGE with multiples and escalates the “cranky” factor.  After the kiddies are seen to, it takes effort to remember to look after a spousal relationship too.

Remember to take care of your relationship, even as you are working on your parenting techniques. When parents LOOK AFTER themselves and each other, the children have the benefit of two happier, healthier adults who are important role models.  Always taking a back seat or leaving the spousal relationship to fend for itself negatively affects the whole family.  An important lesson is taught when we show the kids by example how to look after their parents’ relationship.

Things that can help.  Advice from parents of multiples:

  • Before your babies arrive, look around for some multiple-birth-specific classes in your community and sign up for them as soon as you know you are having multiples.  Both parents need to attend.
  • Connect with other parents of multiples.  Learning from those whom have specifically walked the walk is extremely helpful.
  • Line up help before the babies arrive in a form that will work for you.  Some choices are:  a nanny during the day, during the night, live-in or live-out.  One family had each grandmother stay for 3 weeks each after their babies’ arrival.  The 6 weeks of extra hands and experience made it easier to establish routines and get some much-needed sleep.
  • It is important for each parent to be actively involved in the children’s’ care.  Don’t wait to be asked to get involved.
  • Recognize that each of you may have a different way of doing a task. Appreciate the different skills that you each bring to the role of parenting and baby care and allow each other to complete the task in your own style. Many parents have expressed their pleasure at watching their partner redefine him/herself as a parent.
  • If there is an issue between you, communicate.  Don’t assume the other can read your mind about what tasks need completing or anticipate exactly what needs to be done.  Speak clearly to each other, e.g. “Could you please help change babies?”
  • Plan time for each other on a regular basis. Plan a regular Date Night when grandparents or a local teen can come to sit for a couple of hours.  It doesn’t have to be huge, a trip to the coffee shop or walk around the block by yourselves could work, but the important thing is that it is just the two of you. It could be that you stay home to watch a movie, cuddle, talk, share a glass of wine and a pizza or foot/back rubs.
  • Even when out together, expect to talk about the kids.  It’s okay because you are a team, discussing what works, what doesn’t seem to be working, or concerns you might have about eating, sleeping habits and such.  The good news is that the discussion occurs on your own terms and cements your desire to be the best parents you can be.
  • It can be a challenge to communicate about parenting styles with three toddlers running in different directions.  Be prepared to have to deal with the present and talk about parenting styles at another opportunity.
  • If you can afford it, get help to complete some tasks around the home, e.g. cutting the grass, shoveling the snow, cleaning the house, perhaps grocery shopping.  Some of the tasks can be done by older neighbourhood children, or place a notice at your local high school or library to find an available teenager whom would like to make a little extra money. Having someone else, even in the short term, assist with these tasks, allows you to focus on the babies and each other.
  • If it is felt that your relationship is really suffering, consider professional counseling.  It might be covered through one partner’s expended health benefits, and if not, this medical expense can often be deducted at Income Tax time as a health care benefit.  Don’t wait to seek appropriate help until it is too late.
  • It’s amazing how quickly out of control things can get when one parent doesn’t know the ground rules set out by the other parent and the kiddies learn pretty quickly to play one parent against the other creating havoc and perhaps an argument between the parents. If necessary, check with each other and present a unified front to the children.
  • As one couple shared:  Yes multiples can stress a marriage especially if the relationship is not solid in the first place.  A relationship takes a lot of work, commitment, unconditional love and each parent giving 110%.  Teamwork is essential.

Getting through those initial days and weeks can be a challenge, especially as the sleep deprivation builds up and fuses shorten.  Keeping a supportive eye on each other is essential to ensure that the love, trust, respect and companionship that brought you together in the first place is not misplaced.  Things will improve as the kids become more independent and sleep through the night.  Promise!

For even more information, check out the results of Multiple Births Canada’s Survey Multiples and Impact on Couple Relationships on their Web Site at www.multiplebirthscanada.org.