Author Christina Baglivi Tinglof shares information and tips on raising twins in her book, Parenting School-Age Twins and Multiples. The mother of 20-year-old male twins, Tinglof has spent years studying issues that affect twins and families with multiples.
Memphis Parent: What challenges should parents of twins prepare for?
Christina Baglivi Tinglof: The first few months can be especially hard as parents figure out how to feed, bathe, and give two babies love and attention. It can be exhausting, but new parents should trust themselves. Also, instead of thinking of parenting “twins,” think of this as having two children born on the same day. If you focus on each baby individually, everyone is better off.
Twins typically have a best friend in each other. How do you encourage social confidence?
It’s easy to have toddlers stay home and play with just each other — it’s the default mode for parents of twins — but you should make the effort to socialize your twins. Preschool is a great place for twins to experience new social situations and to form friendships. It’s also a great stepping-stone to separating once twins hit the school years. The more twins have an opportunity to be with others, the better they will transition into a school environment.
What practical steps can parents take to encourage each twin’s personality?
It’s incredibly important for twins to individuate. I get many emails from adult twins who struggle with their sense of autonomy. Many tell me they believe it stemmed from the childhood expectation that they needed to always be in sync with their co-twin. So some adult twins feel a huge sense of resentment toward their co-twin. And guilt. So give twins two distinct names and fight the urge to dress them alike.
Parents need to spend one-on-one time with each child, too. Recruit other family members to do the same: Allow grandma to take one twin for the night, then the other. Encourage each child’s individual preferences and talents. They don’t have to play soccer together, perhaps one is better suited for tennis. And don't make twins responsible for each other. Allow each child to be responsible for him or herself.
Help outsiders learn to treat multiples as individuals. When parents promote the twinship above individuation, the other children in the family can feel left out. I receive many emails from single-born siblings who never developed a relationship with their twin siblings. It goes back to the attention focused on the “twinship” rather than the family as a whole.
The twin relationship is prone to tattling, nosiness, and a general lack of privacy. Any advice on that front?
Tattling is a big issue with twins. Again, all kids take their cues from their parents. If you won’t tolerate any form of tattling, your twins will follow along. It’s also tempting to use one child to clue you in on the thoughts and feelings of the other, but don’t. If you have a question or concern with one child, ask him.