TWINS Magazine is the world-leading parenting publication for twins & multiples since 1984! It is a regularly published bi-monthly digital magazine with a large circulation, many active advertisers, the largest twins message board in the USA and more.
The Revolution PRO DUALLIE is the most deluxe, 2-kid all-terrain stroller from BOB, the #1 jogging stroller. Hand-activated rear drum brakes make for the best downhill control. The front wheel can swivel for top maneuverability or lock for added stability. The state-of-the-art adjustable suspension system takes bumps in stride and the adjustable handlebar provides a perfect fit for any parent. Pair it with the BOB B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat by Britax to create the ideal travel system.
The Endeavours infant car seat is designed for safety and mobility. The anti-rebound bar reduces rebound rotation by up to 30% in the event of a crash. Easily and securely install the car seat with a base or without. The Click & Go system allows you to pair the car seat with any Britax single stroller for a customized travel system. Next-level Britax safety features protect your baby beyond federal standards—so you and your little one can relax and enjoy the ride.
HALO Bassinest twin sleeper (which won the “Award of Distinction” at the ABC Kids Expo in the nursery necessities category) is the perfect solution for parents expecting twins. It rotates 360 degrees so mom can tend to each baby equally, and there is a mesh divider between the newborns so they can sense and feel their sibling as in the womb. The divider also ensures the safety of the babies by providing separate sleep spaces. The new Bassinest is height adjustable and has two retractable side walls to make it easier for mom to reach in and lift baby. The soothing center features gentle vibration, soothing sounds, nightlight, lullabies and back to bed timer which reminds mom to place baby back in the Bassinest should she doze off while feeding. $449.99, in stores end of Jan/ early Feb but you can pre-register at Babysupermall.com which is included in this link which also has more info on the product: http://www.halosleep.com/our-products/halo-bassinest-twin-sleeper/
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The TwinGo Original is a great option for parents of twins or two children of different ages! You will have the ability to carry two children simultaneously or divide the TwinGo so both mom and dad can each carry one child!
Halloween is now reported to be the 2nd most expensive holiday of the year! Even though we don’t exchange expensive gifts on Halloween, it is easy to rack up big bills on costumes and candy. The good news is that there are many easy ways to save money on Halloween expenses without compromising on the fun.
Be creative.It can cost $35 to $50 for many popular children’s costumes at party stores, which adds up quickly if you have more than one child. With a little creativity, you and your children can make easy costumes with items you have around the house. You can also shop at a local thrift store to buy vintage clothing to use as costumes.
Research ideas on-line.My favorite costume idea resource is FamilyFun.com, which lists 100 easy and inexpensive costumes you can create at home — whether you have a few hours or only a few minutes to put an outfit together.
Don’t overbuy.If you live in a neighborhood, you will most likely be buying candy to give out on Halloween night. The challenge is to avoid overbuying — who wants bags of leftover candy when the kids come home with far more than they need? If you are nervous your stash won’t last, consider buying Hershey’s Kisses or similar chocolate candy that you can use later for holiday baking.
4. Look for coupons. You can also save money on candy and costumes by watching for store sales and coupons in the Sunday coupon circulars or in your mailbox. Find coupons in the Sundaynewspaper ads throughout October.
Carve a pumpkin.The easiest decoration that is also fun for kids is carving a pumpkin together. For just a few dollars, you can create a memorable annual tradition with your child and decorate your front porch or window at the same time. Save the seeds and find a recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds, as well.
Get crafty. You can find plenty of inexpensive Halloween decorating projects from books in the library, local family magazines distributed free at libraries and schools. Easier projects include making ghosts to hang in the window made out of string, glue and waxed paper. Doing a project with your children will be much less expensive and far more memorable than shelling out $100 for decorations at the local party store.
Save on admission.This is the time of year for pumpkin festivals, Halloween fairs, hayrides, haunted house tours and more. Many schools and churches offer free festivals and fairs as family-friendly alternatives on Halloween.Prices for these family events vary widely, from free to as much as $20 a head. Check the local event websites or the calendar section in community newspapers and magazines to find inexpensive events. Be on the lookout for admission coupons in your local paper and check the web sites of Festival sponsoring organizations to find printable coupons for reduced admissions. Your local grocery store may sell discounted tickets for these events either on their Web site or at their customer service counter in the store.
Stephanie Nelson is the Coupon Mom. Her web site, www.CouponMom.com, has 7 million members, and she is established as the nation’s top expert in couponing across the country. Stephanie has been on every major national television talk show and taught millions how to save money for the past 14 years. She has been called ‘”the rock star of the recession” by the Washington Post and her book, The Coupon Mom’s Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half, is a New York Times best seller.
During pregnancy, you’re bombarded with tons of advice from books and magazines to relatives and neighbors about pregnancy dos and don’ts. Can you separate fact from fiction? Let us know in the comments!
TV has taught us a lot about pregnancy. Maybe you’ve seen Phoebe from Friends crave meat while she was pregnant with triplets or Bridget Jones’s mad dash across London when her water broke and thought, is that going to happen to me?
When it comes to pregnancy, there’s a ton of old myths which have worked their way into becoming established facts. In this infographic, we separate fact from fiction.
As an adult, I consider myself very lucky to have an identical twin sister. Now that we both have our own children, we often talk about the wonderful childhood memories we share—along with a few of the twin-related struggles we wish could be erased. It would be amazing if we could simply press the rewind button on a magical remote control and re-record some past events.
Yet, the reality is that we all have some life lessons to uncover, and that includes twins. In fact, it has taken my twin and me years to learn and then to convey one message: Even though we are a fabulous duo, we are also amazing individuals who must only fulfill the expectations we have for ourselves. I have also become my sister’s number-one fan, encouraging her acting and singing pursuits while she supports my many writing endeavors.
I know—being the twin that I am—I should think twice before giving any advice. Yet if parents of twins benefit by having as much information and guidance as they can muster, who better to share with them unique insights than me, a twin?
Each twin—like every child—needs to feel that she is a special individual. Many times my sister and I were referred to as “the twins,” by well-meaning people in our lives, instead of by our separate names. After a while, we began to feel like one entity, as if we were a pair of shoes, barely distinguishable (except one of us was the left, and the other, the right.) We gently reminded everyone what our names were and responded once we were called by them. Even if twins look similar and have shared interests, it’s vital to nurture each twin’s persona—her strengths, aspirations and talents.
The key to mastering this philosophy is to keep the doors—double doors—of communication open. Parents should schedule alone-time or “special” time for doing an activity of each twin’s choice—even if it’s just to have a conversation. Then when situations arise that twins have trouble handling, they’re more likely to feel comfortable discussing them with adults, parents especially.
Validate each twin’s feelings, even if you don’t understand them. After all, it’s difficult for singletons to understand what it’s like to live as a twin. Having family discussions with all children is a key ingredient in many successful families. Twins, in particular, may need to discuss unique issues such as whether or not they want to dress alike. This is a topic so many parents of twins wonder about; in fact, the ones whom I’ve met have always asked me about it. The answer, to me, is to ask the twins about their feelings once they are old enough. Some toddlers know at an early age what their preferences are. They may even want to dress alike at times and differently at others. This can change as they grow.
For example, my twin and I loved dressing alike as toddlers all the way through sixth grade. Then, when our family moved from the Bronx to the suburbs, we changed our minds. Starting at a new school was difficult enough without peers saying we looked like “The Bobsey Twins.” Students and teachers had been comparing us so much we were compelled to express our individuality. One way of doing this was through our attire.
For the first time, we purchased single clothing items and the doubles that we already had in our closets were worn on different days by each of us. We told our parents about this and asked them to encourage our relatives, who bought us gifts, to honor this request as well.
Adults can help prepare twins and family members for situations they encounter—and model possible responses. I know for my sister and me this would have been extremely helpful in dealing with the insensitive comparisons made—and the ridiculous questions onlookers often ask.
Additionally, our younger sister, who felt “left out” because nobody ever made a “big deal” about her, would also have benefited from these discussions. My twin and I often explained to our younger sister that we didn’t like the constant attention we received—however positive people might have intended it to be—because it often led to onlookers asking or commenting which of us was “nicer,” “prettier,” or “smarter.”
Sly sarcasm, devilish grins
Until we learned how to respond, we usually remained silent, often feeling badly for the twin relegated to second place. As we grew, we learned appropriate responses to these unfair critiques. We used light sarcasm and laughter as powerful tools. When asked which of us was prettier, I might say, “Oh, my sister, of course. She’s gorgeous and I look just like her.”
Or, to the question: “Which one of you is nicer?” I have responded, “Neither of us; we’re both double trouble.” A big grin usually sealed the response nicely.
Each set of twins is a one-of-a-kind partnership. No two sets of kids are really alike. People often generalize about twins because they know one set and think everybody else is the same, but it’s just not true.
Decisions about children, including twins, are specific to every family’s situation. When parents of twins ask me questions about whether or not their twins should be placed in the same class, or be allowed to wear a ring or pierced earrings to differentiate one from the other, the best answer I can give them is that “It’s a personal choice,” based on the circumstances unique to their twins’ relationship.
I always like to assure parents that if they make mistakes—like all parents do—they can make adjustments later and move forward. For example, twins in one of my children’s classes were separated during first grade at the school’s recommendation. For second grade, however, the twins’ parents, based on feedback from their kids, requested that the school place them in the same second grade class.
Although my twin sister lives in a different state, I share an indescribable bond with her. When our children—her three girls and my two boys—are together, it’s as if we are one family. It was like this from the moment our children met. As adults, we remain similar in the ways we dress and our food preferences. We often buy each other identical items, and our families spend holidays and summer vacations together.
Now when we get together, we relish onlookers’ attention and hope one day to do commercials or pursue other twin-related endeavors. We may use the same pitch we used when pursuing our babysitting careers at age 12: “Two for the price of one.”
During the preschool years, many behaviors become regular responses to speciﬁc situations. In the case of childhood hypochondria – the imagining or exaggerating of medical symptoms – it’s important for parents to decide if their twins are reacting to one of several different situations in which “acting sick” brings them some type of positive feedback.
Complaining of feeling sick is certainly not only a twin-speciﬁc problem, of course. Many toddlers and young children go through periods of voicing physical complaints as signs of anxiety about something going on in their lives. In children, just as in adults, this anxiety can lead to the physical sensation of muscle tension, headaches, stomachaches and nausea. Such symptoms may be found more frequently in children whose nature seems to classify them as ‘worriers’.
Sometimes, too, children will use physical problems to avoid certain types of situations, such as being punished for something, having to take swimming lessons or visit someone they don’t like. They may also use them to get attention, if they feel they are being ignored.
Some highly sensitive children may use ‘being sick’ as a diversionary technique when they have a problem and don’t know how to solve it. They may also employ this technique when they are upset about something which they realize isn’t likely to be important enough for a parent to warrant a lot of attention. Rather than cope with handling the real problem, they will use an illness to buy time to avoid the problem and calm them down.
Finally, some children seem to have learned ‘sick’ behavior by watching parents or siblings get attention or get ‘their way’ by acting as if they were sick. Unfortunately, some adults use this behavior for many of the same reasons mentioned above. Preschoolers learn this lesson quickly if they see the behavior reinforced for others.
LESSONS IN GOOD HEALTH
Regardless of the reason for children’s complaints of symptoms of illnesses, you may want to try these suggestions to increase the chances that your multiples will not artiﬁcially create aches and pains:
Look at your own behavior and attitudes about being sick to be sure you aren’t modeling illness as a pattern for getting attention or avoiding situations.
Develop certain ‘rituals’ for determining if an illness is feigned or real – taking the child’s temperature, feeling her forehead, etc. Then, if she persists in complaints of illness, put her to bed; darken the room; and be kind, but don’t over-reward.
Don’t reinforce the ‘sick child’s’ role – all children seek to have a separate identity, but you don’t want to make the sick role seem attractive.
Don’t over-do the care giving and kindness, even when the child is truly sick. It is easy for caring parents to get caught up in making the child’s convalescence as pleasant as possible; but giving extra favors , new toys and special foods can reinforce how nice getting sick is. Show your caring equally, whether your child is healthy or ill.
Analyze the time or situations which surround the occurrence of your child’s illnesses. Can you identify particular stressors which may be causing the symptoms? If so, then focus your attention on alleviating those stressors rather than on the physical symptoms. If, for example your child has a stomachache right before swimming lessons, maybe the message she’s trying to send is not that she’s sick, but that it’s too early for this particular youngster to accept this activity, even though her co-twin might do just ﬁne adjusting to the lessons.
Watch for the occurrence of illness in one twin when both co-twins are engaging in a competitive activity in which one is either more conﬁdent or competent. Again, this may be an indicator that a particular activity isn’t appropriate, developmentally, for both children.
Be careful not to accuse your child of lying or making up his illness. To a child experiencing stress or anxiety, the physical feelings of illness are very real, not imagined, so parents need to look for the underlying causes rather than to deny the symptoms.
Never ignore a child’s complaint of illness, even if she has a history of having exaggerated or imaginary illnesses. The illness may, in fact, be real, and medical attention may be needed. If, however, you repeatedly encounter these complaints, your child’s physician sees no illness upon exam and you have not given the child a lot of positive attention for her illnesses in the past, you may want to consult a mental health specialist to assist you in determining the cause of the behavior.
TWIN SPECIFIC WATCHWORDS
Some twins may be especially prone to imagined illnesses in two commonly encountered situations.
If one (or both) twins have had signiﬁcant medical or health problems during his or her younger days, he or she may be prone to feeling some ongoing anxiety about her symptoms, worrying that if some of the symptoms continue even after his/her release from the hospital, he/she may become ill again.
One co-twin may decide that feigning illness is the only way to get a little extra tender, loving care for herself because so much has to be shared between her and her co-twin, especially her parents’ time.
Whoever said there was no point in crying over spilled milk must have been a mother of twin toddlers.
I had no concept of the amount of liquids that twins can spill, or the amount that carpets can absorb,but in the early months of twin parenthood, I learned. On some days it seemed that time not spent taking care of Emmalyn and Alexa or (seldom) sleeping was solely spent sopping up juice, milk and other spills. I became convinced that in the air, as a liquid leaves its container, some sort of molecular expansion converts a cup of juice into a gallon by the time it hits the floor.
One afternoon, as I scrubbed away at a spot I’d cleaned minutes earlier, I wondered how mothers a hundred years ago coped with rags and lye, instead of the arsenal of cleaners I had at my fingertips. It was not the first time I felt a humble gratitude to be living now.
The most ingenious invention of our modern era, I felt, had to be spill-proof sippy cups. The magic of being able to give a child a cup and know that when it was tipped upside down, rolled across the room or tossed to the other twin it would not spill, is hard to describe.
When Emmalyn and Alexa graduated to sippy cups I graduated to a new lower level of cleaning. Now I could give the house a daily once-over and it looked acceptable — certainly not meeting my pre-children standards, but definitely tolerable. And since most people have a near-fearful respect for parents of twins,the bar was a bit lower for me anyhow. Life was good.
So it was in horror that I listened as Ken said one night at the supper table, “You know, the girls are getting a little old for their sippy cups. I think we should start using regular cups with them.”
“Regular cups?”An image of our early parenting days flashed in front of my eyes. No. I couldn’t go back there.
“It won’t be so bad,” he promised,“Look how good they are with sippies.”
“Exactly. They are good with the sippies. Why do they ever have to drink from anything else?”
Emmalyn and Alexa’s excitement at the transition to regular cups overshadowed my reluctance. Now they drank from cups just like mom and dad. Now they were big girls! Or at least, that was their perspective. My perspective was that they were still little girls, now making big messes.
They tried to be careful, but spills were inevitable. Our house returned to being a swampy battlefield, where paper towels marked the latest spill so that grown-ups (oddly enough, never the girls) could step into it the moment shoes were kicked off tired feet.
On one particularly frustrating day, Emmalyn and Alexa spilled every single thing I gave them, including dark-brown Ovaltine that defied the laws of gravity and ended up on our 10-foot living room ceiling. Something inside me snapped and I sat them down for a stern lecture. “You are big girls now,” I said firmly,“and you have got to be more careful. I know you’re still learning and you’re trying hard, but you have got to get better.”
They exchanged timid glances and whispered,“Sorry, Mom.”
It was impossible to remain angry. I patted them on the backs.“It’s OK. You’ll get better.”
But through the afternoon and evening the spills continued, now accompanied by tearful admissions that they had been careful, but somehow, they didn’t know how, they had spilled their cups. The house was a wetland with something sticky or sloshy at every step. I couldn’t take any more. When Ken came home, I met him at the door and said,“We’re going out to eat.”
We sauntered into the restaurant and delivered the usual speech about being careful with their cups. And moments later — I still don’t know how this happened — I reached for something and my glass, brimming with cola, went sprawling across the table in a Niagara-worthy splash. I was speechless. Emmalyn and Alexa’s open-mouthed faces turned to me in unison. And slowly, as though she were exploring uncharted territory, Alexa leaned close and whispered,“I thought you were a big girl now, Mom.”
Emmlayn took the cue with a sorrowful,“You have got to be more careful.”
“But it’s OK,” Alexa said, “You’re still learning.” She patted my arm.“You will get better.”
Potty training… Now or later? My husband and I agreed to delay answering that dreaded question until we heard from the experts. Marriage and family therapist Nonie Bradley and certified parent educator Sherry Ittner, parents themselves, team-teach parenting classes in Southern California, including one on potty training, which they break down into six helpful steps. And with potty training, as with much in the lives of twins, it’s two steps forward and one step back.
Each child is unique in this process. “A key element,” Ittner says, “is bladder control: Is your child having longer intervals between diaper changes?” Typically, girls show readiness between the ages of 2 and 2 ½ and boys by the age of 3. That was the experience for Diane Aiken, of Encinitas, California, mother of boy/girl twins. “My daughter had bladder control right away.” Aiken says, “But my son is taking a little longer.” While the readiness of your child is primary, parental readiness should not be overlooked. Aiken agrees, “One morning I woke up and decided I was ready to start the potty training process and we began.”
Bradley stressed the importance to parents of “owning their feelings” towards potty training because children are highly intuitive and often reflect their parents’ feelings. “Get real clear on your attitudes before starting the next step, preparing,” Bradley cautions.
The preparing stage can start as early as 18-months because you are simply introducing the idea of using a potty. Shop around and purchase a potty but, as Ittner suggests, “Introduce the potty gradually by letting your child explore. Ask them if they want to sit on the potty, but if they say ‘no’, quit. You and your child are still becoming comfortable with the idea and preparing for the next phase.
“At 18-months, a child learns through observation and imitating others, so parents and siblings are encouraged to model the behavior,” Ittner explains.
“Blake and Brent were much more interested in standing and going potty like their big brother than using the smaller potty,” says Shawn Homan, mother of fraternal twin boys in Oceanside, California. Twins can also model behavior for each other. They see their twin use the potty and don’t want to be left out, so they try, too. “The time involved in potty training twins,” Homan admits, “wasn’t cut in half, but it was much easier.”
3) Step By Step
Even after preparing the groundwork, parents tend to fall into the trap of questioning their children. “Do you want to stop wearing diapers?” Instead, Joanna Cole, in her book Parents Book of Toilet Teaching, advocates making positive statements such as, “We think you are ready to stop wearing diapers and start using the potty.”
As with preparing your children and letting them explore the potty, underpants should also be gradually introduced. It is important not to rush the process. Set a date with your children and make positive statements. Tell them: “We are going to go shopping for some new underpants.”
“Include your child.” Cole recommends. “Let them select their underpants.” Also, be sure to buy underpants that are big enough to pull up and down easily. Your twins will need about a dozen pairs each—in preparation for accidents. After your twins select their underpants, don’t hide the new pants in a drawer. Let your twins admire themselves in the mirror with their new underpants.
Kelly O’Connell of Seal Beach, California, recalls: “It was a big deal going to buy big boy underpants and big girl panties for my triplets.” O’Connell laughs as she recalls, “The excitement didn’t end at the store—they showed them off to everyone!”
Next, lead them to the potty. Use a positive statement, such as “Remember, you’re not wearing diapers now, so you’ll have to use the potty.”
As we discussed, however, you can lead a child to the potty but you can’t make him go. Bradley recommends that parents relax and not panic. Be ready for accidents and remind your child of the potty for the “next time.”
4) Night Dryness
“Night dryness” develops later in most children because they are still working on control during the day. Until your child has fewer daytime accidents and has developed greater bladder control, use a diaper for naptime and during the night.
Eventually, when your child is ready for a diaper-free night, prepare yourself. Double-sheet the bed, avoid any drinks for your child one hour prior to bedtime and leave the potty in an accessible area.
5) Learning Period
Potty training can be frustrating for parents because they are learning new techniques to teach their child, according to Bradley and Ittner. From showing them how to pull down pants to friendly reminders like, “Let’s go potty.” Potty training is an entirely new arena for most parents. Accordingly, Bradley advises that accidents will happen, with minor setbacks and periods of regression for the child and parent.
6) Parental Attitudes and Behaviors
Bradley and Ittner stress the acceptance of feelings. “Frustration or perfectionism,” Bradley says, “are feelings you wouldn’t want to transmit to your child.”
Parents and children are learning and developing new skills with each other. Bradley reminds everyone, “Be gentle with yourself and your child.” Whether the topic is positive discipline or potty training, Bradley and Ittner encourage “firm and kind” parenting. “Be kind out of respect for our children and firm out of respect for ourselves,” Bradley explains.
When a problem arises between parents on the “how-to-potty” approach, Bradley encourages parents to privately discuss the matter away from the children. One approach is to use a code word that signals to your partner the need to talk. One couple in one of their potty training classes offered their code word of “Bob” which stood for “Back off Buddy,” when a potty training issue arose. Most of the couples reported that jointly they form the “firm and kind” parenting approach, but individually each parent tended to be closer to one spectrum than sharing both characteristics. While one tended to be firm, the other leaned towards being kind.
Bradley acknowledged the gifts both types of parenting offer. A “firm” parent brings the gift of structure and boundaries and a “kind” parent bring the gift of love and patience. Children need both these gifts. “Create the balance of structure and boundaries, within an atmosphere of love and patience, and the children will thrive,” Bradley stated.
Since attending this class, my husband and I have been able to turn the question, “Potty train now or potty train later? Into a positive statement… “We think now is the time and, in the team approach to potty training, unity works.”
Mary Billiter Thomas lives in Oceanside, California with her husband and identical twin boys.
Whenever I speak to parents of twins, inevitably someone in the audience feels compelled to share his/her most recent story about the most annoying, hurtful, outrageous, unbelievable, or exasperating twin comment they have experienced. A resounding groan of empathetic understanding and laughter resonates throughout the audience. So, in light of these cosmic occurrences, I have decided to create my own Emily Post “post” to help educate the uninitiated about how to approach twins and their parents with sensitivity, emotional intelligence, and tact.
DON’T ASK THE EXPECTABLE QUESTIONS
Who is older?
Is she (he) the shy one?
Who walked first?
Were they natural or did you have IVF?
Which one is your favorite?
Why is the redheaded twin more talkative than her sister?
Why are they fighting with each other?
Are you sure they are identical?
Parents of twins do understand that these questions and inquiries are well-intentioned attempts (most of the time) to find a way to differentiate one twin from the other. Try the following approach and see what happens.
What are their names?
How shall I remember who is who?
How are they different?
What are their personalities like?
What does each one like to do?
What are their preferences?
Tell me about each of them. Make your own observations about each twin just as you would if there were one baby – and do it twice.
The goal is to help family, friends, and strangers focus on each twin’s uniqueness and individuality. Approaching twins in these ways helps parents mitigate their concerns about how much their children are being labeled and compared. They will sincerely appreciate your efforts to relate to their children as two separate people.
Don’t make comparative or labeling statements in front of the twins themselves. Contrary to popular thought, even babies as young as toddlers understand these communications and take them to heart. Parents whose twins look remarkably alike need to help outsiders identify each twin by dressing them in different colors, pointing out any distinguishing features, or styling different haircuts.
DON’T FEEL COMPELLED TO SHARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT RAISING TWINS
How do you tell them apart?
Double trouble, right?
Glad it’s you and not me…
How do you do it?
I have kids that are close in age, and it’s the same as having twins.
You are doing an amazing job. I admire how you are able to manage two babies at the same time. They are lucky to have such a patient and loving mom/dad.
DON’T MAKE IDEALIZED STATEMENTS ABOUT BEING A TWIN
They must be best friends.
They won’t ever have to worry about being alone.
They are each other’s soul mate.
They probably never fight.
It is a blessing on many levels to be a twin; however twins and their families are unduly influenced by our cultural fascination with twins. If twins grow up imbued with these sorts of twin myths, they may feel as if something is wrong with them if they don’t feel this way about their twin relationship. Help your family and friends appreciate the twins’ relationship rather than romanticize it.
IT’S WONDERFUL THAT THEY HAVE EACH OTHER AND LEAVE IT AT THAT. If you want to add a bit more, say something along the lines that as in any partnership, there are ups and downs.
DON’T CONFRONT A PARENT WHO IS ALONE WITH ONE OF THE TWINS BY ASKING:
Where is his twin?
How can you take out one and leave the other alone?
Aren’t you going to ruin the twinship?
Isn’t he miserable and sad without his twin?
DO REMARK: It’s great that you are giving each twin alone time. I imagine it takes a bit of creative juggling to make it happen. I admire you for making this a priority. It must be wonderful for you and each twin to have time alone together.
DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO THE TWINS FIRST IF THEY ARE WITH OTHER SIBLINGS
Don’t judge the sibling’s behavior as rude or impolite if he appears sullen or upset. Be empathetic and understanding. Siblings of twins have it rough sometimes, and they deserve recognition and acknowledgment. Talk to them about the challenges of being a twin, such as having to share so many things and being compared so much of the time.
Ask the siblings their names, age, and preferences. Ask them about themselves, not about their relationship to the twins. If he/she seems does not feel like engaging with you, just acknowledge politely that he/she doesn’t feel like talking. Then you can turn your attention to the parents and the twins. Keep this advice in mind. Parents of twins and the twins themselves will be forever grateful.
“I burst into tears when I thought I was holding one baby and then discovered that I was holding the other,” recalled Marlene Flanders. “I said to myself, ‘I’m their mother, and I can’t even tell them apart,’ I sobbed. I wondered how many times I’d had them switched.”
As Marlene and countless other parents of identical multiples know firsthand, telling identical apart can be a challenge for everyone—family, teachers, friends and multiples themselves.
“My gym teacher gets us mixed up, but I wish she’d call me by the right name,” said 10-year-old identical twin Andre Deutschlaender. Andy Nieman, 12, gets annoyed at misidentification, too. “When people at school—my teachers and friends—get us mixed up, I feel like they should know who I am,” he said. Andy and his co-twin, Adam, look alike, although they are fraternal twins.
It’s an accepted fact that not one likes to be called by the wrong name. “A name is a symbol of recognition of our identity, a mark of our sense of ourselves,” explained Susan Erbaugh, Ph.D., chief of psychology at Minneapolis Children’s Medical Center. “Our name stays with us from home to work, from childhood through adulthood. It defines our distinctiveness. Calling a child by the wrong name says, ‘I don’t know or care who you are,’ or ‘We want you to be somebody different.’”
Calling children by the wrong name also “scares kids and makes them man,” Erbaugh added. “As a child’s sense of identity is emerging, it’s upsetting when people say, in essence, that the child doesn’t have a distinct place or identity.”
Establishing a sense of self is doubly challenging for a child with a co-twin who looks just like him. Child development specialists tell parents that it’s important to help each co-twin develop a concept of herself as a distinct individual.
To aid that process, many parents have found that identification strategies can make it easier to correctly identify each twin and to avoid inadvertent mix-ups, even in the first few months of multiples’ lives. Those strategies also address an underlying fear many parents have of accidentally switching their infant twins’ identities permanently.
Marlene Flanders finally put an end to the distressing mix-ups of her twin boys by putting fingernail polish on one of baby Ryan’s toenails. Later, she had Ryan’s hair trimmed to a point in the back and Aaron’s hair squared off. Flanders takes care to call each by the correct name because, as she explained, “They correct other people, but they don’t expect their mother to blow it!”
Parents of identical twins tend to take each co-twin’s autonomy seriously. “Right from the start, I didn’t want to chance a mix-up,” said Robin Gale, whose identical girls are now 6-years-old. “My foremost through has always been that these are two children, two independent individuals. I had a jeweler make gold ID ankle bracelets inscribed with their names, and those bracelets never came off. We just expanded them as Alana and Kayla grew.
When Alana and Kayla were very young, Gale dressed them differently and always knew what outfit each was wearing. “But it was hard for my husband, so he painted fingernail polish on Kayla’s pinky fingernail,” said Gale.
Applying polish to one twin’s toenails or fingernails is an effective strategy, said parents who’ve used it. So is color-coding twin’ clothing.
“We didn’t have any plan when we brought our identical twins home from the hospital,” Karen Jenkins recalled. “So for the first two weeks we painted one of Laura’s toenails. Then we divided up all the clothes and gave Denise blues, purples and greens. Laura got pinks, yellows and reds. Now the girls (age 5) are in preschool, and the teachers really appreciate our color coding.”
Joan King, whose identical twins are now adults had an equally effective system: “I put brown shoes on Brian and black shoes on Bill…It was simple, and everybody knew who was who.”
Amy Keohane still uses a pink and purple color code to help people properly identify her 6-year-old identical twins. Koehane noted that Jennifer and Andrea look more alike now than when they were babies. Then, their heads were shaped differently, one had more hair, and one’s face was a little rounder. Other parents of identical twins have also noted that as their twins grew, they came to resemble each other even more closely than they did as babies.
Parents often distinguish one child from her co-twin by differences in height and weight, face shape, shade of hair, beauty spots or birthmarks, pitch of voice, personality traits and mirror-image characteristics such an opposite handedness and cowlicks. Dawn Stewart recalled that her infant daughter Megan had a darker complexion at birth than her identical co-twin, Lindsey. A small scar above Lindsey’s eyebrow also served as an identity marker.
Penny Morin is grateful for the mirror-image cowlicks (which turn in opposite directions) possessed by her identical 5-year-olds, Jillian and Joleen, and for the differences in their voices. “But from a distance, I have difficulty telling them apart until they speak,” she said.
Personal characteristics such as these can also help other people accurately identify each co-twin. But it’s usually up to parents or the twins themselves to furnish outsiders with appropriate clues. For example, the Morin twins’ aunt was frustrated in her attempts to tell Jillian and Joleen apart until Penny advised her to look at their cowlicks.
Most people can distinguish between identical twins if they take the time to be observant. Andy and Adam Nieman help people identify themselves correctly by choosing different haircuts and clothing. Robin Gale credits her twins’ nursery school teachers with paying close attention each morning to what Alana and Kayla are wearing (they wear similar but different clothing that is not color-coded).
“But when Alana and Kayla started kindergarten,” Gale said, “I asked them if their teacher knew who was who, and they said, ‘No’ so I requested that the teachers determine which child is which each morning by observing differences in their clothing. You can tell them apart when you pay attention, and I absolutely expect teachers to do that,” Gale said.
Many parents of identical twins wish that more people would make a point of noticing differences in clothing or features. “Twins do get tired of being asked, ‘which one are you?’” said Karen Jenkins.
To encourage correct identification, parents can take teachers, relatives and friends aside and suggest ways to tell one twin from the other. For example, a parent might ask to meet with a teacher privately in order to explain the family’s “system”: she could say, for example, “We’ve learned that it’s very important for twins to be identified separately and correctly, so at home we make it a point to never refer to our girls as ‘the twins’ and to always use their names. We would really appreciate it if you would do that, too.”
Parents are advised to use discretion when clarifying distinctions between their co-twins. It’s important not to inadvertently create comparative labels (such as “Jim is the shy one, and John is the outgoing twin”) and comparisons such as height and weight only hold up when twins are viewed together. Color-coded clothing or a child’s individual characteristics, such as her hair style or her left handedness, are more likely to serve as effective indicators and are less likely to reinforce labeling.
Of course, identification strategies aren’t foolproof, and look-alike twins will inevitably be mistaken for one another sometimes. It’s wise to help twins develop a coping strategy for confusion, counseled Erbaugh. “You can let them know that you understand how hard it is to be mistaken for each other,” she said. ‘“Doctors, lawyers and movie stars,’ you might explain, ‘want their names displayed on doors and want top billing. They get upset if their name isn’t displayed. When you are called your co-twin’s name, it’s like you are the star and someone has put the wrong name on the door! That’s hard to take.’”
Parents should help their twins come up with tactful but assertive ways in which they might respond to confused teachers, classmates or even family members. Erbaugh suggested that parents might tell each co-twin, “I know what’s special about you, and the rest of the world will, too, if we help them out a bit.”
A twin can be taught to explain to anyone who makes a mistake that he is John and not Jim, said Erbaugh. He can also learn to furnish people with an identity clue, such as, “one way you can tell us apart is by our hair. I part my hair on the left, and Jim parts his on the right.”
“I explained to Christopher and Andre that people make mistakes because the two of them look so much alike,” said parent Ruth Deutschlaender. “I advise them to just say, ‘I’m Christopher’ or ‘I’m Andre’ when that happens.”
Andre said that’s exactly what he does when the occasion arises. “You can tell us apart by our voices,” he also advised. “We sound different.” Penny Morin’s daughter Joleen the first-born of identical twins, got upset being called by her co-twin’s name. So Morin capitalized on having another set of identical twins in the neighborhood to help Joleen understand why that happened. “I asked her if she sometimes got our neighbor’s twins mixed up. She said, ‘yes,’ so I told her, ‘That’s what happens when people mistake you for Jillian.’”
Ideally, parents and siblings function as role models by identifying and addressing each twin by name. Parents who are conscientious about recognizing and reinforcing each twin’s identity can help twins avoid the resentment voiced by one adult at having been, “a twin, not an individual, always a part of a set rather than a complete person.”
Not all adult twins feel that way, however. Beatrice Hawkinson and Bernice Lindberg, 71, love being twins. About their younger days, Beatrice said, “Our last name was Gustafson,a d we both had the nickname ‘Gustie’ so we didn’t get called the wrong name. Now, when people mistake me for Bernice, I just say, ‘Oh, I’m Beatrice, Bernice’s twin.’”
These adult identical twins feel enriched by their friendship, have never wished not to be twins, and handle identity mix-ups with a touch of humor. “If someone I don’t know smiles at me in the grocery store, I smile back because otherwise, they’ll go and ask Beatrice why she was so stuck-up the other day,” chuckled Bernice.
A sense of humor helps twins live with the inevitable, occasional mix-up. And yes, even moms and dads sometimes err and call one of their twins the wrong name. Then, it’s reassuring to remember that even parents of singletons call their offspring the wrong name from time to time—and they don’t have a good excuse!
Alice M Vollmar of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a freelance writer and the mother of six children, including boy/girl twins.