Raising Toddler Twins
Having kids is a wonderful experience. It can also be quite exhausting, especially if you are dealing with twins! Twins usually require much more attention and energy than regular siblings. This is normal since you’re dealing with two children of the same age at the same time. That can be a handful sometimes! When you have toddler twins, it’s normal to have a lot to take care of. Everything is doubled. Parents are often concerned about how to treat their twins: should they treat them differently, equally, dress them the same or different?
How are twins different than singletons?
As toddlers there’s a lot going on with children’s development. They start developing words and sentences, start playing with other children and by the end of toddlerhood will be starting preschool. Twins tend to develop slightly different than regular siblings. They may be delayed in their language skills. This can be more prevalent in identical twins than fraternal twins. However, this difference disappears by the time children are 5 years old once they start preschool and kindergarten. Although the explicit reasons as to why this happens haven’t been identified, there is speculation that this may be due to the amount of verbal interaction they get with their parents. Research has shown that mother’s verbal interaction with each twin plays an important role in their language development.
There is usually a more dominant twin from the pair who tends to be the one more advanced socially and verbally. Twins also tend to play together more than other siblings. As a result, they may have less social interaction with other children or adults. This may also account for delayed language acquisition. Toddler twins are even known to develop their own “secret language” among themselves made up of simplified sounds and words. This behavior is quite normal for twins. These language distortions disappear as twins begin to spend more time with other children and grownups as they would in preschool. Toddler twins may also have more conduct problems than singletons which could be caused by a need for attention or frustration caused by their language delay.
What you can do:
- Try to give individual attention to each child. Research has shown that parents tend to have less one-on-one interaction and less verbal exchanges with each individual twin than other siblings. Make sure to spend enough time with each child to help foster his/her language and social skills. What is important is how much speech interaction each twin receives individually.
- Remember that each twin is a unique person. While they may have a lot in common, any parent who has twins will tell you how different their personality and interests are. Whether you want them to be alike or different, this will predominantly decided by the twins themselves. Make sure you respect their individual differences as well as their similarities.
- Offer enough social interaction with other children. While twins do tend to play together more than with other children don’t panic on forcing them to interact with other children. Studies have shown that the close relationship twins share does not interfere with their relationships with other children at school. Twins have even been reported to be less selfish and friendlier at school. Make sure you provide your twins with the normal range of social experiences for their age.
- Spousal and family support: It can be difficult to divide your attention between two children of the same age at the same time. Try to provide each twin with some undivided exclusive attention with each parent or with close family members like a grandparent. Remember that mothers and fathers play important and unique roles in their child’s development. Fathers’ play time is just as important as mothers’ care and attention.
Separate or Same Classroom?
The daunting question as children start to enter preschool. Should we keep them in the same classroom because they are so close? Or should we separate them so they can be independent? Unfortunately, the answer is not clear cut. What we do know is that placing twins in different classes is associated with better form of speech and stopping stuttering. However, like all children, each pair of twins are different and within each pair each twin is a unique child. With that in mind, whether to separate or place in the same classroom should be handled on a case-by-case basis depending on the children’s needs and personalities.
Lytton, H. & Gallagher, L. (2002). Parenting twins and the genetics of parenting. Handbook of Parenting: Children and Parenting. M. H. Bornstein (Eds). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Jailan Heidar is an Egyptian parent educator currently living in The Netherlands. She has a MSc. in Child and Family Studies from Leiden University. She specializes in providing parenting support to parents of children from 0-5 years through her website EarlyYearsParenting.