This is how raising multiples works

Ms. Poth, what differences in bringing up children do parents of multiples have to adjust to very early on?

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One of the differences in the upbringing compared to singleton children is that more attention must be paid to the children being able to develop their own identities. This is not easy as they have developed a common identity through their primary bond, which is formed in the womb, which is completely normal for multiple births. The challenge is that the multiple identity must not become larger than one’s own identity. For example, it is important not to treat them as one person and not to compare them.

Many parents-to-be are afraid of not giving equal attention to their multiple children. How do you advise parents with such a concern?

It’s a big challenge and a lot of psychological stress as parents always try to accommodate everyone. I advise parents to say goodbye to perfectionism and accept help from outside, for example from the family or from an au pair. This helps to conserve your own resources and to give the children individual attention. Multiple births are used to sharing parental attention from the start. It is important that parents show them that they and their needs are seen and explain that it is one person’s turn now and then the other. You will understand. Of course, this must also be observed.

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How can parents do justice to the differences between their multiple children?

First of all, it is important to perceive the differences in individual children, for example their characters or tastes, and not to create them, for example through evaluations and projections. Children internalize these judgments and find it very difficult to get rid of them later.

In what way?

For example, observing that one child is more athletic than the other and saying so to the children can lead to labeling. This means that the unsportsmanlike child believes that it is unsportsmanlike and loses interest in sports. Such skills can change again and again. It is different with character traits. Here it is important that the differences are recognized, appreciated and encouraged by parents, for example through different hobbies. Incidentally, it is easier to recognize the differences between the children if parents start spending time with each child individually at a very early age. This also strengthens the mother or father-child bond.

Ilka Poth is a twin herself and advises twins and parents of twins as a coach.

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This is probably the only way to promote the individual development of multiples, right?

Exactly, the topic of individuality is very complex. It starts with the naming – many parents use similar-sounding or rhyming names, for example, or they dress their twins the same. It is really important to support the children differently in their development and in what they would like to do. Unfortunately, it very often happens that multiples are perceived as one person and compared to each other. All of this complicates the development of an individuality and can later lead to mental illnesses such as eating disorders or depression up to complete alienation in adolescence or adulthood.

Unfortunately, it very often happens that multiples are perceived as one person and compared to each other.

Ilka Poth, twin expert

How do you prevent this – perhaps unconscious – comparison of multiples?

Unfortunately, comparisons cannot always be avoided. It happens simply because parents and outsiders look for differences. When parents compare their multiples, however, they should not say it out loud to their children. If outsiders compare children, for example by asking them questions like “which one of you is taller or better at school”, parents should ask them not to do so.

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Twins are often said to have a special bond. How do parents deal with this?

There is a so-called affective bond between the multiple children – i.e. a strong emotional connection that is irreplaceable and cannot be replaced by another affective bond. It is important that parents do not feel neglected and take this bond seriously. In addition, it is not bad if parents are aware in advance of the special power that multiple children have.

There is a so-called affective bond between the multiple children – i.e. a strong emotional connection that is irreplaceable and cannot be replaced by another affective bond

Ilka Poth, twin expert

A special power? What does that mean?

If multiples want something, they can get it done much better together than if they were alone – whether that’s buying clothes or being allowed to go out longer. First one asks, then the other, then both together – and in the end the parents often give in because they can’t help it. Multiples are simply stronger together and can assert themselves better.

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