So you have more than one child, born at the same time? You are in good company! The most recent data shows that in 2009, 137,217 twins were born in the United States, as well as 5,906 triplets, 355 quadruplets and 80 quintuplets or higher. That’s a lot of children who share a birthday!
Of course, we all know how different each child can be within a set of multiples, even when they appear to be identical. These differences can range from the obvious (different genders) to the more nuanced, such as personality, developmental stages and personal preferences. What is a parent of multiples to do to manage so many variables?
Luckily, the parenting virtues that work for all children work for multiples as well. Love, patience, clear boundaries, flexibility, respect and a good sense of humor are the cornerstones of all good parenting, and needed two-fold (ha!) in raising multiples.
But what about the nitty-gritty details, the day-to-day minutiae, the work, of raising multiples? Well, why not ask the true experts…parents of twins! I am lucky enough to know parents raising multiples, so I posed questions to them, and yes, they had answers! Read on!
How do you prepare for multiples?
Beyond the obvious answers (such as reading the books, talking to your doctors, finding a good pediatrician and finding parenting support groups for multiples), many parents spoke to me about sleeping while you can, going to as many movies, restaurants, and date nights with their partner and seeing friends. The end of multiples pregnancies can become quite uncomfortable, so as much as the mother can walk, swim, and move her body; it improves her overall mental and physical health.
And when the babies are born, it’s all about organization! Rachel S., mother of four-year-old twins says, “Being organized is my number one tip. The more you can prepare, the better…I am also a BIG believer in routine. If I didn’t get them both on a schedule when they were younger, I would spend my life feeding. Developing systems for two is also a time and lifesaver. When they were smaller, it was a color that we used to remember who was drinking what amount, etc. I also used charts because I was so sleep deprived and sometimes couldn’t remember who had done what.”
Cooking for multiples: should I cater to specific needs?
“You give them whatever they want as long as they stop that whining. (Wait, is that the wrong answer?)” says Mike D.
I know for a fact that Mike and his wife feed their twin 2.5-year-olds nutritious food, but his funny quote speaks to the frustration of trying to accommodate different palates. Many parents suggest having a little bit of everything on the plate.
Rachel S. says, “I didn’t ever want to be a short order cook, so they eat what they get. I try to make a variety of things so that if one doesn’t like one item, there is usually something else on the plate they do eat. And probably the next night, I will make something that the other one I know will eat.”
Laren P., mother of 21-month-old twins, says the food issue has been made better by the option of choices! “Meals at my house go like this: the adult decides what’s to eat, and options are given within reason. For example, everyone has chicken and green beans, but everyone decides on if they want applesauce or yogurt or a banana. They also get to choose which fork or spoon they want to use. I’ve found that if they have a few options that don’t impact the overall nutrition of the meal, they will eat happily…especially with their favorite fork.”
Photo Source: Thinkstock/Creatas
Going on vacation with multiples: how can I manage it?
As any parent knows, traveling with kids requires three main things: organization, organization and more organization. With multiples? Traveling also requires a healthy dose of patience, a sense of humor and some tricks that only a mulitples parent would know!
Laren P. says, “I ALWAYS travel with a heart beat bear or white noise maker.” Mike D. and Rachel S. both agree that ordering the diapers and wipes ahead of time and having them delivered to your destination can really cut down on the packing! Rachel also adds, “For each girl, we pack a travel bag that has items to occupy them in the car or on the plane. They have their own items. Then we do one family bag of snacks, etc.” And if your multiples share a gender, try to pack similar outfits to make dressing the kids easier.
Going out to eat with multiples: how to get in and out alive!
Everyone with multiples agrees that yes, it is a nice idea to go out, but when they are very young, it is often just too hard (especially if you are bringing other siblings along).
Laren says, “Eating out: we’ve avoided it. My singleton is 3.5 years old, and the twins are almost 21 months. I’m brave, but I’m not dumb.”
Mike agrees it is tough, but “if they’re behaving and coloring quietly, live it up: order dessert, have a chat, take advantage of the fact that you do not have to clean up afterwards (but tip well). However, if one of them is tossing French fries over his shoulder like he’s a new bride, and the other one is half a dozen sips into the ranch dressing, it’s time to go.”
When does it get easier???
A good friend, Colleen F., has four children, eight and under, with twin six-year-olds. She reports that, “Having twin babies and a 20-month-old was the most exhausting time in my life. I walked outside, and four months had passed! And so, yes, the physical work does start to become easier. Now they dress themselves, eat, bathe, walk to the car, etc.”
But, it’s not just about physical work. Colleen adds, ”What has surprised me are the emotional challenges. I have realized that their emotional needs, the need for separation and to be recognized as individuals, arenow what we need to balance. For instance, now we balance when one twin scores two goals and the other scores none. What we say and do, to grow them as unique and different children, is my new parenting challenge.”
And while discovering who multiples are as different children is a challenging balance, Colleen also states how exciting it is, “Watching these boys become two very different people is fascinating. They have always had each other: to play together, eat together, share a room. Yet, they are so different. It is amazing.”
Parenting multiples, while more and more common these days, has its own set of challenges and joys. As a parent coach, I always recommend support, asking for and being able to recieve help and cultivating a good sense of humor. And while the work is most intense, self-care and attention to your marriage is key. Parenting mutiples isn’t easy, but the rewards are unique and sweet! Enjoy them!
Photo Source (upper right): Thinkstock/Comstock
Did you know February was National Children’s Dental Health Month? Nope, me neither! I do know how important it is, as a parent, to take care of children’s teeth. Like doctor’s visits, taking care of their little teeth is a non-negotiable. Regular dentist visits, brushing and flossing are like money in the bank for helping guarantee good oral health for years to come…but it’s not always easy, is it?
Parents chasing children with toothbrushes, bribes, begging, threatening, etc. – these are the many tactics parents use (I have been guilty of some of them, too!) to promote healthy teeth, but there must be a better way.
I decided to turn to the wise, nurturing, gentle and patient pediatric dentist whom my own children see, Dr. Mahnaz Shahinfar. As recently as this past week, my eight-year-old had a cavity filled with no tears and my four-year-old wanted to go along, because she “loves this dentist.” That’s all the proof I need that this is the dentist who knows kids and teeth.
How long have you been practicing pediatric dentistry? How long have you been in D.C.? And do you have children of your own?
I have been practicing and teaching pediatric dentistry for the past thirty years. I have started my practice in Washington D.C. in 2006. I have two sons 29 and 23.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Why is it important children take care of their teeth at an early age?
Decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease in the United States.
Primary teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt. Oral conditions can affect child’s self esteem and performance at school. Severe decay can affect growth and development.
There are many so many different ways to prevent future dental problems (and cavities) while the children are still young. What do you recommend and why?
We can prevent cavities through the following procedures:
What top three tips you would give parents who are struggling to get their children to brush their teeth?
For more information on dental health for you and your children, go to the American Dental Associationwebsite. They have facts, tips and games for kids!
More on Children’s Dental Health:
Photo Source (upper right): Thinkstock/iStockphoto
You have John over after camp, feed them lunch, all seems well, and then poof! The fighting begins! The boys don’t share, they disagree about what toys to play with, and then you can hear them pushing and shoving from the other room. Tattle-telling begins, and coupled with the sulking, you know that this play date is a failure. You stare at the clock until John’s mom arrives to pick him up. Phew! You are never doing that again! He’s a sweet boy, but clearly that was an unsuccessful play date.
So, imagine your surprise when, the next morning, your lovely son asks if John can come over again. What? The play date was a disaster! Why would your son want to repeat that mess? And how can you make it better?
You may not be in love with John, but your son clearly enjoys him, so here are some tips to help smooth a play date, whether it be between two kids who want to like each other, or just some tips to help smooth the date when there are some bumps in the road.
1). Food can be fun! Instead of just another snack of goldfish, make the food a project. From good old-fashioned Rice Krispies treats to English muffin pizzas, have the kids get involved with a little DIY snack. There are hundred of websites to help you; have your child pick a recipe that looks delicious and fun.
2). Plan a project around the house. Have the friend bring a bathing suit or change of clothes, and set the children up to wash cars! A bucket of soapy bubbles, a hose, and a dirty car, (followed up with Popsicles) is a fun afternoon. Helping to dig in the garden, weed, and planting flowers can also be a fun way to have kids working together and having fun. If you cannot find any work in house, have the children create an obstacle course or a beauty shop! Have them set it up, make signs, and open for business. Run the course or become a customer. When in doubt, a lemonade stand is always exciting for children.
3). Coach your child (beforehand) to handle the conflicts. Pretend to be a friend and role model a play date going south. Have your child get used to saying things like, “please don’t take the truck while I am playing with it” or “I don’t like it when you push me, please stop.” While you’re at it, have your child practice saying sorry for his or her missteps. “John, I am sorry I took the truck. Here it is.” This will not create perfection, but it a step in the right direction.
4). Ignore the squabbling. What may be annoying and sound negative to you, it may be just fine for the kids! It is hard to believe, but some children like a little bit of drama. Many friends can have a “fraught” dynamic, and so long as no one is being cruel, there isn’t overt violence, and they keep playing, try ignoring them! Wait and see if they can create their own solutions.
5). Give a choice. If you hear quite a bit of arguing over a certain toy, give the kids a choice. “You can find a way to share or I can take the toy. Which would you prefer?” If they whine or continue to fight, simply take the toy. Another choice sounds like, “you may either go outside to the swing set or play this board game, which one is it?” The power of the choice only exists when you ask once and then act. The kids will know you mean business if you act, and they are more likely to hustle to find a solution on their own.
Finally, your children will have many friends come in and out of their lives, so try not too worry about these play dates too much. Disagreements, a little fighting, meltdowns…they are part of childhood. As long as you pay attention, help create solutions, and keep it positive, most of it will come out in the wash.
1) Accept that young children are tired at dinner. We expect children to sit and enjoy our organic chicken at an hour where they have about five good minutes in them. Children have, largely, front-loaded their calories during the day, and they are simply not ready to “fill up” at the hour we have chosen!
2) Call a meeting and set the expectations. If the children are 3.5 and older, have them provide some ideas about the foods they would like to eat, and put them on the menu for the week. Let the children know that there will no other food served.
3) Have some conversation at the ready. Children love to be silly, they love family stories (especially involving danger/injury/or mistake-making), and they love being in charge of the conversation. For instance, these Table Topics are a family favorite at my house! To make it truly person, create your own table topics (instructions here).
4) Serve the food family style. If you keep this as a practice and keep the focus on the family (not the food), the children will enjoy making their choices, and will better learn to moderate their own hunger cues, as well as correlate their hunger to the amounts of the food they take to their plates.
5) Don’t promote a “clean the plate” mentality. Nutritionists have been fighting this for a while, saying it promotes overeating and lack of hunger and self-awareness. From a parenting perspective, it also makes you into the wretched “food police.” “One more bites of peas….” And “When you eat your broccoli, you can have dessert…” All of the cajoling and reminding sparks children’s counterwill or the idea of doing the opposite of what is asked.
6) Keep your boundaries. If you say the kitchen is closed at 7 PM or that the food stops after dinner, then stick to your word! Yes, there will be some yelling. Yes, there will be crying and whining. If you can withstand the storm of the transition, the child will adapt. As the parent, you have to stay strong; this will feel very hard. But it will pass!
7) Keep the sweets as celebrations, not rewards. Go ahead, have some fun! If it has been a tough week of holding boundaries and the children have done well, have a “Sundaes on Sunday” night. Or have a “Dessert First” for dinner one night. Have fun. Show the children that yes, you have rules, and sometimes it is okay to break the rules. Everyone will have a blast, and the idea is to laugh and enjoy each other.
This is not revolutionary or complicated thinking. It is not a way of strictly adhering to a certain type of thinking.
I recognized early on in my parenting that you cannot say “yes” to everything, nor can you say “no” to everything. But it is confusing, because the parenting experts seemed to have an answer for everything. Any given scenario has a prescribed answer…but is it really that easy?
NEVER give a treat before dinner? NEVER give a lollipop so you can get through the grocery store? AWAYS adhere to the bedtime? ALWAYS make a child hold your hand when walking?
So how does a parent stay reasonable and sane?
I use a scale, and this scale is forever changing based on my children and how they are developing.
And even though the scale changes, practicing this thinking for years has become a habit, and it is now fairly automatic. It helps me with almost every parenting decision, from the big to the small.
Here’s how it works:
At the lowest level in any given situation, the worst possible scenario is death.
Morbid? Of course, but that is how I roll.
So, already knowing that death is lurking everywhere, I have to move up to “serious injury or maiming.”
What is the worst that will happen if I don’t pick up this two year old in the parking lot?
Serious injury or maiming.
So, I pick up the child. Screaming and yelling and kicking ensue, but so be it.
After serious injury, we move into some muddy waters.
So, one of the items on the scale is: I am allowing a moral or value boundary to be moved, and thus render it insignificant?
What is the worst that will happen if I turn my head when I witness my six year old tease a friend?
I am breaking a value of showing others kindness.
Is an extra cookie, while on vacation, breaking a value or moral boundary? No. For me, the worst that will happen is…well, nothing. It is a cookie.
Another item on the scale is: Is this occurrence going to undermine my boundary or routine? How badly?
For instance, the children beg to stay up later on a school night. They want to watch one more Phineas and Ferb. On the surface, this is not a crisis. Yet my instinct tells me that, well, the worst that will happen is that they will be tired and that they will want to start to do this every night!
So, no. The TV goes off.
If it’s a Friday night, an extra show does not undermine my routine.
If they are on vacation, it is does not undermine my routine. If they are vacation, and we need to be at the airport at 6 AM, then it does undermine my routine. You see?
Asking yourself, ”what is the worst that could happen?” is a way to tap into your instincts, keep your role as an authority figure, maintain flexibility, and…the best of all?
Asking ”What is the worst that could happen?” can start to bypass those pesky worries and fears that keep your thinking too rigid or too flimsy.
For instance, if you have trouble keeping rules, you could ask, “What is the worst that could happen if I give my child this i-phone and don’t monitor it?”
Well, this could get bad. From over-texting to total distraction from homework, this question will snap you to attention that yes! You need to monitor the phone use!
Also, what about “What is the worst that will happen if I don’t make this screaming five year old another dinner?”
Your fears might spring up and say, “Oh God, he will never stop screaming…” But the worst? It is really just yelling and not eating. That is not death. That is not maiming. That is not even a moral boundary. It’s just annoying.
So, try it out. Put some of your parenting worries and quandaries to the test.
Speaking of this, What is the worst that could happen if you try my new online coaching class? CLICK HERE for more info and since you read ALL the way to end of this crazy post, you get a promo code. Go to the bottom of the sales page and type in MONAMI for 20% off the class! Huge savings!
2. Everyone is different, and it is interesting to hear about others struggles, triumphs, and points of view.
4. It is a judgement-free zone.
6. Since it is facilitated by a certified leader, everyone has a chance to be heard.
8. The basic idea that you have the right to feel supported, loved, and heard is so nice. It helps you be a better mom, spouse, friend, and community member.
10. You put your needs FIRST.
Chances are, when you were a child, you don’t remember having too much homework in kindergarten, first grade or second grade. Sure, you had a worksheet here and there, but nothinglike how it is today. Standards, testing, assessments and teacher evaluations have squeezed learning into the afternoon and evening hours, and with no change on the horizon, we can assume thathomework is here to stay.
And when it comes to parent and child, homework is a common lightning rod for struggle and fights. From where the child sits, to the appropriate hour it is completed, parents and children have trouble seeing eye-to-eye about the best way to complete the work.
So, let’s start off the year with some homework collaboration and cooperation! Here are some of my ideas for how to struggle less with homework:
Too much stuff.
Too much food, too much junk food, too much technology.
Too much family, too much sleep (maybe?), too much togetherness.
Too much lack of routine.
Whereas adults enjoy our routine and feel quite out of sorts without it, children need routine to continue to thrive, learn, and integrate their young brains.
Why? A happy and calm mom or dad IS a happy and calm parent.
I AM GIVING AWAY ONE CLASS. (How cool is Kelly to offer this to my peeps?!)
How do you win a spot?