Tag Archives: twins

5 tips to spending one-on-one time with your child(ren)

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If you have more than one child and/or twins, you probably are concerned that you’re not giving them enough individual attention.

When your children are attending school, going to after school activities etc., they barely have time for family activities and sometimes no one-on-one time to interact with their parents. All siblings, no matter how many they are, if they are twins or not, need to have breathing space from each other from time to time. If the one-on-one time with you gives them attention and a bit of a spotlight feeling, it will boost their selfesteem and give them more balance in life.

If you have twins, it’s even more important to organize some special time with one of them, because most of the time, being in public with twins attracts public attention. When they go out on their own or spend one-on-one time with you, they have the unique opportunity to be themselves.

I consider the exclusive attention time very important and recently did set up a weekly schedule for my children.

Here are some hints about how to organize your one-on-one time with your children.

1) Take all the help you need

Do allow friends or family to help you to take your children to separate outings or arrange playdates for one child while you dedicate some time of undivided attention to the remaining child. You can always return the favour.

2) Schedule one-on-one times

This applies to every sort of relationship and maybe you do it already with your partner to nurture your relationship. Scheduled one-on-one time is very important for your children: it gives them uninterrupted time with you. The only thing you need to do is to find a moment that fits in your lifestyle. It’s almost impossible to do it on a daily basis, but you can arrange a few hours per week to dedicate to each of your children.

The time you choose should be relaxing and enjoyable. You don’t need to do something expensive. Children often enjoy chilling on the sofa listening to music or are perfectly happy to do the errands (but not if it gives the feeling of a „have-to“…). Obviously, an evening out with your teenager is very special (going to the movies, a restaurant, a theater or doing what your child likes to do with you).

3) Find a common interest

Every child has a favourite activity. Even multiples can have very different interests that you can share with each of them. It can be sport, gardening, a hobby that you both enjoy together. It is a great opportunity to learn something new with your child.

4) The power of rituals

Rituals are vital for every family. In The Heart of a Family, Meg Cox explains that “Studies have shown repeatedly that the children who are best equipped to face the rude world and stay centered are those who feel close to their families, and that closeness comes from routine reassurance and shared experiences.”

Try to establish routines within your daily life that foster the sharing of one-on-one time with each child. For example, involve one child in cooking dinner and setting up the table, the other one in preparing lunchboxes and the third one in getting things ready for the next day. Or hanging out the laundry or doing other chores in and around the house together. Also, instead of sending the children to bed altogether, take one child at a time and talk to him while he or she is getting ready for bed. – These might seem unimportant moments because they are part of our routine, but if shared with one child only, and not done in a hurry, they can become very precious moments.

Each child has the right to get the opportunity for individual attention. Find out what is best for you and each of your children. Your relationship with your child will surely be rewarded. And don’t forget to have fun and enjoy!

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Twins at school: once separated, always separated?

There are so many advices about keeping twins in the same class at school or not, which appear to lead to a simple single decision. But sometimes your have to change your decision for the childrens’ sake.

Sometimes you’re firmly convinced of doing the right thing but later on you realise that the situation has changed and you have to adapt.

When our girls were seven months old, I noticed that while playing together, one was always the giver and the other one the taker. Hence, we decided that it was time for them to spend more time with peers. In order not to become „the twins“, but to develop their own personal identity, we decided to put them into two different groups at a daycare. However, when they were two years old, they had to stay in the same group for almost a year. But by that time, they were already very independent from each other. They were able to play on their own or with their own friends without needing the twin sister. They began to realise that they looked alike and started to trick people. They had lots of fun with this, and so did we. In this period I spent one day per week with one of them while the other one was at daycare, in order to provide one exclusive-mum-day for each of them.

When they were three years old, we decided to send them to preschool and we opted for two different classes. They both had their own teacher and their own friends. From the very beginning I told the other parents that we wanted them to be considered two individuals and that there was no problem if one was invited to a party or playdate without her sister. The girls did accept this and apparently did even appreciate it.

Three years later we decided to put them in the same class for several reasons. The main reason was that we wanted them to experience the fun and pleasure of being twins during their daily life at school. We figured that this would probably be more difficult once they’ll be teenagers. Competition will probably become a much bigger issue by then.

Some grown up twin-friends told me what they disliked most about being twins. They never liked to be considered „the twins“ (when identical), as half a person when the other twin was not present and to be continuously compared to the sister (or brother).

Since the very beginning we tried to avoid this behaviour within our family. We also told our parents and friends to consider the girls as two sibilings who just happened to be born on the same day.

Though looking pretty much alike, our girls have very different characters. They have different preferences in colors, toys, games, sports and friends. And at school they don’t even sit at the same table and they usually don’t seek for the other’s support.

Since we are aware of teaching staff or class mates seing them merely as „twins“ and never calling them by their names could lead to personality disorders and competitions between them, we will be very attentive.

What were they thinking?!

I wanted to post something else today, but this picture hit me straight into my heart while I was reading the newspapers online these days.

This picture shows four 6 year old chinese twins at their school in Shenzen (South China). Their parents did shave their heads and wrote huge numbers on their sculls to make it easier for their teachers to distinguish them.

In my opinion, it shows the complete inability of the parents and the teachers of these twins to cope with the situation. I find the act of shaving them and labelling in such an eye catching way very discriminating and terribly humilitating. By this act, they have been totally deprived from all the rights of being individuals. Twins, especially if identical or multiple twins, stick out already and there is no reason to make them feel even more uncomfortable about this.

I’m the kind of twins-mum who always wants her twins to be first of all individuals. On the inside and on the outside. That’s why I’m so outraged about this picture.

There are several ways to help people tell your twins apart. The easiest way is to make them wear different clothes. But even if twins need to wear a uniform at school, there are still little things you can change in their outfits. You can apply coloured stickers on the collars or choose a different hairdo for each child or let them wear a ribbon in their favourite color (for the girls) etc.. You can also use name tags until people can tell them apart. Personally, I prefer to point out physical characteristics to teachers, friends etc.: „Even the most identical twins have some distinguishing characteristic. (…) Identify a telltale feature for each child, for example a freckle, mole, eyebrow arch or hair whorl. Avoid comparative features; people can’t rely on them unless the twins remain together at all times.“ (cfr. http://multiples.about.com/od/twinsinschool/tp/aatptelltwins.htam).

Seriously, what were the parents of these four twins thinking?!

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Secret language among (my) twins

Also known as idioglossia, autonomous language or cryptophasia, the phenomenon of the secret language among twins, twin language, twin talk has fascinated both parents and researchers. It is a spoken language – sometimes also a language of gestures and body language – that twins adopt to communicate among each other. According to twin statistics about 40 percent of multiples develop some type of language between them that only they can understand. Scientists in this field also describe it as very rare and happening only in cases of extreme isolation and it is more likely to occur with identical twins (see Karen Gottesman, Raising Twins after the first Year. Everything You Need to Know about Bringing up Twins – from Toddlers to Preteens, Avalon, 2006, 84-86).

Well, I would like to describe what I observed with my twins. My twin girls started talking (monosyllables) around 11 months and were building up vocabulary pretty fast in Swissgerman and Italian (and a bit in Dutch: they went to daycare 3 days per week).
At the age of 15 months my daughters started to communicate in a language that had nothing in common – neither phonetically and nor morphologically – with the languages they were exposed to and they were surely not suffering from “extreme isolation”. Unfortunately my attempts to record them were in vain, as they always stopped talking immediately when I pushed the record button…

My daughters weren’t “mimicking each other’s attempts at language” (like discribed by Pamela Prindle Fierro in Twin Talk (Idioglossia), Do twins have a secret language?). They were already producing their first monosyllables in italian and dutch and even attempting bisyllables (it. bocca (mouth), it. ´atte (“latte”; milk), it. ´ajza (“calza”; sock); nl. kaike (“kijk”; look) etc.) when I observed them producing soundchains that were completely new. There were not vouwel-consonant alternations (like the one in the video above bababa, papapa) but an alternation of vouwel and consonant sounds that sounded like bapu’ia-mubu.

Were they really only babbling or repeating each other’s vocalizations? I really don’t think so. Or if they did, they were really persuasive as they didn’t repeat what the other was saying, but they were engaged in a conversation with longer “words” and sentences. The intonation went up and down and the gesture language was very notable. Maybe a simple babytalk though or gibberish? I remember them playing nicely with their toys when one of them told something in this language to the other which stood up, walked through the room (they both walked since month 12), picked up a toy in a box (and there were a few boxes standing around) and gave it to the other and went on playing. They both exactly knew what the other one was saying.

I know that language acquisition has ups and downs, but what was happening here? – My girls started to attend daycare at the age of 7 months. We decided to put them in two separate groups, as we wanted them to get used to be independent from each other as soon as possible. They were exposed to Dutch at daycare whereas at home we talked Italian and Swissgerman – and they were passivly exposed to German (the language my husband and I talked together) and English (the language my son was exposed to at school and that we talked with some friends too).

Was this secret language their way to cope with their language situation?

Was it only temporary?

What I knew was that our son was suffering from this situation: he felt excluded. Any attempt to use Italian or Swissgerman with him failed. He was starting to avoid playing with them and when we tried to talk to them one-on-one in order to focus on one language, their attention spam would last only max 2 minutes and they completely refused to talk to us. Focussing on their language production was not the right thing to do. I realized that we didn’t have much choice. If we would maintain our multiple languages at home, our son would be suffering (we tried to explain to him what was probably happening, but he felt very much excluded from “their” world. He adores his sisters and being treated this way was making him feel very very sad).

I must add that our son stopped answering in Italian to me since we arrived in the Netherlands, so this was also something I was struggeling with: how can you valorize a language to the point that your 4.5 year old feels that it’s worth to be learned? I was “fighting” for Italian with all three children and not obtaining any response was exhausting. I tried everything: DVDs, CDs, read italian books, meet with Italian children, but nothing worked. They all would prefer the other languages, mainly Dutch and English.

I know that you should never ever skip one language and it felt anything but fair for my husband and me. But it was worth a try. We decided to narrow down the languages in our family to a single one, Standard German, for a two months. Speaking it consistently requested the same effort to me and my husband and this was the perfect compromise for us.

After these two months not only my daughters stopped talking this secret language, but our son also started to talk German like if he would have talked it since birth.

Would our girls have stoped to talk the secret language by themselves? Would our son have re-started talking Italian to me? Should we have waited longer to make this change? Did we hinder them in becoming bilinguals?

They are all bilinguals/multilinguals now. They are all fluent in German, English and Dutch. I talk now Italian with my son during the weekends – and when we’re alone – and our daughters understand Italian too.

Did we do the right thing? I’m still not sure, but I know that we can never be completely sure if we’re doing the right thing. Every family has to decide what works better for her. It’s good to know what the theories are about bilingualism, twins talk and language use among siblings, but what is even more important is to consider the single cases and act in a healthy and positive way that enforces communication. No matter in what language.

Every child can become bilingual. It doesn’t have to be in the traditional way, following a handbook.

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