[This is Part Three of a Three-Part Series on the singleton child in a family of twins. This part focuses on how a parent can help her singleton child and twin children form a bond that will help reduce conflict. Part One focuses on how a singleton views the experience of having siblings who are twins and Part Two focuses on the twins’ perspective.]
What a Parent Can Do
I compiled the following list based on interviews with adult twins and their non-twin siblings. These are some of the actions a parent can take to strike the proper balance among the needs of all of her children.
- Be Aware. Parents should recognize that the singleton child may feel more of a need to find a buddy, a playmate, a special confidant similar to what he witnesses his twin siblings having with each other. That’s not to say that singleton children have trouble forming tight bonds with peers. In fact, many of the singleton children with whom I talked stated that they were able to create close friendships with other children, and in their older years maintain those cherished friendships. Notably, many remarked that they did not observe their twin siblings forming similarly close-knit friendships outside the twinship.
- Be Proactive. In my interviews of twins and their singleton siblings, there was one sentiment in particular that was brought up most: they wished their parents had been more assertive in pushing the twin children to include the singleton child in play and activities. More inclusion leads to more bonding and more bonding usually reduces conflict.
- Celebrate the Uniqueness of Each Child. Each child in your family should feel unique and special in his own right. In The Book of Nurturing: Nine Natural Laws for Enriching Your Family Life, Linda and Richard Eyre recommend that you “gather intelligence and insight from your child’s friends and teachers.” This will help you get to know the aptitudes, interests, and feelings that make up your complex child. If a parent is doing her job in ensuring each child feels understood, the singleton child will feel just as valued as the twin children – and vice versa!
- Guide Others to Treat your Children as Special Individuals. When others ooh and ahh over the twins, make sure to alert the person to the specialness of the singleton child. As an example in the case of your young children, twins Samantha and Jonathan and singleton Jane, you would say to whoever was giving disproportionate praise to the twins: “Yes, Samantha and Jonathan each are fun; Samantha likes to jump and Jonathan like to dance. And Jane here is a wonderful helper – she loves to clean the floor when something spills on it.” That way, you are politely demonstrating to the listener that each child is unique in his own way. Bonus: you are demonstrating to your children that you love and value the distinguishing characteristics of each child.
- Make One-on-One Time Happen. I know I sound like a broken record on this last point, but I cannot stress enough the importance of alone time with each child. An overwhelming majority of twin interviewees and their singleton siblings mentioned that they would have liked more one-on-one time with their parents. Every child deserves special alone time with a parent so he can talk and feel heard. When each child feels accepted and understood by the parents, he feels more loyal to the family of which he is a valued part. And when your children enjoy the feeling and security of a cohesive family, they are less likely to engage in activities that threaten that cohesiveness, such as attacking one another.
Follow the above steps and you’ll put an end once and for all to that sibling rivalry. (kidding — that’s simply impossible, but it certainly couldn’t hurt to reduce the amount of fights…) 🙂