Similar to my post about Thriving With A Toddler, doing the same with multiples requires four important steps:
· Accepting that tiredness, exhaustion, frustration, and relationship strain are going to happen,
· Planning ahead: creating routines and schedules and time to yourself,
· Establishing techniques to manage two or three children who are freaking out, and
· Addressing common challenges with thoughtfulness.
Having multiples can mean having more love, more fun, but also more tears. Here are ten common challenges facing parents of young multiples and what can be done to address those.
Make a plan to reduce physical exhaustion
Plan to be tired (sorry!). When you plan to be tired, you can plan to reduce that. When parents are rested, they can hear their own good wisdom and reduce the compromising state that often increases frustration.
Lowering exhaustion requires being mindful of what zaps your energy and carving out recharging time. Identify your priorities, establishing your important needs. What can you pull out of your schedule? What can you delegate? What can you let go of for now? What negative thinking can you stop? What can you do that is fun? What fuels you?
The time period of raising small children is not the time to start new hobbies, careers or huge projects. I know it can feel stifling to put so much time and focus on the children, leaving your aspirations for the time being, but that is what is necessary right now.
Your time will come! You’ll get your life back when your children are older. Really! This two shall pass!
Connect with others who have multiples. It is so important to know you are not alone nor need to reinvent the wheel. *Please see the resource list at the bottom.
Become a logistics expert
You likely already know that it can be a logistical nightmare to get two or three young children out the door. Succeeding at this requires being part orchestra conductor, part astronaut. Systems are your friend. Here are some suggestions to try:
· Create away spots for everything so you can grab all the items you need quickly.
· Stock up on supplies
· Have separate bags already packed with water, snacks, diapers, spare clothes, and distraction toys and either leave them by the door or in the car if they won’t freeze out there.
· Leave food and water for yourself in your stroller or vehicle, just in case! Replenish that weekly.
Remind yourself that you are raising two or three unique children
Your multiples are individual people—what works for one may not for the other(s). Also, each child might have a differently sized attachment tank so one might be fine with ten minutes of your undivided attention but another might need an hour or more. Consider altering your parenting strategies to meet the needs of each child.
In terms of individuation of them as people, helping your child to feel as one of two or three siblings rather than as “twins” or “triplets” will help grow their positive core beliefs and reduce power struggles. Different car seat colours, clothes, activities, friends, possessions and hairstyles, which they each pick, will help them to feel secure in their own skin.
Supporting each child to feel like an individual does mean recognizing their unique desires, favourites, and what helps them to feel seen, understood and important.
Find one-on-one time with each child
You likely have all your multiples with you most of the time; however, regularly carve out space for each of them to spend time alone with you. This can be done by inviting your partner/ helper or friends and family over to watch the one or two other one(s) while you take turns bringing one with you:
· Take one on errands with you
· Have “date time” with each child—a scheduled time each week where you take turns spending time with each child
· Have a short routine with each child at bedtime or wakeups, if possible
Attempt to meet their needs, but know it may be impossible
It can be very easy to feel guilty or heartbroken when one child is melting down, needs to eat, runs off or has to get to basketball when the other needs something else at the same time. If using hired help, systems or a volunteer isn’t possible, do your best, but please go easy on yourself when one of your children gets the short straw. I bet you feel like there isn’t enough of you to go around.
If that does happen, explain to your child what is happening and invite him/ her to problem solve with you. For example, “Angie is hungry (put up one finger on one hand) and you need a nap-snuggle (put up second finger). There is one of me (one finger on the other hand). What can we do?!” Even if your children are young, they will feel that you are trying and may feel less ripped off.
Continually facilitating the growth of positive core beliefs will sustain your child through the times when one feels he or she isn’t getting enough of you.
Ignore unsolicited advice
If you need to do things a certain way to maintain your sanity, but someone else is giving you the hairy-eyeball about it, as long as it doesn’t involve harm to the child in any way, go for it.
Plan how to handle the sibling fighting
It is really hard to address this BIG topic in one paragraph so I will suggest you make a plan and do some reading to handle sibling fighting, as it will likely be a great source of stress for you.
Firstly, stay calm, secondly, teach your children non-violent anger calm-down plans and communication. I know the books SIBLING WITHOUT RIVALRY and POSITIVE DISCIPLINE, the first three years aren’t specifically written for parents of multiples, but the information is fabulous and can be adapted.
Prepare your children so they learn that things are not always equal
If you give each one a turn pressing the elevator button or count out the same number of Cheerios, explosions may happen if, for example, one’s swimming goggles go missing and it’s time to buy only one replacement pair. “But MOM! SHE’s getting a new pair—why can’t !?!” You, “But you still have yours. You don’t need a new one.” Her, “THAT’S NOT FAIR!!!”
There is a difference between being fair and being equal. “Equal” means treating the kids in exactly the same manner regardless of differences, like having a same bedtime. “Fair” means responding accordingly to the situation, conditions, and differences. An example in that case is letting one who had a longer nap stay up longer than the one who did not.
As much as they can understand, train your children that you will treat them fairly, but perhaps not equally—it will depend on the situation.
Manage the mess tornado
Here are suggestions to calming the clutter storm:
· In addition to having away places for everything, spend fifteen minutes or “three songs” of tidy time with the children at the end of each day.
· Use it or lose it! When something is no longer used/ worn, get rid of it.
· Use labels to identify what items are whose.
· Assign age-appropriate responsibilities
· In the car, have a “what goes in, must come out” policy
Here is a list of resources that were recommended by parents of multiples on my Facebook page:
If you have a favourite multiples resource, please add it in the comments below so they can all be posted in one spot. Thank you!
You may also like these articles:
From the moment your baby bump starts to show until your teenagers shouts, “I hate you!” as she runs away from the car, others are likely to provide unsolicited advice or comment on your parenting strategies.
Whether the advice comes from a stranger, friend or your mother, it can trigger negative self-talk, undermine confidence and stir emotions that bring us down. It is important to take what is helpful, if there is anything, from the unwanted comments, restore your parenting confidence with positive self-talk and carry on bravely.
The motivation for unsolicited advice is interesting. Some people are genuinely concerned with helping, whereas some might be attempting to steal power from you by asserting a false parenting superiority.
As author Rebecca Eckler shared in her book, The Mommy Mob, women can try to feed their insecurities by being very hard on others. When it feels like another parent is trying to take rather than be giving, do your best to not let that bother you. Really, don’t. That person’s inability to be friendly or helpful communicates her weaknesses, pain or lack of information.
Unwanted parenting advice can come in many forms. Some commenters are direct in their suggestions like, “She’s too skinny. Give her solids already,” but often it’s the scowls or passive aggressive comments like, “Aw, is your little one tired?” that feel most frustrating.
The comments I found the most difficult to handle were around the topic of discipline. On more than one occasion, a (well-meaning) person of grand-parenting age has suggested that kids need “a good lickin’,” or that my “lax parenting” was causing my child’s outbursts.
The worst for me is when I hear, “That child just needs a good smack.” Older adults usually justify their suggestions with something like, “I had three kids—spanked them all and they turned out just fine.” I responded to that often-heard statement by writing this article for YummyMummyClub and this one for The Atlantic.
There are two aspects to handling these types of comments: the first is to address the person offering the advice kindly and the second is to talk yourself through your triggers.
Think of a response you can use anytime to help you through moments when your kids are melting down and others are either giving you the hairy eyeball or unwanted suggestions. The thing that gets people to stop offering unwanted advice the most is when they feel heard. Find a way to acknowledge the comment and verbally or nonverbally respond in a way that isn’t shaming (to prevent that person from getting defensive and keeping at it).
Here are some suggestions for gently responding to unwanted advice.
Start by smiling, then try one of these that suits your personality:
Look at the person giving you the suggestion, smile, nod, and then continue attending to your child without saying anything.
“Thank you for your concern.”
“I’ll discuss that with our family doctor/pediatrician.”
Use humour: Say, “This is nothing compared to yesterday!” or
“Whew! Anyone want to take over? I’ll come pick them up at 5.”
“Thanks for letting me know how you do things. I’ll consider that.”
“I’ll talk about that with my partner/ husband and we’ll make a game plan.”
Ask a question: “I wonder what the down-sides of doing that might be?”
“I’m glad that worked for you, but I prefer _____”
Be honest. Share your parenting goals and discuss if the advice is in alignment with those goals.
Hear her out. When your mother or mother-in-law offers advice, ensure that she feels heard. Allow her to speak without interruption, even if you do not agree with her suggestions.
Validate her. Try saying something like, “I can see why you did that” or “I can see why you think that might work.”
Assume good intentions. Before your negative self-talk can get you upset, talk yourself down—remind yourself that your mother/in-law loves you and is providing the advice because she likely thinks it will help reduce your stress.
Thank her for thinking of you. You can remind her that if you do have questions, you will be sure to ask her in the future.
Be honest and explain your decisions. Prevent resentment or tension by discussing why you are choosing certain parenting strategies. I say this to explain the difference in parenting these days, “Yes. Parenting today is certainly different than it was in your day. We have so much more information about child development, safety and nutrition now than you did. I know you did your best with the information available at the time.” Keeping her in the loop about up-to-date health and safety guidelines and parenting research is a great way to slow the flow of unsolicited advice. She will see you are taking your parenting role seriously.
For mother-in-laws, make sure to have conversations with your partner to ensure you are on the same parenting page, and that she is aware you two are a parenting team.
You are the expert of your child. Use parenting information or advice if it resonates with you and feels right. Even if a suggestion seems good to you, but crashes and burns when you try it, that experience is a good teacher. Now you know how to adapt your parenting to fit the outcome of that attempt.
Invite your friend, relative or mother/ in-law over to my Facebook page, where I post free (as evidence-based as we can get) parenting information. The parents on my page are so supportive and help each other.
It is well documented that the benefits of regular reading are profound. Studies have shown that reading improves everything from a person’s language, academic, speech, communication, and writing skills to reducing stress, improving concentration, expanding vocabulary, and allowing us to be lost in another world. Reading is relaxing entertainment that grows brains!
Given the power of this one activity to significantly change a person’s life, it is not surprising that teachers try to encourage their students to read by asking them to complete reading logs. Unfortunately, though, with a teacher’s good intentions notwithstanding, forcing a person to complete a reading log can actually do the opposite of what it is intended to do. Reading logs can make children want to stop reading. Here’s why.
There’s this phenomenon that happens in a person’s mind called counterwill. Austrian psychoanalyst, Otto Rank, first coined this term, but Gordon Neufeld, PhD has normalized this word in parenting education circles to explain what happens when you perceive that someone is trying to coerce you into doing something. Children who are “misbehaving” or “strong-willed” are usually experiencing counterwill.
Counterwill is a resistance force—it makes us do the opposite of what we are being told to do. The interesting thing is that counterwill is actually an instinctual drive that has safety benefits. This instinct’s purpose is to keep children safe and help them develop individuality as they get older.
It is the drive that stops a child from doing what a person with ill intentions wants him or her to do, and is the internal permission to have individual thoughts and feelings. It’s the voice in your head saying, “Don’t believe that man who needs help looking for his puppy. Run away!” It’s also the drive that stirs thoughts like, “I hate this activity. Hey, guess what? I can stop doing it—you’re not the boss of me!”
The bond between a parent and a child (and a teacher and a child) is the most important factor in a child’s development, and significantly influences his or her behaviour. When children feel “attached” to their caregiver, they want to follow that adult’s lead, and are less driven to be resistant.
Counterwill happens when an adult’s requests are too big for the attachment connection to sustain. A child is less likely to take direction from someone whom she doesn’t feel connected with.
The same kind of counterwill resistance happens with activities like reading logs (and many kinds of homework—the “busy work” kind). When sitting down to read, feeling ready and able to do that while thinking, “I can’t wait to find out what happens next,” we stimulate the brain growth and relaxation parts of our mind. When we feel pressure to complete one chapter or thirty minutes as prescribed by someone else who we may or may not feel connected to, the thinking turns to, “I don’t want to do this now, but I have to. I hate this.” The sense of freedom, of feeling in control, gets squashed, which cranks up resistance. A person can force him or herself to complete a task as long as the benefit or connection to the person asking is felt, but once the I hate this and you can’t make me tipping point is reached, counterwill kicks in.
As Alfie Kohn described in this interesting post called, "How to Create Nonreaders," parents report that children who usually love getting lost in a book who are expected to read for a certain amount of time each night then record that on paper, begin looking at reading as a chore rather than something to enjoy. They actually stop reading for fun.
When children are told how much to read, they sometimes zip through the pages, not really absorbing the story or information, just so they can get to the assigned page number to end at so they can stop. Forcing a child to read can stir counterwill, which instinctually will tell them not to do it.
Firstly, don’t force it.
Stop making children read.
*Let your children/students see you reading.
Lead by example. Pick up a book and show your enthusiasm for reading by talking about why you are excited to read a certain book in particular. With older children, you can talk about the elements of storytelling, like plot and character development or the setting, saying something like, “The author has me on pins and needles! How did she do that?”
Let your kids see you taking time to read each day. *This is the most important one.
Create a reading environment that feels comfortable to read in.
If the classroom space allows, teachers can ask parents if they have large cushions, area rugs, comfy sofas, or chairs to donate. Arrange them in a separate space, so it feels more like a living room than a classroom. Students can take turns using this comfortable reading space.
At home, parents can create screen-free zones with furniture that makes it easy to sit for a while without getting a sore bottom. Turn the radios, TVs, and other screens off for good chunks of time.
Go to the library regularly.
Take your children to your school or local library, steer them into their age/interest-appropriate aisles and allow them to pick the books. Do this each week or every second week. I know that life can get very busy—try to put this at the top of the priority list.
Provide choice and freedom.
Parents, ask your child what she would like in the house or in her room to make reading more enjoyable? A special pillow? Funky bookshelf?
Teachers, caringly ask your students what would make their reading time more enjoyable. This is a great counterwill reduction question: “What do you need to in order make reading a good thing?” I know you might have a big class, but do what you can so each child feels heard on their answer to that question. Some do better with music (this might be the only time you allow headphones), some do better with their feet intertwined with others, or perhaps in a pillow fort. Let students pick their book within the parameters you create.
Set a variety of books out where the kids can see them.
Have books as part of your décor. Find an organized way to have books around, making it easy for kids to pick one up.
Learn more about your child or student’s interests, providing books to expand knowledge in those areas.
Host a kid-version book club.
Mimic adult book clubs by having a group of kids pick the book they want to read—let members of the group suggest books to choose from. As adults do, pick a day to have the book read by (although we don’t always finish it, do we?!) and on that day, bring some snacks and drinks in and chat about the book. Book chats can replace book reports, which can also be reading killers.
Invite authors to come speak in your classroom.
We live in a small city, yet there are many authors in our midst. There are poets, fiction, nonfiction, and children’s authors living nearby. As a writer, I love invitations to speak at schools, and do so as much as my schedule allows. It doesn’t hurt to ask an author if he or she has time to visit.
Be creative with reading activities.
As I outlined in a post I wrote called, "Growing Your Child’s Interest In Reading," the love of reading can be fostered in unusual ways—reading recipes, road-signs, writing poetry, memorizing song lyrics. Get creative!
If you liked this, you might also like: "How To Help Your Child Through A Compromised State" and "Your Go-To Great Parenting Facebook Pages."
I continually post parenting and teaching resources on my Facebook page, so I welcome you over there to ask questions, cheer each other on, and learn more.