Grappig genoeg ben ik door de zuid-Afrikaanse meerlingen vereniging SAMBA gevraagd om voor hun magazine een artikel te schrijven over onze Sinterklaas-traditie. Toch wel leuk om dit met jullie te delen na het overlijden van Nelson Mandela en de hele zwarte pieten discussie 😉
Raising Multiples in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands we have an annual tradition called Sinterklaasfeest. This feast is based on an old tale about a very old man named ‘Sinterklaas’ (Saint Nicolas), who lives in a villa in Spain with his ‘Zwarte Pieten’ (black helpers). Every year Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten visit the Netherlands for a couple of weeks, ending their stay with the celebration of Sinterklaas’ birthday on December 5. Traditionally they bring loads of presents for the children. During this time of year children put their shoe near the chimney before they go to sleep, hoping that a Zwarte Piet will climb down the chimney (that’s why they turned so black!), and leave a chocolate letter or a hand full of pepernoten (tiny cookies) next to their shoes.
Every year Sinterklaas will try to treat all children equally. But as you can imagine, for twin children he finds it hard to decide whether or not he should give the children the same or different presents. He totally understands this dilemma twin parents have to deal with. How can you treat two individuals equally while they need to learn to distinguish themselves from each other?
For us twin parents it can be difficult to divide our attention between our children equally. Some children simply demand more attention then others. So what can we do to make sure that we pay enough attention to each child? And also, how can we give our twin children individual attention, when they’re continuously keeping their eyes on each other?
For me as a twin parent this wasn’t easy to deal with. I realized the importance of regularly giving individual attention to my children, but I found that doing so would often lead to a struggle for my attention. Whenever I tried to read to one of my girls, the other one would join us immediately. I would explain to them that they had to wait their turn, but for my twins it was almost impossible to be patient, while one of them did get my attention, and the other one didn’t.Now, as my children grow older, it gets a little easier for them to deal with these situations, though every now and again they still find it difficult. I regularly play games with them individually, and they are now starting to get used to the idea of letting the other one get my full attention for a while.
Unfortunately, during the day there is not always enough time to play games with your children individually.Also, twins tend to struggle especially at moments that you don’t have time to give them special attention. Like early in the morning when you are in a hurry to get ready to go, or at the end of the day when you need to cook.
My little helper
Luckily I have found a simple solution: I let my children take turns being my ‘little helper’ every once in a while. On these ‘helper days’, one of my children is allowed to help me with all sorts of things that usually cause conflict: helping out in the kitchen and choosing the best seat at the table, being the first one to get into the car and choosing where to sit, helping bake cookies, being the first one to take a bath or the last one to go to bed. I actually use every single situation that can cause conflict between my children.
By giving direction to my children’s behavior I try to avoid possible conflict situations. And it seems to work out well! Having my children be my little helper every now and then, I can see their conflictuous behavior gradually decrease. Even on non helper days. I started to use helper days when my twins were at the age of 4. And I still use it sometimes now my girls are getting older. Children learn quickly that there’s no need to argue anymore. I found out that as a parent you can actually break this habit. And it’s such a relief, both for the children and yourself. As a variant on helper day, I sometimes let my children be helper for a whole week. I add some things, such as doing some special activity, like going to a museum, or preparing a nice meal together.
Give it a try!
This is a simple approach to dividing attention in the twin situation. You should give it a try with your twins and let me know how it turns out! If you like to learn more about raising twins, please have a look at my website www.twinsvideoblog.com.