Originally published on Savvy Auntie in collaboration with Natalie Robinson Garfield.
Aunties to twin nieces and nephews enjoy a double dose of love, excitement, and challenge throughout the pair’s infancy and on into adulthood. Here are some tips to help you celebrate and appreciate the positive aspects of having twin nieces and nephews, as you double dip into the challenges, expectations, competitions, and self-doubt involved with raising twins!
1. Imagine them as siblings (that happen to have the same birthday).
While twins grow up “feeling like they are a part of a connecting set…they are two, whole, complete individuals” (www.raising-twins.com).
-Avoid making comparisons, as these can set up expectations.
-Aunties can help twin nieces and nephews develop their independence by emphasizing individuality through the consistent use of names to identify each child.
-Try not to identify your twin nieces and nephews as a set—“the twins,” “the girls,” “the boys,” “the guys,” etc.
2. Support their special relationship.
Monozygotic (identical) twins tend to have “a stronger interconnection with each other,” enjoying a close relationship right from the womb (www.raising-twins.com). As babies (or“twinfants”), they learn to crawl together, nurse together, play together, and snuggle together. This “twinship” is apparent in identical twins who “remain extremely close through their whole adult lives.” Much of the care that goes into raising twins is in “how we respect and nurture that bond.”
-Acknowledge and respect their “twin mentality” that will oftentimes manifest even before actual communication with formal language.
-If you have twinfants, consider helping their parents set up sleeping routines using the same crib. While nestled together, this close physical contact will calm and comfort the twin babies as they drift off to sleep.
-When you put your twin nieces and nephews down for a nap in the same crib, make sure they can see each other and are within each other’s reach.
3. Listen and observe carefully to determine what they are feeling; twins tend to arouse people’s assumptions and projections.
When they are young, many twins “develop their own way of communicating with each other” that is often referred to as “twin talk” (www.raising-twins.com). “Twin language” or “twin speech” occurs when one twin mimics the undeveloped speech pattern of the other twin (www.twin-pregnancy-and-beyond.com).
-Talk with them when they are still twinfants, and continue to do so as they get older to encourage language development. Motivate them to express themselves with language by using words to describe their actions.
-Take the time to read to them regularly. Have a book ready whenever your twin nieces and nephews visit.
-As they continue to deal with several matters throughout their lifetimes that only they can fully comprehend, such as dealing with common questions from strangers, pay close attention to their bond and associated behaviors. This can be helpful when encountering certain social situations.
4. Spend special time with each alone, as well as together.
Setting aside one-on-one time with each twin can help foster a sense of individuality and help them learn to develop individual relationships. Aunties can help twin nieces and nephews develop their own identities by focusing “not on treating them equally but on treating them fairly and on finding ways to meet their individual needs” through play dates (www.twinstalk.com). Focus on enjoyable activities that are based on your twin nieces’ and nephews’ interests.
-When they get older, take one twin out for breakfast or brunch once-a-week, and treat the other twin to a weekly pizza night. Allocate your qualAuntie time so that you can accommodate the morning person and the night owl.
-If you have dizygotic (fraternal) twin nieces and nephews, you might accompany one of them to youth sporting events and watch movies with the other.
-Have fun keeping them fit by jogging with one twin every other morning and playing tennis with other in the afternoons. Alternate the activities, and remember that your individual excursions do not always have to be the same.
5. They are fortunate to have such a conscientious Auntie.
Everything you offer your twin nieces and nephews is a gift. Remember that a Savvy Auntie should always be valued and respected in kind—and that goes double for twins!
-Time spent with your twin nieces and nephews does not always need to be on an individual basis. Host a family game night every week and invite some of your nieces’ and nephews’ friends. No matter what the game or activity, Auntie is sure to come out a winner!
-Unglue them from their laptops, iPads, or iPhones, and take advantage of the sunny spring weather. Go hiking together or enjoy a Sunday picnic in the park.
-Since having twins can be overwhelming for parents, consider taking over simple errands and chores (e.g., cooking, housework, and laundry). Pick your twin nieces and nephews up from school every now and then. Doing so gives you the opportunity to connect with both while you converse about their day—and parents will definitely appreciate the extra help!
6. Enjoy them.
Although the thought of having twin nieces and nephews may seem daunting at first, the journey in helping to raise them can be quite pleasant and fulfilling, especially when you realize that you are not alone.
-Share your twin stories with others on online forums like the Twins Talk Forum, which contains topics that cover the range from twin births to the teen and tween years.
-Check out the National Organization of Moms of Twins Clubs, and become a member of a local twin club.
7. Visit some of the many twin websites for parents and extrapolate the info that is relevant for you.
These networks can be invaluable tools for the Savvy Auntie hoping to nurture more meaningful relationships with her twin nieces and nephews.
–www.twinstuff.com is a resource for “education, research, friendship, and camaraderie among twins and parents of multiples.”
–www.twin-pregnancy-and-beyond.com allows parents and families to connect, learn, and share information about raising twins with each other. There are opportunities for sharing photos, stories, and comments within the site’s social community that connects parents to others who are expecting or raising twins.
–www.twinsdoctor.com specializes in health information for twins by age group (e.g., infancy, childhood, and adolescence) and offers tips and product picks.
–www.raising-twins.com is filled with advice, support, and information about raising twins, including photos, FAQs, and a list of resources.
–www.twinstalk.com offers “parent-to-parent advice for raising multiples.”