How To Spend Quality Time With Each Kid When You Have Twins—And Why It's Ok When You Can't
When I finally lay my 2-year-old twins, Cassidy and Cassius Jr., in their crib at night, I start my nightly routine. I run the dishwasher loaded with their sticky sippy cups, pick up toys from the floor, and finally mop the dried apple juice that fell on the kitchen floor at lunch. Once I complete those household tasks, I do my final walk down our hallway to peek into their Sesame Street-themed bedroom to be sure they are sleeping.
At that moment, along with a sense of relief, I instantly begin to think the same thought I have every night: Did I give each child enough individual attention today?
As a first-time mom, I deal with the expected parenting duties and all the trial and error that comes along with the journey. But being a new parent to twins often creates even more stressors and guilt—and spending alone time with each of my children has always been something I've struggled with. Along with working remotely, house duties, and trying to prep the twin's meals for the day as my fiancé works outside the home, it can get complicated to squeeze in one-on-one time with both Cassidy and Cassius.
But experts say it's important for children to have bonding time with their parents. "Providing your child with individualized attention encourages a message that they are valued," says Kat Lewitzke, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist with Bright Pine Behavioral Health. "The child then internalizes this experience which allows them to build self-esteem and confidence that can flourish success later in life."
Research from the University of Iowa in 2012 also found babies who have strong parental bonds are "less likely to be troubled, aggressive, or experience other emotional and behavioral problems when they reach school age."
So how do you fit in that bonding time with each child when you have twins? Here are some simple tips that have been helping me bond with my kids and have also taken the pressure off when I'm not able to.
Taking Advantage of Their Different Routines
"Children in the same family are not identical," says Keith E. Whitfield, Ph.D., psychologist, president of University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and an expert on the social, psychological, and cultural factors of cognition and healthy aging. So even if you have twins, there's a chance their routines will be a little different, which is the case in my house.
For instance, our daughter, Cassidy, is an early riser and I get to do a few morning activities with her that I know she likes. We eat grapes together, cuddle, and watch The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. Her brother, Cassius, wakes up a bit later and normally doesn't nap early in the day. So, when Cassidy is napping, I get to bond with just Cassius. He loves to sing his alphabets and play with his Hot Wheel cars. It's also the perfect time to enjoy his favorite afternoon applesauce snack together.
Even though they happen at different times throughout the day, these 10- to 30-minute connections with my twins seem to make a big difference for our relationship.
Creating a Habit of Taking Turns
Of course, there are routines that will still have to happen at the same time. One of those is likely your children's bedtime routine, which is important for good sleep and promotes positive behavior. What works in our home is taking turns with their bedtime schedule.
The minute the twins are in their pajamas, Cassidy will come over and we will read from her favorite book, while Cassius plays with his mega blocks. When we finish Cassidy's book, Cassius comes over for his moment and we read from his preferred book. It's simple and makes it possible to bond with each right before they go to sleep.
Letting Them Play Together
There are some days when even our usual bonding routines slip off the schedule. On those days, I remember a sweet perk of having twins: they always have a friend to play with. Cassidy and Cassius are now becoming a bit more independent. They will sit at their table and chair set and work as a team to put together a wooden puzzle. The twins also say their alphabets together while placing their magnetic letters on their easel. It's amusing to hear Cassius soft voice cheering his sister on saying, "Great job!" as she places the last letter on the board. Their bonding time with each other makes it a lot easier on Mama.
Going Easy on Myself
As parents, we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves and I'm learning to give myself grace. Some days, I may spend more time with one twin over the other, and that's OK. As Dr. Whitfield points out, "There should be no guilt in spending more time with one child than another as long as it is based on the needs the child is presenting on that day, in that moment."
Kids can also be understanding. Research published in Journal of Family Psychology found when children feel their parents' "preferential treatment" is fair, they are less likely to struggle with issues, including depression and anxiety, and more likely to have higher self-worth. It's just important for parents to explain the reasons why one child may be getting some extra attention at a certain time.
- RELATED: 23 Easy Ways to Bond as a Family
The Bottom Line
It can feel nearly impossible to give equal one-on-one attention to each child when you have twins. But there are simple ways busy parents can bond with each kid, especially since they may have different routines and interests. These bonding moments can also be just a few minutes dedicated to that child. And always remember to go easy on yourself—it's not easy being a parent to multiples!