As long as there have been twin births, this special relationship has fascinated the world. Twins flourish in myths, legends, and memoirs, and there's no question that the twin dynamic is an amazing one. However, bringing twins into a singleton child's life is often a source of anxiety for parents. Do siblings get jealous of twins? And what can parents do to the ease the transition?
Imagine this. You're a toddler, used to being the center of mom and dad's world. Then, lo and behold, mom brings home from the hospital not one, but two new babies. Yeah, they're adorable. But they're also an immense amount of work. (To say twins double the work load is really an understatement.) According to The New York Times, twins not only soak up massive amounts of attention from parents, but also from grandparents, friends, and neighbors. Twin babies are completely captivating, and that doesn't escape a first child's notice.
''The sibling often becomes a nonperson in the public eye, and that has a devastating effect," explained Donald Keith, executive director of the Center for the Study of Multiple Births, to the Times.
Nonperson? Yikes. But that's not all. Parents have to remember that twins, who have literally known each other since before birth, have a unique relationship. According to Some Twin Insight, it's not uncommon for twins to gang up on a singleton sibling. (After all, there's strength in numbers.) When that's not a problem, a sibling can still feel left out of the tight-knit relationship, and parents only have so much time to spend with each child to begin with. When twins come into the picture, free time is often sliced up like sashimi.
That said, there's a lot parents can do to ensure that every child in the household receives enough love and attention. Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, explains to Romper in an email interview that in the toddler years, jealousy is rooted in a deep need for parental attention. Further, toddlers aren't great self-regulators — so they don't understand why they should have to wait to get the attention they crave.
"It helps minimize jealousy when Mommy designates and delivers one-on-one 'Special Time' with each child, solo," Walfish notes. Importantly, you shouldn't lump the twins together during "Special Time," because twins need individual attention too. The good news is that even 10 to 15 minutes of individualized time per day can make a difference in terms of jealousy, according to Walfish.
In addition, Walfish urges parents to "never, never compare your kids to each other or to other children," as it demeans them. Comparing the single child to the twins — as in, oh don't those two look cute together, but Sammy, how come you never smile in pictures? — is also damaging, and should be stringently avoided.
Another danger Walfish sees is when one parent takes over care of a particular child. "For instance, on a number of occasions I have seen Mom overwhelmed when her second child arrives, so she hands over the full and essential parenting of her first-born to Daddy," Walfish explains. "That older sibling not only metaphorically loses his mother, but in fact really does lose her to the younger sibling." When parents split themselves between children, deep-rooted jealousy is the inevitable result.
The bottom line: each and every child in your household needs love and attention. When twins are in the picture, jealousy may be heightened. But with enough one-on-one time with parents, and a sense that the family is one, inclusive, and loving unit, a singleton child will do just fine.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.