One of the most challenging phases of parenting multiples is when the childrens' desire to explore the world surpasses their ability to recognize and avoid danger. Generally, this difficult stage exists between the ages of 1 and 3, as multiples become mobile. Almost every parent of multiples experiences a situtation where their two toddlers take off in separate directions. They stand frozen in horror, not knowing which child to chase after first!
Parents are well aware of the danger this presents. In many environments, they simply have to keep their multiples contained, perhaps in a double stroller. But there are other situations where they want to give their multiples a chance to explore the world on their own terms. Safety harnesses -- or leashes -- can provide that freedom, within safe boundaries.
However, not everyone considers them a practical option. Leashes have become so closely associated with animal control that some people actually find it offensive to restrain a child in the same manner. Says one mom, "Why anyone would want to have a leash for their child is beyond me. They are children, not dogs. If you dont want them to run off, teach them not to run off."
Some experts agree. Parenting.com cited harnesses as one of the most ridiculous parenting products, claiming that "kids should just be taught to hold hands and stay where their parents can see them rather than be treated like the family pet."
In addition, some parents may feel uncomfortable about the extra attention generated by using leashes. Certainly, twins and other multiples are already in the spotlight when they go out in public. It is likely that your family will attract even more scrutiny when leashes or harnesses are used.
Some parents feel that using leashes is actually less restraining than keeping kids cooped up in a stroller all the time. They provide freedom to roam around, but allow parents to control boundaries and limit danger. They significantly reduce the risk of children wandering away from parents, into the path of danger. For parents of multiples, it can be a very effective way to keep kids from disappearing in different directions.
Depending on their design, leashes may prevent other injuries as well. Maureen Dempsey Baker, creator of the By My Side child safety harness explains, "We were informed by pediatricians that (many) common injuries are to shoulders and arms from parents pulling up when a child falls while holding their hand. The harness allows you to gently guide your child while supporting them in their strongest place, the chest."
In fact, many supporters identify the hands-free aspect of leashes as the biggest benefit. For parents of higher order multiples, the number of children simply exceeds the number of parental hands! Other parents recognize that holding childrens' hands for an extended period of time can be uncomfortable for small children -- imagine how you'd feel keeping your hand raised above your head
As a parent of twins, I realize that I often make different choices for my twins than I would if I only had a singleton. Using a leash is one of those decisions. I can remember using them at a crowded outdoor fair and once in an airport when a stroller was impractical. I have to admit that I was a bit uncomfortable with the way we looked. But, as By My Side's Mary Dempsey Baker says, "Who cares what everyone else thinks when it comes to your child's safety!"
Several leash and safety harness products are available. The best products combine comfort with an attractive style. Look for a hands-free option that clips to a belt or fanny pack. Avoid products that attach to children's wrists, as they are more likely to cause injury and discomfort. This backpack from MyPreciousKid.com combines the safety of a child harness with a cute animal back pack for toddlers. By My Side's Twin Harness utilizes a chest harness that's available in a wide variety of patterns and colors, cute enough to coordinate with any outfits.