The holidays are a wonderful time for families, full of excitement and memory-making traditions. The parties, celebrations and family time provide many opportunities for parents of multiples to develop traditions that enhance their childrens' unique identities. That's one of the biggest challenges that parents of multiples face in raising twins, triplets or more, and the holidays can be a fun time to focus on that issue. No matter what holiday or religious observation you celebrate, here are some things to keep in mind:
Recognize each child individually in your traditions. Never lump multiples together as "the twins" or "the triplets." That seems like an obvious statement, but there are numerous small ways that it occurs, sometimes subconsciously or by well-meaning friends or family members. Parents can counteract that tendency by intentionally distinguishing each child individually during the holidays and by encouraging others to do the same. For example:
- If you hang stockings, each child should have their own.
- If you write a family letter to include with holiday greeting cards, mention each child by name. Instead of saying "The twins are taking dance classes," mention them individually and make a point to recognize something unique each one. "Molly's favorite part about dance class is wearing a tutu while Polly just loves the energetic rhythms of tap dancing."
- If you decorate a Christmas tree, don't hesitate to let it reflect your family's multiplicity. Yes, you might have doubles and triples of certain ornaments. As your family grows, you might even need more than one If your budget and space permits, consider having a family tree, then letting each multiple decorate their own smaller version.
- Visiting Santa at the mall? It might take twice as much time and cost twice as much money, but every child deserves their own moment in the spotlight. Unless your multiples prefer to sit on Santa's lap together, give them the opportunity for a private one-on-one.
As the years go by, talk to your multiples about their favorite aspects of the holiday. Is it baking? Shopping? Decorating? Caroling? Try to identify something special for each child, then make it a point to incorporate their preferences into your plans.
The holidays are full of special moments. When you have multiple siblings like twins or triplets vying for attention, some of those moments can quickly disintegrate into episodes of competitveness and hurt feelings. For example, my twin daughters always battle to be the one who puts the angel on top of our Christmas tree. There's one tree, one angel, and two of them.
Whether it is lighting a candle on a menorah or Advent wreath, setting out the cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve, or being the one to hang a cherished ornam ent, these special moments take some creative parenting. Sometimes it helps to take turns. And sometimes it's better to recreate those special moments so that everyone gets a chance.
Develop a system that works for your family. You may want to take turns from year to year ("Remember, honey, you hung the star last year. It's your sister's turn this year.") Or, it may be easier to keep track if you take turns as each situation occurs. (Bobby will be the one to turn on the Christmas lights because Billy got to be the first one to read the Christmas card from Grandma.)
Having multiples presents an interesting predicament when it comes to opening gifts. Since they often receive the same items, they can spoil the surprise for each other. You may wish to create your own system for present opening, such as having them open duplicate presents simultaneously.
Make It Unique
Some of the most fun holiday memories are created when families develop their own unique traditions. Several years ago, we started a tradition of allowing my daughters to choose their own box of cereal for a Christmas morning breakfast. It may seem like a wacky choice for a holiday meal, but it's actually a very special treat for the girls, as I restrict them to healthy cereal choices throughout the rest of the year. On Christmas Eve we make a special trip to the grocery store where they are allowed to pick out any type of cereal they like -- which is usually some fruity or chocolately, but always sugary, concoction. They each get their own box that is theirs and theirs alone (although they usually end up sharing with each other!) The kids love this wacky tradition, and I spend less time in the kitchen on Christmas morning.
All Together Now
Use the holiday time to enjoy family together time. The chaos of everyday life, especially when there are multiples in the family, mean that parents are often busy accomplishing tasks and completing chores. Make holiday memories simply by spending time together. Read a favorite holiday book (I like Who Is Coming To Our House? (compare prices), Auntie Claus (compare prices) or The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Jan Brett (compare prices) , and for older kids, The Autobiography of Santa Claus (compare prices).)
Or, haul out the holiday movies. It may be a classic like It's a Wonderful Life (compare prices) or a new favorite like Olive, The Other Reindeer (compare prices). Don't just play the movie for the kids while you're busy baking or wrapping gifts in another room. Snuggle up on the couch and watch it together.
The Spirit of the Season
Finally, another way to make the holidays truly meaningful is to celebrate the spirit of the season by putting others first. You can implement that attitude within your own family by having your multiples shop for gifts for each other. Or, look outward, into your community. Volunteer as a family, giving your time or money to those that need it more than you do during the holiday season.