Because of improvements in prenatal care, the growing number of women delaying childbearing, greater use of fertility drugs and other factors, multiple births are becoming increasingly common. Nevertheless, it is clear that twins, triplets and other multiples are still considered extraordinary, and although modern medical technology allows most mothers and fathers to receive ample warning that more than one baby is on the way, many still find themselves unprepared to handle the unusual challenges that come with raising at least two children the same age simultaneously.
Being a multiple is, in itself, neither beneficial nor detrimental. Depending upon the degree of physical resemblance and the attitudes and expectations of the people around them, twins may or may not enjoy advantages and may or may not suffer hardships. Their parents will have the greatest impact when it comes to tilting circumstances and events toward either side.
Unfortunately, there are no simple, universal rules for coping with multiples, as the configuration of each family is different and the personalities of family members are unique. However, experts on child development and experienced parents do propose some general guidelines and specific suggestions. These, along with fundamental childrearing tenets, can help mothers and father formulate strategies that will make raising multiples more pleasant and less stressful for everyone involved.
The essential ingredient for success seems to be to strike a balance between fostering a sense of individuality in each child and encouraging the mutually supportive relationship the children are naturally inclined to establish with each other. As the years go by, the particular problems that confront parents and their multiples change in form and content, and the level of difficulty often depends upon genetic makeup (for instance, whether the children are identical twins or different-sex fraternal twins), but the importance of promoting both individuality and a special bond remains constant.
By the way, since the overwhelming majority of multiples are twins, most of the examples and recommendations outlined herein will refer to them. However, the underlying principles will usually apply to all other multiples as well.
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