Guest Author - Julixa Newman
Some refer to the beginning of toddler age as the “terrible twos.” When you have twins, the frustration of those toddler years are compounded by the fact that they learn things that they wouldn’t otherwise have thought of if they were alone. We rejoice in the fact that they have a friend for life by their side, so we have to take the good with the devious, right?
There are a lot of difficult things about the toddler stage. There is potty training, teaching them to eat with utensils, stair climbing, safety proofing, and of course, getting the children to bed. If it weren’t difficult, there wouldn’t be so many books on the subject, and thousands of trainers out there willing to help you with your techniques for a fee. The good news is that this is a far cry from being as stressful as it was when you first brought them home and were only allowed to nap occasionally.
There are two important areas to focus on; napping, and end of day sleep preparation. Now, all of my advice on raising twins starts with the same words: schedule, and routine. They say routine can make someone crazy, but with toddlers and sleep, the reverse is true. When you wake the children up is crucial; it sets the tone for the whole day, and differing from a routine can be as disruptive as jet lag to an adult. Kids respond to patterns; and waking up at the same time each day (within a short period of time) will ensure a repetitive behavior to get sleepy. Perhaps they will start by just looking around for their favorite blanket (if they EVER put it down in the first place). It may be hard to create darkness for a daytime nap, but do what you can, and if music is what they respond to, go with that as well. Anyone who wakes up early would cherish the opportunity for a daytime nap-it just eventually feels right after being up so early. Toddlers are no different. It’s just that they have the added luxury of a possibly talkative or cranky bed mate that doesn’t feel quite like sleeping yet, so prepare an extra room to separate them if necessary. Make sure that if they fight it, you stay insistent that they keep trying.
Bedtime has some better preparation techniques. There are a lot of things you can do to relax the mind and body. Did you know that dimming the lights or turning them off altogether can actually prepare a person for sleeping? Did you know that the lavender flower is believed to induce sleep? I don’t know when you bathe your toddlers, but we are firm “night bath” people because it keeps the bed sheets clean, it makes them feel fresh, and you have the option of using lavender or other soothing scents to relax the mind and body.
If they won’t sleep as much as the statistics show they should, rest assured you are not alone. In fact, a Canadian study on twins and sleep patterns showed that genes play an important role in how long children sleep at night, while environment and learned behaviors play more of a role in the daytime nap (routine, anyone?)! The study also showed that environmental factors showed to play the most important role in night time sleep around the age of 18 months. This suggests that this is the prime age for sticking with the routine, and finding the best techniques that work for your twins to create habits that will hopefully last a lifetime.