Multiple Birth Awareness Week 2022: Educating the educators

BMBAN celebrates Multiple Birth Awareness Week – 20 to 27 March 2022.

Why do we need to educate the educators on multiples?

Ongoing advocacy and engagement is required in order to advance educational and health outcomes for multiples. Educators in this context is not limited to teachers, but to health professionals and others who have a role in shaping the lives of multiples, from pregnancy, birth, childhood and beyond.

The types of issues that BMBAN recognises in this context include:

  • Promoting individuality whilst respecting the unique bond that multiples share
  • Understanding the additional burdens placed on multiple birth families – including increased rates of mental health concerns, financial stressors and practical / logistical challenges that may face multiple birth families
  • Positive healthcare outcomes for multiple birth families including pregnancy and birth and better understanding of the unique stressors that come with a multiple birth

BMBAN is committed to advancing these interests through the ongoing provision of peer support networks and advocating for our members on these issues.

What our members say

In the lead-up to Multiple Birth Awareness Week 2022, we asked our members to share the most important piece of information they want to convey to educators. Here’s some of the responses we received.

Even though they were born at the same time, they are two individuals and should be treated as such.

BMBAN member

Multiples must be treated as individuals and educators should take the time to get to know their own traits and personalities.

BMBAN member

Being individuals means that multiples will reach milestones at different times. They do things in their own time.

BMBAN member

Please stop calling them ‘twinnies’. Use their names, stop asking ‘who is the oldest’, and don’t make them stand side-by-side as a guessing game.

BMBAN member

The unique bond that multiples share needs to be honoured. They are so fortunate to share that special unique bond that doesn’t need to be forcibly severed unless it is causing harm. In many ways, they are stronger together.

BMBAN member

It is important to honour their uniqueness while still respecting the bond. Separating them just for the sake of it can do more harm than good.

BMBAN member

Multiple births can be high-risk pregnancies with high rates of pre-term delivery. For many parents, this experience can have a lasting impact. It’s not all “double trouble” and matching outfits.

BMBAN member

For childcare and educators, don’t underestimate how hard it is to get multiples in /out of the car and safely around the car park. It’s not the same as having two or more children of different ages when it comes to their understanding of safety. A spare hand while trying to get two tired toddlers into the car can be a godsend!

BMBAN member

There are some common threads running through these – multiple birth families love and cherish the special bond that our multiples have together, but understanding the uniqueness of each child, and their individual needs, is also important.

Schooling + classroom arrangements

Deciding whether to separate multiples during school can be plagued with angst, particularly in situations where schools or teachers hold firm views about the best approach for multiples on a global basis. Open dialogue between parents and educators is crucial.

The Australian Multiple Birth Association Inc. has released a position paper on Classroom Placement of Multiples in School. It is notable that the research relied upon by AMBA has shown that there is no detrimental effect of classroom sharing on multiples’ social development, and that parents are best-placed to make the decision on classroom placement. BMBAN supports the position adopted by AMBA and encourages schools and educators to engage in meaningful with parents on this issue.

Favourable health outcomes for mulitples and multiple births

In the healthcare context, multiples pregnancies are generally placed (automatically) into the ‘high risk’ category by medical professionals. This brings with it additional challenges for families, through increased costs of medical care, higher frequency of medical review, and increased risk of assisted delivery and c-section delivery.

Many of these steps are done (rightly so) with a focus upon the best health outcomes for both babies and mum. However, it is important for healthcare professionals to take the time to explain alternatives to parents, educate them on the pros/cons of any particular decisions, and make sure that they fully understand their options, particularly where decisions are being made with some urgency.

Further, parents should be fully equipped with the knowledge and resources they need to feel confident in managing their babies in the weeks and months to come. Take for example the ‘standard’ discharge time for hospitals following a c-section delivery.

My twins were babies 2 and 3. I knew straight away that when the hospital tried to discharge us on day 5 that we were not ready. One of my girls had only been released from special care 2 days before, and we weren’t confident with mixed feeding yet. After a particularly difficult delivery, my body also was not yet ready, having received multiple blood transfusions and remaining bed-bound for the first 3 days post-delivery. I advocated for myself and stayed in hospital for another 2 days.

What made me sad was that the first-time mum and dad in the room next door (who had their twins the same morning as us), felt like they had to leave when told to. I knew how to stand up for myself, but new parents won’t necessarily have the same insight.

BMBAN member

In this context, healthcare professionals need to remain vigilant in identifying multiple birth families that may be vulnerable and need further assistance.

Celebrating multiple births in 2022

BMBAN is celebrating 45 years of supporting multiple birth families on Brisbane’s Northside. We are honoured to be supporting and advocating for our members for Multiple Birth Awareness Week 2022.

If you want to know more about how we can help you, check out our member benefits here.

Top 10 tips for multiples starting school in 2022

With 2022 underway, there is a whole new group of wide-eyed, eager and perhaps slightly anxious multiples heading into the start of their formal schooling adventure.

We asked our members with school-aged multiples for their advice on the best ways to get ready – here’s their top 10 tips!

1. Practice the basics

Simple tasks can become giant hurdles for little hands. Have your children practiced opening and closing their lunch boxes and school bags? Can your children fasten their shoes and have they been worn in properly? Can each child identify their own hat and water bottle? Practicing these simple things will build confidence and familiarity with frequently used items.

2. Accessing restrooms

Similar to the first tip, it’s also important that your children understand how to use and lock a toilet stall on their own. Whilst kids may have mastered their toileting some time ago, the layout and use of a school restroom can be overwhelming without a little bit of adult guidance.

3. Don’t miss a date

As the term moves on, it can be easy to lose track of important dates. So get in early and find the school calendar – mark all the important dates on your family calendar and make sure you check back regularly. Cross-check public holidays, school holidays and pupil free days. Whilst many schools have great communication, it’s important not to rely on reminders for critical dates, particularly if you are juggling dates across two classrooms in the same year level.

4. Together or apart?

This is a regular question for parents of twins and triplets – do you keep your children in the same class, or separate them (where available)? This decision will need to be based on the needs of each child and each family. We recommend engaging in the conversation early with your school’s staff to come up with an ideal plan. The insight of kindergarden and daycare educators can also be invaluable here.

Maintaining open dialogue on this issue during the early weeks and months of this process is also vital – don’t be afraid to ask questions of teachers and get updates about their progress. If you don’t feel comfortable about how they are progressing, then raise it as a matter for further discussion. Finally, try not to be swayed by the opinions of others on this topic – what works for one family, may not work for another.

5. Getting shirty

There are a number of special days / events celebrated throughout the school year and children are often asked to wear a specific colour for each occasion. In conjunction with marking these important dates in your calendar, consider having a small stash of plain coloured T-shirts in each colour set aside at the beginning of the year. This will be so much easier than trying to hunt around the night before!

6. Group support

Find out early if your child’s class or year level has a social media group chat for parents. Quite often these are started by parents (not the school) and are a great way to get further information and connect with other parents. Some smaller schools will also have a school-wide group that you can join for more general information.

7. Which one is which?

A perennial issue for parents of identical multiples – with each year comes a new set of teaching staff that need to learn how to tell your children apart. Is there a way you can identify each child within the parameters of the school’s dress code? Some clever ideas here include coloured hair ribbons, different hair cuts, distinct shoe laces, or a pin / ribbon / initial on their shirt.

8. Label, label, label

Whilst not the most exciting of jobs, labelling school items is so important. There is a huge variety of labels for different materials, so do some research to see what system works best for you. Hopefully you will save some money and frustration in the long run, particularly if you have more than one set of everything to lose!

9. Vacation care head start

If your school offers a vacation care program, consider enrolling your children for a season or two before school starts. This will give them the opportunity to get a feel for the school environment, familiarise themselves with the facilities and get to know some of the school systems without the pressure of crowds.

10. Secondhand uniforms

Another expensive hurdle for families of multiples is a lack of hand-me-downs, especially if your twins / triplets are different sexes or wearing the same clothing size at the same time. Reach out to the secondhand uniform shop or the local buy/sell/swap page to see what you can find. Explain that you are shopping for multiples so that everyone understands you’re trying to clothe more than one child at the same time!

Bonus tip

A final bonus tip for all our amazing parents of multiples – starting school can be emotionally and physically exhausting for you too. Whilst you’re no longer in the midst of the newborn or toddler phase usually associated with peak exhaustion levels, school is likely to bring some other challenges that you will need to be ready to tackle. So, be kind on yourself. Seek help when you need it. Accept those moments when you need to rest, particularly into the end of the school year when energy reserves are depleted.

Hopefully 2022 will see us through without as many challenges as the 2021 schooling year. Wishing all our multiples families a seamless and exciting transition to the new school year in 2022 – we can’ t wait to see all the cute Prep photos!

What does 100% volunteer actually mean?

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the TIME, they just have the HEART”

Elizabeth Andrew

BMBAN is proudly a 100% volunteer organisation, run entirely by members. The quote above sums up our volunteers to perfection.

But what does it actually take to run our organisation and to keep it running for 44 years? Quite simply? A lot of hard work.

Executive and governance functions

Our Executive (President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary) remain responsible for the management of BMBAN in accordance with our Constitution, By-Laws, any legislative requirements, and in accordance with sound financial practice. It’s a mouthful, and it’s a lot of work. Some of these tasks include:

  • Annual reporting to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC)
  • Annual reporting to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT)
  • Annual independent financial auditing and certification of financial records
  • Processing payments with dual approval (i.e. every payment is authorised by two people)
  • Keeping up to date with any changes to the not-for-profit governing guidelines
  • In conjunction with our amazing bookkeeper, reconciling every single payment received
  • In conjunction with our lovely Membership Secretary, recording particulars of all members, Committee Members and periods of service
  • Budgeting to ensure the Club remains financially viable
  • Coordinating the roles performed by the other general Committee Members
  • Conducting and running monthly Committee Meetings, as well as the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Annual Planning Meeting
  • Maintaining minutes of meetings and attendance registers.
  • Applying for grants, with many applications taking many hours of preparation and drafting
  • Ensuring we have adequate insurance
  • Maintaining the goals and objectives of the Club and providing value for money to our members

This list certainly isn’t exhaustive. The time spent by key Committee Members on these tasks is extensive – a number of hours each week at peak times, with increased workload in the lead up to certain events and reporting timeframes.

Day-to-day functions

In conjunction with the Executive, the balance of our Committee performs a wide variety of functions critical to the day-to-day running of the Club.

Every single event, every single function and and every single social media post, blog (like this one!), website update, poster and trailer of goods loaded has been prepared by a volunteer. Everything. Every time you see a member volunteering to set up or run an event, there is someone else at home coordinating kids or other home functions. Amazing. It’s like double the volunteer (it seems giving double (or triple!) is something our members are quite clever at, apparently!).

Every time you see a member hosting a playgroup, remember, they are volunteering every minute of their own time to be there. Every toy they clean afterwards, every cupboard they pack away, all on their own time.

Every time you ask a question, someone is there to answer.

Have a think about all of these:

  • The time, effort and resources that have gone into creating, refining and presenting our Expectant Parents’ Night – so much invaluable information and every single minute volunteered over many, many years
  • Every message and phone call to an overwhelmed parent of multiples – the conversations, the coffees, the support and the care
  • Every event we promote has been coordinated by a volunteer – sourcing venues, third party suppliers, equipment, managing COVID-19 compliance and restrictions, coordinating volunteers to set up and pack up, messages and phone calls, emails, text messages. Everything.
  • How many grants we have applied for – every single application requiring unique information and submissions. Every single one requiring quotes from vendors and suppliers – every email, every phone call following that up, every single time the application is denied, despite the hard work
  • The website you’re looking at – built and maintained entirely by a volunteer with zero experience in IT or web development. The domains that are managed across our public website and our Tidy HQ member site. The email and electronic filing system maintained by our committee members
  • The heartbreaking conversations with bereaved families
  • Coordinating the social media pages – responding to queries and requests on our member pages, ensuring that our member page is up to date, advertising functions and events across all of our member pages, managing and posting on our social media channels
  • Scheduling and running monthly Committee meetings, contributing to those committee meetings with ideas and information
  • Media releases, coordinating with other public resources that can assist in promoting the club
  • Requesting and securing every single member discount
  • Coordinating delivery of goods and equipment to members in need. Reaching out to local businesses for their help and assistance for member families.
  • Answering member questions. Answering non-member questions. Monitoring the Club’s phone.
  • Organising our mum / dad catch ups – and negotiating time off with whoever is left at home!
  • Handing over roles between departing and incoming Committee members.
  • Running the Bunnings BBQ (and not burning the snags!)
  • Maintaining the storage shed, making sure we have adequate equipment and resources on hand, when needed. Collecting equipment and delivering it to members when they need it.
  • All of the COVID-19 requirements and restrictions – making sure we comply with every single directive.

Again, this list isn’t exhaustive in any way. And it changes, week-by-week, month-by-month, year-by-year. But if you count those hours up… WOW!

So, to our past and present volunteers, you are amazing. We are so proud to be amongst you all. And to any members who hasn’t yet volunteered, please consider putting your hand up – because without volunteers, we can’t continue on for the next 44 years.

Much love xx