Growing up with a twin sister is a rather unique experience which is hard to describe. I think that few brothers and sisters can understand the deep bond that unites twins from birth, or the difficulties that arise over the years.
Having reached the age of thirty-four, I feel I can easily look back at my childhood and hand you over a few tips for parents expecting twins.
The importance of developing your own individuality
The issue of how to encourage a child to develop its own individuality is certainly one of the most difficult parenting topics, not only for parents of twins.
When dealing with twins, we might make the classic mistake of thinking of them as a sole entity. Twins will often be sent to the same school, or be signed up in the same extra-curricular activities. While this might be born out of the understandable need to simplify life as a parent, one must be careful. The obligation of identifying early on a child’s needs, interests, skills, and potential, is even more vital in the case of twins. A parent should never forget he is dealing with two separate individuals, with two distinctive characters, and that what one twin likes might not be liked by the other. Let me tell you, there is nothing more unbearable than being considered a double!
Using the right name
It is typical of parents with several children to forget names, mix them up, or use group epithets such as ‘boys, girls, or children’. However, as a parent of twins, you will always have to be particularly careful when doing so. What might sound to you just a harmless nickname, for example 'the twins', can instead be the source of great frustration!
Encourage their own academic choices
My sister and I have always been told how from a very young age we had two completely different characters, one more rebellious and wild, the other more shy and poised. Since childhood we have expressed different interests and were given the opportunity to choose our school independently. These choices certainly helped us foster independence, avoid having a symbiotic relationship, and to minimize constant competition and comparison between the two. Choosing two different academic paths also proved to encourage dialogue and exchange of ideas.
Give them the same amount of attention
If you have addressed an issue with one of the twins, do not think it is not worth addressing it with the other as well. It is certainly true that if the twins have a good relationship, they will confide in each other and try to solve typical adolescent problems within the ‘couple’. However, each twin will have a different personality and sensitivity and it is therefore crucial not to take anything for granted. Give them the same amount of attention and affection, even when this means devoting them double your time.
Encourage social interactions
It is definitely true that twins tend to create a world of their own, with their unique language, signs, and expressions. This often means that they have a tendency to withdraw from social interactions that make them feel uncomfortable, perhaps more than other children would, as they know they can always rely on their other half. As parents, it is important to encourage twins to open up to new and separate friendships. Over time, this will only add to their personal experience.
Let them be independent
It is difficult to accept that your children will eventually grow up and no longer need you as they used to. It is even more difficult to accept that twins turn into two different people despite having had the same upbringing. As a parent, you will at some point have to address your children as adults, with separate lives, ambitions, and desires. Let go of the five-year old image you have of them!
Finally, one little piece of advice. Raising twins will probably feel like the hardest job ever but, if done properly, you will have gifted your children with the best life experience they could have ever wished for!
If you are expecting twins, visit the NHS website for valuable information on multiple births.