Twins: Growing Apart, Growing Together
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Experts say that before you rush to smooth out the inequalities, try seeing the differences as an important mark of individuality. Differences are what makes each twin unique, says Eileen M. Pearlman, PhD. Pearlman is a twin herself and the Director of TwInsight, a resource for multiples and families of multiples. Twins should be treated just as any other siblings with individual strengths and weaknesses, she says. Pearlman gives these three practical suggestions to highlight each child's individuality:
Observe, Observe, Observe
It’s important to gauge how the child is reacting to the situation before assuming he's upset. "Sometimes what you think is hurtful may not be," says Pearlman. It’s possible your son doesn’t mind that his twin is a soccer star or has more friends, and it's important not to assign value to bigger and better. Explain to your twins that being taller or more socially accomplished isn’t necessarily better, it’s simply different. And it’s those differences that make each of them unique.
Communication is essential, especially when one twin is upset about her sibling’s accomplishments. "First of all, acknowledge both of them," Pearlman advises. If one twin brings home a report card full of A’s, congratulate her individually. Then take her brother aside, commend him on his efforts and focus on his other strengths to reinforce the message of uniqueness. Be sure to communicate that the family always supports one another, no matter what. Explain that it’s okay for your daughter to be sad she didn’t make the first chair in the band, but that she still needs to join the family in cheering her sister on at the recital.
Turn Disadvantages into Opportunities
Pearlman suggests using setbacks as a learning experience. Is only one twin invited to a party? Use the one-on-one time to do something fun that the other twin has always wanted to do. If your more socially outgoing twin always wants to do things his way, take this time to let your less assertive child call the shots.
"Even identical twins can’t be the same all the time," Pearlman says. And growing up is a great time to learn how to deal with life’s little setbacks. While learning to be individuals will inevitably be a challenge to your twins, too much protection from disappointment can impede a child’s ability to later deal with the realities of adult life. So be sensitive to your twins’ feelings, but remember to help them celebrate their diversity as well.