Parents of identical twins should think of them, and treat them, as unique individuals.
Identical twins are interesting to look at, and often it’s hard for someone outside the family to tell them apart. Not surprisingly, many parents like to dress them alike or give them similar-sounding names, because they think this make the twins look adorable.
However, child and parenting experts caution against that: Instead, parents should see and treat twins as two different individuals and treat them that way, so that they can enjoy a better and more independent future. Here are some parenting tips to raise happy twins:
Different Names and Clothes for Twins
Giving the twins names that sound very different and dressing them differently, will encourage their individual sense of identity. Don’t always refer to the children as “the twins”; instead call them by their names as often as possible. Teach them to be assertive about their names; speak to them, and present them to others, as individuals.
Dressing them very differently is also helpful; the uniform look may be cute, and is great on occasions, but certainly doesn’t help them to develop as their own individual. Giving them different coloured bed-linen and towels will help as well.
Different Classes or Different Schools
Generally, it is fine to let twins go to the same preschool and elementary school for a few years. However, clingy twins should be gradually separated at school; or so believes Dr John Irvine, child psychologist and author of A Handbook for Happy Families (Sydney: Finch Publishing, 2002).
“If they are too reliant on each other and they can’t mix with other kids, give some thought to different classes, or even different schools, so they can grow as individual people with their own friends and their own ego,” he writes.
Separate Activities for Twins
Create time for each twin individually as often as possible; Gradual separation can work if activities are split between parents, relatives, and friends, says Dr Miriam Stoppard, parenting expert and author of You and Your Toddler (London: Dorling Kindersley, 1999). “Dad might get one twin to help in the garden while Mum takes the other shopping,” she suggests.
Other useful strategies include holding separate birthday parties; with different themes, cakes and presents (although this may not always be practical, and some twins may prefer to share the birthday celebrations); separate outings or holidays, and separate rooms with different furnishing styles.
While it is alright to compare the twins’ development with other kids their age; it is definitely not a good idea to keep comparing the twins to each other. This may result in the more assertive twin becoming arrogant, while the quiet twin even less confident. Parents should also talk as freely to the quiet twin as to the more inquisitive one, so that no twin is left out.
The strong bond between twins is well documented, but it may also hamper their development as separate individuals. That is why parents should treat twins as individuals from a young age. Giving twins different sounding names, sending twins to different classes or schools, encouraging separate activities for ,and avoiding making comparison between them, are useful strategies to encourage their individual sense of identity.