By Benedetta Pedrana, Co-Founder of 1thousandays
Growing up with a twin sister is a rather unique experience that 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 over a few tips for parents expecting twins.
The importance of developing their own individuality
The issue of how to encourage a child to develop their own individuality is certainly one of the most difficult parenting topics, not just 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 to identify, early on, a child’s needs, interests, skills, and potential is even more vital in the case of twins.
A parent should never forget that they are 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 schools independently. These choices certainly helped us foster independence, avoid having a symbiotic relationship, and to minimise constant competition and comparison between the two. Choosing two different academic paths also proved to encourage dialogue and the 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.
For more information about 1thousandays, education consultants for Early Years, visit: www.1thousandays.com