Encouraging individuality in twins

Here are some simple yet very helpful and important things parents and other family members can do to promote healthy identity formation in their multiples.

  • Give them distinctly different names. If they do have very similar sounding names, you may want to use a nickname or middle name for one or both to lessen confusion.
  • Give them each their own clothes and avoid dressing twins alike on a regular basis past infancy. Few families can resist the adorable image of identically dressed babies, and there is no harm in this during the first year or two. However, since identical outfits emphasize the twin "unit," and make it harder for other people to tell them apart, you should refrain from dressing older twins alike. If they are given matching outfits, just don't use them both on the same day.
  • Separate their clothes. You might even want to label them. Keep them in different drawers or sections of the closet so that the children know which belong to each when they start choosing their own clothes and dressing themselves. If your twins want to dress alike, don't prevent them. Just provide a varied wardrobe and casually remind them that other people may have trouble knowing which of them is which. Sometimes older identicals experimentally dress alike to force their friends to respond to their individual personalities instead of differences in their clothing. Twins who wear school uniforms report this benefit.
  • Give them each their own toys. As a wise preschool teacher once said, "Children can't share until they've had." Before they can understand the concepts of sharing, taking turns and trading, they have to have some notion of ownership. If everything belongs to both of them together, it is harder for twins to think of themselves as separate people.
  • Try to refer to each by names, not as "the twins," and make it easy for others to do so. When they start school, give them name tags, if necessary, or color-code their wardrobes so that teachers and other children know that "Jenny always wears something red and Sarah always wears something blue."
  • For birthdays, you might make two small cakes and sing "Happy Birthday" twice. Give them separate gifts and encourage family and friends to, also. Few things are more frustrating to young twins than being given one present to "share."
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