Encouraging individuality in twins

Let Them Be Themselves

In their desire to promote individuality in their twins, parents may encourage or impose differences between the children which do not exist. Identical twins and even some fraternals may have very similar interests and abilities. They should not be deprived of the opportunity to pursue the same hobbies, sports or lessons if that's really what they are inclined to do. Try to support and respect each child's true inclinations as much as possible, however alike or different they may be.

It is important to realize that attitudes about the value of individuality vary widely across different cultures and that the United States is probably at the extreme in glorifying "rugged individualism." For example, African customs regarding twins celebrate and call attention to twinship in a variety of ways, and Black Americans often continue these traditions by dressing fraternal twins alike for many years and giving them similar names.

Twins are born into a uniquely close and complex relationship, more intimate, even, than marriage. They probably know more about how to conduct and maintain a long-term relationship than those of us who came into this world alone. On the other hand, the challenge of becoming an independent adult is more complicated for twins than for the rest of us. As we have discussed, parents can help the process along in subtle ways without violating the close bond between their children.

Reprinted with permission from Twin Services, Parent Education Series 300: #310, 1987. This article may be printed out for personal use but may not be reproduced in any other manner, including electronic, without prior written consent from Twin Services. For more information, call 510-524-0863.

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