Fostering individuality in twins

Dear Sharon,

We have identical twin daughters who rely on each other for just about everything. They dress alike, act alike, and are each other’s best friends. They are 12 and we are concerned that they are too dependent and lack any individuality. Are we justified in our concern, and do you have any advice for us moving forward?

Dear parents,

It is a true gift when twins such as your daughters get to have strong, close relationships. It can also be important to foster twins’ individuality, as doing so can help them grow into adults who have had the opportunity to understand and pursue their own goals and aspirations. Here are a few relatively simple ideas that can help. Even when twins are identical there are usually noticeable differences. I usually suggest that parents of twins appreciate and foster these unique qualities, encouraging any distinct friendships, academic interests or recreational activities as frequently as possible.

This can mean that parents need to find ways to get different children to separate places at the same time. Such steps can be useful even if twins are reluctant to do things without the other and initially become upset at parental suggestions.

Another basic but effective tool is for moms and dads to spend regular time alone with each child. In circumstances when twins are particularly intertwined I suggest arranging an hour or two every week to do something of each one’s choosing. This can help parents practically support personal interests and explorations, and helps communicate that mom and dad enjoy being with them individually, not just as a unit.

I’ve talked to many parents of twins who have reported that it was at times difficult to help their children become more independent. This can be particularly true as children get closer to adolescence. Teens and pre-teens are often increasingly reluctant to “alter their routines,” because of a mom or dad’s opinions, but adult guidance is an important part of parenting. It can help to remember that when twins have some separate relationships and interests they have even more to share with each other. Best wishes as you continue to help your twins grow.

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