By Linda Jones
Mar 5, 2007
Encouraging individuality in twins
“Double trouble eh?” say well-meaning onlookers, nudging you in the ribs and smiling.
You roll your eyes skyward. After all, it’s only the 20th time you’ve heard such a delightful comment after venturing out with your buggy.
Ask any new mum about the experience of having twins, and the ridiculous and repetitive observations of strangers will be pretty high up on any list of petty complaints.
“You’ve got your hands full,” they coo, or even: “Rather you than me.” Gee thanks.
Or they ask you which is the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœgood’ one, which is the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœloud’ one, or who is “cleverer” than the other. You’ve hardly had time to catch your breath and people are making all sorts of assumptions about both of your children.
One big aspect of being a twin that such passers-by overlook is that, guess what, these are individuals – different children with, yes you guessed it, separate personalities. Yet this simple fact of life still seems to escape some people.
At home at least, parents are anxious to recognise their children as individuals and not just half of “the twins.”
They are going to great lengths to make sure that as well as treasuring a special bond, their children learn to relish their independence.
From the moment twins are born, people compare and stereotype them. It is important to realise how damaging this can be – affecting not only how the children are seen by the outside world – but also the way they see themselves.
Alison Evans, mum to Joe and Archie, aged two,says: “I am very conscious about bringing my two boys up as individuals – they have never been dressed alike from the moment that they were born. I tell everyone to send them separate birthday cards and if they want to take them out for the day, I am more than happy that they go out individually – this also means that they both get their own time. I am also clear that they are never referred to as “the twins”
Maria Pearce, mum to four-year-old Sam and Tom, says: “With the huge amount of information being exchanged across the globe these days and research data on the long-term effects of parenting, we are much more aware of the damage that can be done to multiples if they are not treated as individuals.”
According to Tamba, the Twins and Multiple Births Association, twins should be encouraged to achieve a sense of their individuality by dressing them differently from an early age. But the charity advises new parents: “For the first few months, don’t worry too much about how you dress the babies. You will be so busy that any approach that fits in with your schedule and budget is OK.”
As the children grow, it may be continue to be fun to dress them identically, but Helen Forbes, director of Tamba warns: “Dressing children in identical clothes can lead others to treat the babies as a group instead of as an individuals. It can also cause problems later on as children sometimes insist on continuing to wear the same clothes as each other. Even if you’re given identical sets of clothing as presents, the babies do not have to wear them at the same time.”
Twins at play should not have to share their toys. Giving them one toy between them is likely to limit their urge to explore and lead to frustration and fighting. And you should always make a special effort to address each child by their own name. It may sound like this is stating the obvious – but it’s easier said than done….as one little boy showed when he was asked his name after just starting nursery with his twin brother. “It’s Michaelandjohn,” he replied.
This article was contributed by Linda Jones who authors the You’ve Got Your Hands Full blog