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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Guest Post - Helping Twins Overcome Identity Crisis

Today I'm lucky enough to have a guest post that really pertains to my interests as a parent of twins. I come up against all sorts of issues I find myself ill-prepared for, having never dealt with twins in any capacity before. Jane Bongato is an identical twin, and she has some advice.

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“Oh, you’re talking about the twins.”

Jane and Grace at three years old.


There are many benefits to raising identical twins. They always have a built-in playmate of the same age. Clothes can be shared, expanding both wardrobes and saving you money. And many adult twins say that it’s comforting having someone who really understands you.

Unfortunately, as that first quote indicates, being one of a twin is not without drawbacks. When two
people look and often act exactly the same, it can be incredibly difficult for either of them to assert their individuality and define who they are as people. It’s also not uncommon for twins to be confused for each other, and many will likely define them by their twin-hood more than anything else, which can lead to a crisis of identity.

But it doesn’t have to happen this way. Parents can alleviate this problem by engaging in a number of
tactics that can help your twins to differentiate themselves from each other and forge unique identities.

Here are some of the tips that parents of twins have found to be the most successful.

Put them in different classes. One of the reasons that twins have so much trouble forging separate
identities is that they are together so often. Demanding that they be placed in separate classrooms can
help this issue – not only by giving them physical and emotional distance so that they can rely less on their twin, but also because it will let them learn different things and allow others to see them alone and get to know them as individuals.

Encourage separate sports and activities. They’re always going to be “the twins” if they’re on the same team or in the same scout troop, so allowing this to happen is setting them up for future identity failure. Instead, encourage them to choose separate extracurricular activities and go out of your way to make it work. Even if they both want to be Cub Scouts or play soccer, see if there is a way to get them on different teams or even in different leagues. It may be more work for you, but the more away time they have to show people who they are as individuals, the better off they’ll be as they get older.

Separate friend groups. If you’ve succeeded at doing the above two things, chances are you’ll already
be well on your way to having your twins achieve separate friend groups. Doing this gives them the
opportunity to define themselves in terms of their role in the group rather than as one half of a twin pair and continues the theme of letting them figure out who they are by breaking them apart as much as possible.

Choose different color schemes for their clothes. Superficially, this is a great way for parents and others to help tell identical twins apart, which means that people won’t exacerbate identity issues by confusing the two of them. But some twins believe that it may have deeper effects: after years of always being dressed in pink while her twin wore yellow, Jaclyn Jacobs realized that even though she was really into fashion and “girly things,” her sister wasn’t. Maybe clothes really do make the proverbial man (or woman!)

Help them to define their differences. Twins often do this on their own as they get older, but you can
encourage the process by pointing out differences on your own. One twin is very outgoing, while the
other is more reserved. One loves romantic comedies, while they make the other want to gag. Really
watch for these differences so that you can show that you truly do see your children as individuals and not just “the twins.”

Instill in them that being a twin is only a small part of who they are. More than any of these other tips, this one is probably the most useful and the most important. If you spend lots of time marveling over how alike your twins are and celebrating their similarities, their takeaway is going to be that that is what you value about them.

However, if you instead try to minimize the importance of being a twin and show them how it’s only
a small part of their identity, you’re far more likely to have a well-adjusted and self-actualized son or
daughter as an adult.

Jane and Grace, present


Author bio:


Jane Bongato is part of the team behind Open Colleges, Australia’s provider of childcare training and online counselling courses. Jane is an early childhood educator with a background in Psychology and closely works with children who have special needs for about 6 years now. She enjoys reading, painting or meeting friends during her spare time.




 

22 comments:

  1. Love this - even for my fraternal twins!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Darlena for publishing this post! It's wonderful to have a twin sister. We're still unique in own different ways.

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