Parents of twins often experience unique situations and are left with questions not usually addressed by parenting books or advice columns. Here are some questions I’ve been asked recently about raising multiples, as well as some advice for these sometimes difficult-to-navigate situations.
Question: Shall I correct my two-and-a-half-year-old identical twin girls when they argue with me about who is who in a photo?
Answer: Yes, I would definitely tell them that you feel differently. The confusion about who is who is not the salient point. The bigger issue is that identical twins can develop a habitual response to many situations by asserting the “power of two.” In other words, they can learn to behave as an intractable unit by agreeing to assert themselves to make a point. You can mitigate this power challenge by inserting yourself as the authoritative parent who has the last word. If their reality testing is not challenged, some twins feel that they can do whatever they want, and no one can stop them. It is easy to imagine how this might occur when parents believe that the twin bond is more important than the parent-child attachment.
Q: Is it wrong to send a photo of just one twin if I feel that the photo commemorates some special event in one twin’s life?
A: It’s a brilliant idea, and it sends such a strong message about seeing the twins as individuals. Single photos can help family members tell the children apart as well as remember special moments experienced by each one of them.
Q: How do I tactfully tell my mother-in-law how blatantly she favors my son over my daughter?
A: The most important thing to assess is whether or not your mother-in-law is aware of what she is doing and whether there is a malicious intent in her doing so. If the answer to both questions is no, I would politely and tactfully mention that she is favoring one twin over the other. Suggest that she spend time with the twin she knows less well to see about creating an attachment. It is not unusual for some relatives or friends to favor one baby over the other, especially if there is both a boy and a girl. The most challenging task is finding a way to talk about individual preferences without making someone feel defensive or criticized.
Q: What should I say when my five-year-old daughter tells me that she hates being a twin?
A: Be empathic. Try not to get triggered by your little one using the word “hate.” It is merely an expression of frustration and despair. Ask calmly what made her feel like this today, and hopefully she will share her experience. One mom told me that her daughter was so upset at the beginning of kindergarten because the teachers and kids were calling her the wrong name. The daughter was so mad that she refused to talk to the children who confused her with her sister. This mom handled the situation by telling her daughter that she understood how annoying this must be but that, in time, people would know her name and there would be less confusion.
Do you have questions about raising twins? Share them in the comment section.