Respecting and Treating Multiples as Individuals

I recently received a press release about an exciting event that the International Council of Multiple Birth Organisations (ICOMBO) is holding this month:

International Multiple Birth Awareness Week (IMBAW) is being celebrated from 9–15 November 2020. The theme for this year is ‘Building a Global Community: Championing the rights of multiples.’

ICOMBO’s International Multiple Birth Awareness Week is held every second year. A key focus of the week is to educate communities and professionals about the unique challenges of the world of twins, triplets, and higher order multiples.

This week is an opportunity to open up the conversation about the rights and needs of twins and multiples and their families. It provides an opportunity to highlight the recently updated declaration, which is relevant no matter where in the world you are. This declaration brings multiple birth individuals, families, and organizations together as a global community to champion the rights of multiple birth families.

The declaration identifies seven rights so each day during IMBAW, ICOMBO will focus on one of these, which covers:

  1. Protecting the rights of multiples and freedom from discrimination
  2. Raising awareness about the chances and risks of having multiples
  3. The importance of determining zygosity
  4. Ensuring research with multiples is conducted in an ethical manner
  5. Provision of appropriate care and documentation for multiples
  6. Protecting the multiple bond and the right of multiples to stay together
  7. Respecting and treating multiples as individuals

Below is an excerpt of an article I wrote for ICOMBO that highlights advice for facilitating individuality in multiples:

  • Try not to get seduced into embracing the “Twin Mystique.” This way of thinking pigeonholes twins into feeling they must be best friends forever as well as lifelong soulmates who will never abandon one another. This belief makes it very challenging for twins who have individual needs and desires to break away from their twin and assert their individuality.
  • Parents whose twins do not get along often feel as if they have failed. In fact, to the contrary, helping our multiples learn how to mitigate disputes and controversy promotes a healthier outcome. If twins experience conflicts and have parental guidance in understanding why and how the discord evolves, those twins can acknowledge and accept their differences, thereby feeling less compelled to compromise and accommodate to one’s twin to keep tensions under wraps.
  • Parents who can be sensitive and responsive to a twin who desires to create some space and separation from her twin will help normalize the developmental push for autonomy. It requires developing a capacity to be aware of each twin’s position and refrain from blame or punitive behavior if one twin’s needs cause discomfort or pain for the other.
  • Parents are sometimes caught off guard in the respect that they realize far too late that their twins have difficulty making friends. Understandably, they have been conditioned to feel that the twins have each other and thus are content and popular. However, sometimes this lack of social exposure will backfire because the twins have not yet learned how to handle social pressures like other children, such as being bullied, shunned, or rejected. Twins need experiences to learn how to make friends on their own and develop confidence in managing conflict resolution as well as building resilience to handle vexing situations.

Psychological separation for twins is a way of loosening the twin bond without breaking it.

Image courtesy of the International Council of Multiple Birth Organisations

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