When I gave a presentation in Mexico a few months ago, I met a pair of well-mannered, bilingual twelve-year-old identical twin boys who attended with their mother. They explained that they were being bullied at their school and didn’t understand why. In previous years at the same school, both boys had many friends and felt comfortable and happy with their group of peers. I did not have adequate time to address their feelings, but I could empathize with the shame and sadness they felt.
Those who cannot or will not see beyond the twin mystique might be incredulous that twins could be treated this way. Remember, the societal perception that twins are special and popular forever is widespread. However, while this may be the case when twins are younger, the middle-school experience for some twin pairs might be a different story, as demonstrated by the two boys I met.
Psychologists’ understanding of bullying indicates that bullies tend to target youngsters that appear vulnerable and sensitive. Bullies project their own jealousy and fears of inadequacy by acting powerful and invincible.
They may also target a group rather than one individual if they have peer support. Twins are a group of two who habitually stick together and assist one another through rough times. In fact, if one of them is mistreated, his sibling will often come to his defense. So, a middle-school bully will get more bang for his buck by attacking the duo.
When a twin pair is ostracized, both youngsters must tolerate the humiliation. They may feel shocked at this behavior after being treated as extraordinary for so many years. Remember, too, that some twins have very little experience with making friends. They are likely accustomed to sharing friends rather than having their own. Consequently, feeling abandoned and shunned by others makes their reliance on one another even more pronounced.
I would love to hear from other parents whose twins have been the target of bullying. How did you help them manage the situation?