Build Healthy Identities Whilst Maintaining Your Sanity
Ok, so you have enough to do. I know that. As a twin parent, your To List has a habit of taking on a life of its own. But Identity is a Big Whammy for twins. This Dissertation is a fascinating insight in to Twin Identity from one family’s perspective, but back to your Time Management: What are the crucial bits that you can’t ignore?
Listen to Them as Individuals
It’s easy to bundle them in to the car after a day at school and generically ask “How was your day?” Instead direct the questions to each individual child: “Pip, who did you sit with at lunch?”, “Bug, what did you do in Literacy today?”. We also have a good technique at dinner: everyone gets 90 seconds to talks about literally whatever they want. No interrupting, No questions, until time is up. It’s amazing what you hear, and they feel that they have a voice.
Be Their Best Advocates
Whether your twins are identical or not, people seem genuinely surprised that they aren’t simply A Package Deal. When you’re with people who aren’t so good at telling them apart, make sure you use their names early on without actually pointing out who is who. Take time to explain to key people, such as teachers, the best ways of telling them apart and discourage references to physical appearances. Be sure to use their names, and not collectively refer to them as ‘the twins’.
Celebrate Achievements, But Focus on Effort
Even when it results in tears or envy in the other twin. Learning they can’t always be the first to achieve something is an important life skill, but everyone has a right to have their achievement celebrated. However, to stop yourself getting twisted in knots because Twin A always does things before Twin B, make sure praise is most used for Effort. Try your best to avoid comparison talk.
Let Them Take the Lead
The good thing about kids, and this involves the unique dynamic of twins, is they are the best teachers. They are pretty good at demonstrating what they need, if you take the time to listen. And this applies with issues surrounding their identity. They know when they need the safety of their Twin Unit to take on the world, and they know when they need space to be who they are.
Get Personal with One-to-One Time
Ok, I repeat: I know you’re crazy busy. But even just a little time here and there can make a huge difference to the Individuality Self-Esteem Bank. Bug and Pip love what we call ‘Mummy-Time’. As often as I can (which is not as often as I’d like – Go Motherhood Guilt), we have a set equal amount of time designated to each child. This works because the other child knows that in order to get ‘their time’ they need to respect their sister and No Interruptions short of Real Emergencies (which do not include not being able to put a t-shirt back on your teddy, no matter what you think). Each child can choose exactly what they want to do, and I use this time (which for Bug and Pip is usually spent crafting or baking or drawing) chatting about them, and just them.
Stop Tattle Tailing in its Tracks
“Pip got told off by Mrs Smith today” is a gloating refrain that won’t get far in this house. It’s frequently cut short with: “I’m sure Pip can tell me about her own day, but if you’d like to tell me your day, I’d love to hear”.
Twin-ness is Part of Their Identity
There is a tendency amongst the assuming, all knowing, Non-Twin Community that Twin’s should be separated and only ever treated as completely separate beings to the degree it ignores a very vital, but unique, part of twin identity: the very fact they are twins. Twin-ness IS part of who they are, and a very important part. That’s not to say they aren’t individuals, but they do have a different set of Identity Features from a singleton. Whilst strides are being taken, by campaigners such as TAMBA to bring parents in to the equation on making the best calls for their own twins and their identity in terms of School Classes, we’ve got a long way to go to fully shift preconceptions.
Twin Identity is a big whammy for parents. But it’s do-able, and a pleasure to be part of. What’s your experience of twin identity?