Whether your twins are identical or non-identical, it’s important they grow up understanding they are two people and not two halves. Twin expert Audrey Sandbank shares her top tips on encourage your twins’ personalities to blossom.
However similar your twins might be, it’s important to remember that they are both individuals. Twins sometimes believe that everyone sees them as one person, so it’s up to you to encourage their differences from a young age.
“It’s important for your twins to develop as individuals, and not feel as they are two parts of a whole,” says Audrey Sandbank, honorary consultant Family Psychotherapist for The Twins and Multiple Births Association (TAMBA) and author of Twins and the Family andTwin and Triplet Psychology.
Here are Audrey’s expert tips for nurturing personality in both of your children.
“Some parents often give their children similar names without realising what they’re doing,” says Audrey.
A completely different name provides individuality, not just for your twins and for you, but for other people to tell them apart more easily as well. At school, teachers may find it hard to tell your twins apart, so one thing Audrey suggests you do is to provide your children with a badge with their initial on, hence why different names are useful.
“Only put your twin’s initial and not their full name on the badge,” warns Audrey. “A full name can allow a stranger to call out to your child, which is not a good idea. If your children are called Johnny and Archie, for example, their teacher will know which one is which by simply seeing the ‘J’ or the ‘A’.”
When your twins are very little, it’s often easier to put them in whatever the nearest outfit is and not worry about individuality.
“However, as soon as they’re old enough to wear proper outfits, it’s helpful to dress them differently. If one twin always wears a green jumper and the other always wears a red jumper, this will help other people tell them apart as well,” says Audrey.
Audrey explains this is also important when it comes to being out and about with both of your twins.
“If they are wearing different colours on a shopping trip, for example, and they both run off and one is about to run into a road or something, you must be able to say their name quickly and smartly to stop them. If you say both names or doubt which twin it is, they won’t recognise what you’re doing,” she explains.
Relatives and friends may give your twins the same outfit, but there are lots of ways you can mix and match in order to not put them in the matching clothing at the same time. You could always have a word with your family and friends and let them know you are trying to encourage individuality.
Twins may find themselves always vying for attention and sharing their clothes and toys if you don’t encourage their differences. Allow them to have their own separate toy boxes with their own toys in them. They may play together, but at least they have the option to enjoy their own play time if they want to.
Twins should be able to have their own cake on their birthdays and be able to blow out their own candles, according to Audrey.
Throw separate birthday parties around their birth date, maybe taking it in turns as to which twin gets to celebrate on the actual day and which one will celebrate on another day before or after.
“It’s nice for your twins to have their own birthday and Christmas presents, so they don’t always have to share,” says Audrey.
“Sometimes you will want to give them a big present, which they will want to share, such as a car they can ride around in or a dolls house, but then you can just buy them some individual presents as well,” she adds.
Spend individual time with each twin so they know themselves as ‘mummy and I’ or ‘daddy and I’ and not as ‘us’ the whole time. Play with one twin in one room, while your partner or friend plays with your other child in another room, so they get individual time with everyone.
There will be times when your twins will be inseparable, and identical twins can be very, very close but the more that you can actually take them out separately the more they’ll understand that they are their own person.
“Maybe take one shopping while the other stays at home with dad or uncle and then on another occasion take the other out,” says Audrey.
The other way you can spend quality time with each of your children is to take them to playgroup on alternate mornings.
“One could go on Monday, the other Tuesday, the first one on Wednesday, the other on Thursday and then maybe on a Friday they could go together, so you get a day off if you like,” suggests Audrey.
This is important so that each twin learns to identify with their teachers and make friends on their own, so they won’t rely on their twin to make friends for them. This especially can happen if one of your twins is shy, as he or she may never build up the confidence to do it on their own.
Separate playgroup days will also prepare your twins for possibly being in different classes when they get to primary school.
If you have identical twins, then their interests may be similar, but Audrey suggests you encourage different branches of the same interest.
“For example, if your twins both love sport, one could do football while the other one does cricket,” says Audrey.
This will have the same affect as different playgroups as your twins will be able to make their own friends and build their confidence and skill without always competing for attention with their twin.
“If they really want to do the same activity, then you can’t really say no, especially if it’s an activity like swimming, which is important for both your twins to learn how to do,” Audrey explains.
When it comes to starting school, decide early on whether you want your children to be in the same class or different classes. This means when you look around schools you know exactly what you're looking for.
“Usually, we recommend that twins go into Reception class together so that they can settle into the school environment with the other one around and feel a bit safer. Then when it comes to the next year, put them in separate classes,” advises Audrey.
If your local school doesn’t have more than one class for each age group, speak to your child’s teacher about placing both your children on different sides of the classroom.
Sometimes one child is better at a subject than their twin and there can be a belief amongst the pair that if one is doing what’s necessary, the other can opt out. “If the mother suggests the other twin needs extra help, he or she may answer with, ‘It doesn’t matter because my sister can do it’,” says Audrey.
“Some twins will try and compete but you’ve got to praise both twins for their separate achievements. If one twin has done something special, maybe praise him or her away from their twin. Encourage both your twins to have their own whole personality and not let them think they are two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that must be together to be complete.”
Just found out your pregnant with twins? Check out our jam-packed guide to all things twin-related.
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