Ken Mellor

Raising twin pairs involves doing some things that are specially related to them as twins. It also involves doing most of the usual things that any child born single needs. What follows is a general outline of some of the things I have found important in relation to the "twinhood" of twin pairs. It is addressed to parents.

1. Arrange for as much help as possible after the birth, when the children return home.
They will be a heavy load. Have friends "conscripted" to come in and help with cooking, cleaning, baby holding, changing etc. Both of you will need the help. This is a worthwhile plan for all new children, not only twins. Use your ingenuity in this area. People are wonderfully helpful,if they know that we need it. Also, plan for this help to continue for over six months. A common misperception is that the load only lasts for a few weeks. The first half year to year is the heaviest, not the first half week!

2. Help others distinguish between them in some simple way.
If identical or very similar,remember that it is realistically difficult for others to tell them apart, so have some known sign that alerts others to who is who. This will be of long-term benefit, because it will mean that they will not have to deal with a more or less permanent confusion in others about who they are. Have a special tag for their clothes - "brown is for Sue, red is for Barb." Call them by names that are significantly different. When you choose, be aware of contractions: Donald and John are quite different until they turn into Don and John. This identical twin pair then got called Don-John,because people could not distinguish between them. Sometimes actually having the name on the clothing is good. If there is a minor but noticeable feature, like a mole, that is not shared, point it out to others so they know who is who.

3. Always treat them as individuals as well as twins.
Call them by their own names and avoid referring to them as "the twins" or "twinny" etc. See them as individuals and reinforce their individuality as they grown up. They will also share a special bond and this is a wonderful thing to foster, too, but not at the expense of their need to develop single identities. Also, avoid comparisons with each other: more than, less than, faster, slower, heavier, lighter, brighter, duller etc. Define them in terms that are outside their relationship: six kilos, five and a half kilos; 500cm, 503 cm tall; came third in the race, came sixth in the race.

4. As they grow up, encourage them to separate from each other at the same rate as you encourage them to separate from mother and father.
Sleep them in the same crib - a big one- for a while after they are born. Then get them into separate cribs. Then, as you have them out of the room away from you both, get them (at the same rate) into separate rooms from each other,if you have the space. When they start to explore the house, allow them to explore in different areas. Obviously, keep them safe at all times. When they go to school, plan that they will be in separate classes, if this can be managed. It could even be that separate schools is a good idea for some. You will notice that the principle here is that mother and father do not go to school, so they do not go to school together, or if they do, they do not spend all their time together at school. And just keep the process going. The idea is for them to reach adulthood having developed a secure capacity to live without the co-twin.

5. Encourage them to do some things differently and some the same.
They will usually do quite a lot together, but parents do not have to bind them together. Don't always treat them equally where they are not equal. On the other hand, avoid being partial towards one or the other. For example, at times, one of them goes shopping with mum or dad, not both, at times. Or one goes out to a party of a friend, while the other, who is not invited, gets to stay at home or do something else. This kind of thing is OK and normal.

6. Think of what brothers and sisters accept or have to accept as normal and adapt this kind of thinking to the twin pair.
They dress differently, go to different places, have different friends,do things when they are ready not just because the other is doing it etc. They also do some shared things.

7. Encourage them to celebrate and work out the advantages of the special connection they will have with each other.
If necessary, teach them how to cooperate with each other in accepting how much they will share, rather than trying to fight each other out of their heads and lives. If they need help or you need help in doing this, let me know. There is a lot to do in this respect.

8. Allow and encourage them to do what they need to do to separate from each other.
When they take the initiative to do separate things, while you need to assess the appropriateness of this,support their initiatives and efforts in some way. If they fight as squabble, which is normal amongst most kids, don't make a special effort to stop them on the grounds that they are twins. Teach them how to negotiate with each other, express their preferences, work out their differences, make mutual decisions, make separate decisions, respect each others' desires and preferences, recognize each other's differences etc. Teach them to do this without the fighting. It takes time with any children, so be prepared for some time to go into this too.

9. Teach them to relate to others individually, so they are experienced at this.
Some twin pairs spend so much time together, that they do not develop a secure ability to relate one-on-one with other people. You may need to create opportunities in which they can do this, if they are not doing it spontaneously.

10. Love them and have as much fun as you can with them both.


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