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Resources Centre / Twins Tips Introduction / Twins Tips / Twindividuality - Top 10 Tips to Encourage Individuality in Twins
Twindividuality - Top 10 Tips to Encourage Individuality in Twins
As a parent of twins. your twin babies will spend most of their time together during the daily tasks of feeding. sleeping. bathing. playing etc primarily to help simplify the extremely busy parenting schedule.

But. as twins. triplets and other multiples grow older. parents often wish to encourage a sense of individuality in all of their multiples. This does not mean that you cannot celebrate the special twin bond but for the children. it is important to have a sense of identity as one person and not just "one of a pair".

Many twins and multiples will create an individual identity for themselves without any help but as parents. what can you do to support your twins and help build it?

Eileen M. Pearlman. a licensed therapist who specialises in working with multiples. says parents can make a big difference. "Parents need to educate themselves and others about how to treat their twins as individuals." she says. "The stage should be set early in your children's lives." You can read many interesting insights in Pearlman"s book Raising Twins: What Parents Want to Know (and What Twins Want to Tell Them) which is a guidebook that studies the unique development of multiples from toddlerhood through young adulthood. paying close attention to the special challenges twins face.

The following Top 10 Twins Tips may help you treat your twin toddlers like individuals and to help others avoid viewing them as a twin set !

Avoid Labelling

Refer to each child by his single name. Avoid labels like "the twins." "the boys" or "the girls." Use each child's given name instead. like Abbey and Ellen. for example. To prevent fusing the children's two names together and using it as one name. vary the order in which the names are used. Intermingling the use of each twin"s name will also prohibit giving one twin top billing. Pearlman advises telling friends and family members. "I know it's easier to call them one name. but our kids are two separate people. We like to encourage that by using their individual names."

Avoid labels. Refrain from referring to members of your duo as "the smart one." "the artistic one." "the scientist." etc. "Labels limit twins' potential." says Pearlman.

Identify each Twin / Multiple

Use objects. colours and style to help others know who's who. Giving each twin toddler something such as different coloured shoes or jumpers can be an easy way to instruct others on how to tell your twosome apart. Even with fraternal same sex twins. other people can often be confused as to who"s who even if they are quite dissimilar. Knowing that one always wears something lilac and the other pink. for example. will help discourage people from making their own comparisons based on appearance like. "She's the taller one". Pearlman offers some other identifiers. "Different coloured bibs or different hair styles such as one ponytail for one girl and two for another may also be used to help differentiate between toddler twins." she says.

Avoid Dressing Alike

Dress similarly instead of identically. Purchasing the same or similar outfit in two different colours for your twins helps them become aware of their individuality. It also helps introduce the concept of sharing. You may feel it's easier to dress twins alike and that toddlers usually want exactly what another child has anyhow. Pearlman maintains that dressing toddler twins alike is OK - occasionally. "Sometimes they want to be dressed alike." she says. "At the toddler age. parents can start giving them a choice." Separate drawers for each twin's clothing can also promote the concept that some items are personal property.

Spend One-on-One Time

Go solo with each twin. The chance to be alone with each twin separately can enrich the whole family but can take a lot of effort to do regularly. Keep it simple as toddlers enjoy trips to the park or playground with just Mum or Dad. While one twin will receive your undivided attention. the other may bond with other family members or friends but this must also be quality time too for them. Pearlman suggests having one or two single strollers in addition to the twin / triple buggy for easy use on those solo excursions. She also encourages alternating which child goes with which parent on solo outings to help family relationships develop.

Cultivate Individual Interests

Carefully observe each child's interests. Providing structured and unstructured playtimes will help you see each child's strengths. Terri Morilak of Bedford . found it helpful to watch for what her fraternal twin daughters. Katie and Becky. enjoyed. "I let them tell me what they preferred." she says. "I didn't try to force them into what I thought was the image of twins. Parents can save themselves a lot of grief if they watch for these cues." During playtime. it is helpful to avoid forcing each child to do what his twin was doing. If one twin likes drawing and the other prefers to use the equipment for pretend play like acting as though they are rockets is fine as both are being creative in their own way .

Praise each Twin

Provide individual praise and affection. and make sure both children receive their fair share. Foster both verbal and nonverbal one-on-one communication. "Touching. hugging. smiling and eye contact are areas where equal may not be the same." says Pearlman. "A parent tries to respond to the real needs of each child at a particular time."

Make Double Celebrations Special

Incorporate each individual into the dual birthday celebration. Twins will almost always share a birthday. and toddler twins will probably share a birthday celebration. Maybe try and use some of the following ideas to allow each twin to enjoy that special day that he/she shares with a sibling:

Provide each twin with his own cake in whatever flavour and theme he/she chooses.

Sing "Happy Birthday" twice with each twin taking a turn to blow out his/her own candles.

Give separate presents and cards for each child to open.

Keep your Sense of Humour
Use humour to divert comparisons. Despite all your attempts to emphasise the individuality of your twins and to educate extended family members. comparisons are inevitable. Well-meaning strangers are usually the worst offenders. Keeping your sense of humour can help you respond. For example. a mum's light-hearted response to "Which one is smarter?" might be "I think I am!"

Nurture their Special Bond Too!

Enjoy your twin toddlers and remember to nurture the natural and special bond between them as well as to encourage their individualism. "If you try to discourage that bond. you'll hurt them more than help them." says .

Dr. Arnold Friedman. a paediatrician for more than 30 years. relishes the relationship he has had with his identical twin brother. Seymour. "Being a twin was a big plus in my life." he says. "Parents of toddlers can enjoy one big advantage. too. Twins are their own entertainment committee!"

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