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Challenges of Being a Preteen Twin

How To Help Your Preteen Twins Develop Their Own Identity

According to the National Twins Foundation, there are 73 million sets of twins in the world. But being a member of this exclusive group is not as fun as it may seem. When you add in the adolescent years, being a twin can offer some very unique obstacles.

Twins as Individuals

Twins are often seen as a package deal – two of a kind, one person in two parts. But the truth of it is, this line of thinking can make life as a twin quite confusing. "Past or present, it's hard for twins when they are treated as one person," says Susan Kohl, author of Twin Stories: Their Mysterious and Unique Bond. "Nicknamed 'the twins,' many pairs admit that they have had a somewhat confusing childhood. Often the confusion over identity can cause a variety of emotions – disgust, anger and frustration – that are harmful to the twins' relationship with each other."

According to Gail M. Gross of Houston, Texas, host of the Let's Talk radio show, the addition of being a twin – and the confusion and emotion that goes with it – can amplify the already tough times of preadolescence. "Preteens are just learning to develop their own identity – whatever that will be," says Gross. "But if you are seen as part of a pair, it is even harder for you to develop your individuality.

"It is very common for these preteen twins to stay in the realm of twinness as a safety net or out of fear," says Gross. "Thus, comes the need for parents to encourage their twins to be different – to dress differently, to do different activities, to have different friends." Gross also says that encouraging preteen twins to differentiate themselves helps develop individuality, while also decreasing the resentment, anger and frustration that they often experience at being a twin.

It's Tough to Be a Twin

Talk about twins, and someone is likely to say, "I wish I had a twin; it would be fun." But ask the twins themselves, and you'll get a different story.

"There are few twins who will claim that their lives are picture perfect," says Kohl. "The ups and downs vary depending upon the twins themselves. There are the twins that live together, celebrating their twinness every minute of every day. There are twins who are apart but live in close proximity. And there are a few that have put time and distance between them to escape their twinness."

"There are only two negatives I can think of being a twin," says Greta K. Houlahan, a marketing communications specialist from Ann Arbor, Mich. and a twin. "One is the constant competition between us, and the other is the constant comparisons friends, relatives, etc. make about our personalities and our features. However, if I were to compare the positives with the negatives, I would definitely say the positives outweigh the negatives. After all, my twin is my best friend. We think alike, we act alike and we like to do the same things. I can't imagine life without her."

Being a Twin 'Tweener

When twins grow into their preteen years, they begin to have issues related to both aspects of their life – being a twin and becoming a teen. So how does a twin 'tweener develop a sense of personal identity?

"As a twin, you have a lot to deal with," says Kohl. "There are twin myths, twin stereotypes and twin expectations. There are also plenty of twin frustrations that can occur on a daily basis. Fortunately, the frustrations are fairly common, and twins quickly learn to handle them."

Ask any parent of a preteen, and you will hear stories of emotions raging, hormones developing and rebellion rearing its ugly head – and that's just with one child. Add in the "fun" of being a twin, and these parents should be eligible for hazard pay.

"One of the biggest temptations for twins, hands down, has got to be in academics," says Kohl. "After all, if one of the twins is strong in a subject and the other twin is strong in another subject, the logical thing to do would be to help each other out – in whatever way you can. After all, twins can look alike and sound exactly alike. If they dress alike, that's even better. What an opportunity!"

But inevitably, competitiveness between the pair will rear its ugly head. "Competition among siblings, though often subtle, is a normal part of family life," says Kohl. "Brothers and sisters often compete for everything from love and attention to praise and rewards. Often the competition is not openly recognized or acknowledged but instead subtly permeates family dynamics. Twins are no exception to the competition rule. Most will admit they are very competitive, and their competitiveness extends to sports, school, business, romance and other areas of life."

Being a parent is a difficult, but rewarding job. With the right support system, being a parent of a preteen or a twin – or a set of preteen twins – can be twice as nice and just as rewarding. "Rearing twins is hard," says Kohl. "I had the help of a very supportive and hard-working husband and my parents. Still, I needed the support of other women who had gone through the same experience. [The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs] gave me moral support and advice, which I still use to this day. I think that anyone, in any stage of rearing these precious people, should investigate the Mothers of Twins Clubs."

Dos and Don'ts of Parenting a Preteen Pair

According to Susan Kohl, author of Twin Stories: Their Mysterious and Unique Bond, following a few simple guidelines can help in parenting preteen twins.

Do:

  • Encourage twins to cultivate their distinct personalities and interests.
  • Spend time with each twin individually and separately.
  • Acknowledge each twin's individual accomplishments.
  • Plan at least one visit to the Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio.
  • Celebrate their unique and wondrous bond.

Don't:

  • Label your children as "the twins" or blend their names together to form one name (such as Rhonannie for Rhonda and Annie).
  • Always compare them to one another.
  • Give them the good twin/bad twin scenario.
  • Limit them to activities in which they both must take part or participate.
  • Treat them differently from other siblings.

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