All sibling dynamics are tricky. But the relationship between twins and multiples can be even more complicated.
To an extent, sibling rivalry is natural and even healthy. Rivalry happens when siblings compete for love and attention. Moderate levels of rivalry show that each child is expressing her needs and wants.
Intense fighting, however, is unpleasant for everyone and must be addressed. With twins, it’s especially important to cultivate a positive relationship while nurturing their unique qualities and separate identities.
Why do twins fight?
Fighting is inevitable between siblings, twins, or not. Twins often spend more time together than traditional siblings–sharing a room, a grade level in school, and even friends. Naturally, more opportunities for conflict will arise.
In many cases, twins have very different temperaments and personalities, making the relationship even more intense.
If you’re a parent of twins, here are 6 effective ways to strengthen their bond–and their individuality.
Validate their feelings
Children whose parents recognize and openly discuss their feelings have more positive relationships with themselves and others. There are many simple ways to validate emotions and increase your child’s feelings of self-worth and uniqueness.
Begin by noticing any feelings your child shares. Sometimes, these feelings seem like overreactions to minor or easily resolved issues. However, recognize your child’s big emotions as valid. If we minimize or dismiss our child’s feelings, it sends the message that their feelings don’t make sense.
Try to listen to the emotions your child shares without judgment or blame. Reflect their words back (“I hear you saying you are jealous your sister got that toy”) before moving into problem-solving or giving advice.
It is only when children feel validated that they can have a healthy sense of themselves. And this is especially crucial for twins.
Celebrate their individuality
As parents, it’s tempting to compare our children. With twins, it comes even more naturally.
While identical twins share the same DNA, they are two different human beings. Twins have different likes, dislikes, and temperaments. They may develop and grow very differently.
So how can we celebrate these differences?
Resist the urge to make comparisons–even innocent or complimentary ones. Talk about your children as the separate people they are and encourage others to do the same. Praise them for their passions, uniqueness, and the differences that make them who they are.
Give them space
Although having a twin might mean a built-in best friend, keeping your twins apart at times is also healthy.
We know that children benefit from individual attention and alone time with parents. Twins especially grow from time apart–both by themselves and with a parent.
You might start by spending one Saturday a month with each twin. Let them be part of planning their special day, and choose activities based on their unique interests or passions. Does one twin-like art? Take him to a museum and out to lunch. Does the other love space? Visit an exhibit together.
Each child is different, and alone time provides an opportunity to embrace these differences and help them grow.
Support their similarities
While time apart helps twins appreciate each other and develop their own identities, shared activities can also strengthen their bond.
When twins show interest in the same or similar activities, encourage that interest. It’s quite possible that twins will both want to try gymnastics, basketball, or art classes–and they can do so together.
When twins participate in the same activities, they have an opportunity to work as a team. They can learn to celebrate each other’s successes and show support during moments of difficulty, which only strengthens their relationship.
Consider having them keep a children’s journal together as another positive outlet.
Frame being twins as a positive
Every child likes to feel unique and special. And being a twin is certainly special–only about 3 percent of children born are twins.
Give them positive phrases for thinking about their relationship (“It’s so cool that you are twins” or “It’s a blessing to be a twin.”) Discuss how being a twin means they each have a built-in best buddy for life, and their connection is unlike any other.
Visual reminders of their special bond are also helpful. Decorate your home with pictures of the twins engaging in activities together, or have them write and post a list of the 10 reasons why being a twin is the best.
Parents with more than one child have the impossible dilemma of treating them all equally (spoiler alert: it’s not possible). Just as we work not to compare children, it’s key that we stay neutral during moments of conflict.
Any type of favoritism–even unintentional–creates jealousy and dislike between siblings. Particularly with twins.
In difficult moments, one of the best strategies parents can use is to remain calm and neutral. Questions like, “Are you two working this out, or do you need help?” or “Do either of you need a break?” are good places to start.
Help them identify the motives behind the argument, and let them know you are there for both of them–not to take sides. Ask them how they would like to solve the argument together, and what would make each of them feel better.
Raising twins is a unique privilege, but not without its challenges. Fortunately, these six strategies can help to strengthen their relationship and let them grow as individuals too.
This is a guest post written by a guest writer. If you wish to contribute and share your multiples story/ tips, please head to our Submissions page for more details.
Alexandra Eidens is the founder of Big Life Journal, an engaging resource to help kids develop a resilient growth mindset so they can face life’s challenges with confidence. Big Life Journal is on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.