Guest Author - Becky Wilson
Parenting a child who is born close to same age--usually less than 9 months--as another child in the family, either through birth or adoption, goes by several names: pseudo-twins, virtual twins, artificial twinning, non-genetic twins, twins by adoption, non-biological twins, etc.
The success or failure of “virtual twins” is highly dependent on family dynamics and the personalities of each child, whether already a member of the family or newly entered. Adopting a child older than your oldest child may result in that child feeling displaced and resentful of her new role in your family. However, a young child may be quite accepting of a new older sibling who is five or more years older. Some children may not be bothered at all by the twinning.
Some of the common pitfalls when grouping children very close in age are:
Overwhelming. When two or more children need intensive time and attention at the same time, it can extremely overwhelming for the parents. Adopting two children at the same time can be overwhelming in general, but it can be especially true when adopting two very young children or two infants.
Sharing friends. Mutual friends can be an issue if the children don’t want to “share” their friends with another sibling or the friend openly prefers one sibling over another. If one is more socially capable than the other, this can be particularly problematic. Sometimes the child who was already in the family may feel territorial and reluctant to share friendships that were previously only hers.
Vying for position. If less than six months apart, close-in-age siblings with strong, dominant personalities can experience great difficulty in accepting one or the other as the older child, even if one is in fact chronologically older.
Comparing. It’s only natural to compare children, especially with twins. While genetic twins may have a lot in common, it is often true that non-genetic or virtual twins do not have much in common so it is crucial not to compare the children, particularly when they come from vastly different circumstances. The children might also compare themselves to each other or feel they don’t measure up to the parents’ expectations.
Same grade. While it might be easier on the parents to have their same-age children in the same grade, it is not necessary a positive experience for the children. They can feel a sense of “nothing is mine alone” or feel competitive toward one another. Their peers or teachers may compare them to each other or apply pressure to be alike.
The solutions to these difficulties will depend on the circumstances, your children’s personalities and the family dynamics. Everyone wants to be seen as a unique and interesting individual, and this is especially true of twins–artificial or biological. Be aware of the common difficulties of artificial twinning and commit yourself to celebrating what is unique about each child. Others will take their cues from you. If you treat your “twins” as siblings rather than twins, others will usually follow your lead.