Guest Author - Kris Bigalk
Pre-adolescent and adolescent twins face all of the joys and griefs of their singleton peers, but also have a few advantages and challenges specific to twins.
Separating From the Family
At this stage in their development, teens need to create identities for themselves that are separate from their families. For singletons, this usually means rebelling against parental authority, or at the very least, developing new interests and close relationships outside the scope of the family. For twins, this also means that each twin may seek to create an identity separate from their twin, which can cause friction in the entire family.
The end result of this stage of development is usually a person with a more developed sense of self. However, the process of getting to this point is undoubtedly difficult for the twins and the parents.
Some ways that twins will seek to separate from one another include cultivating friendships with peers who are not friends with the twin; becoming involved in activities the other twin is either unable to participate in or uninterested in; and/or competing with the twin in a more aggressive way. Parents must weigh the consequences of stepping in to such situations on a case-by-case basis, being sure not to favor one twin over the other.
School and Social Issues
By the time they begin middle school or junior high, twins will have more choice as to what classes they have together and which classes they have apart. Academic differences between the twins may cause more discomfort than in the past, and they may become more competitive or sensitive in this area.
Because twins, especially twin boys, are more likely to suffer from learning disabilities than their singleton peers, parents may want to consider having one or both twins assessed for learning disorders if they are experiencing academic difficulties.
That said, it's important not to label one more gifted than the other, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, not to let one twin use a disability as an excuse not to move ahead academically. Otherwise, the self-esteem of one twin will be raised at the expense of the other, which is good for neither twin.
When it comes to drug use, smoking, and drinking, twins are most likely to be influenced by the behavior of the other twin (unlike their singleton peers, who are more likely to be influenced by a parent). Peer pressure, it seems, is the strongest when it is twin to twin. A positive element of this observation is that when twins decide not to engage in such behavior consciously, they are much less likely to use substances.
Raising adolsecent twins is definitely a challenge for everyone involved. But as many studies have shown, the twin relationship is one of the closest human relationships, and most twins will weather adolescence, their relationship even stronger than before.