When Twins Are Different
Differences in Appearance or Personality
Perhaps one twin is noticeably taller or heavier; maybe one twin is very shy and the other outgoing; or maybe one twin wears glasses or braces. Whatever the difference, it may make one twin self-conscious. Our culture emphasizes the importance of an outgoing personality and good looks, and the twin who feels less appealing or attractive may start to show signs of low self-esteem, such as withdrawing, acting out, or just being sad. It's important for parents to get their children to talk about their feelings, and to work to help the affected twin.
It's most effective to approach the issue on both a one-on-one and family level. Have some heart-to-heart talks with the affected twin, emphasizing his/her positive attributes that make him/her unique. Help your child figure out ways to address negative comments from others, either with humor or deflection. Let him/her practice alone with you.
Meet with other members of the family and discuss the importance of not emphasizing the difference that bothers the affected twin. Make it clear that you will not tolerate teasing, taunting, or any other sort of abuse of the affected twin, and encourage other family members, especially the other twin, to stick by their sibling when he/she is being teased or bothered. Emphasize the importance of supporting each other as a family, both in and out of the home.
Differences in Clothing, Friends, etc.
These differences, unlike differences in appearance, are chosen by one of the twins, usually as a way to differentiate herself from the other twin. It is usually the twin who has not made large changes in her clothing or friends who feels the discomfort in this situation. Unfortunately, the parents may agree that the choices aren't optimal, which can cause even more friction in the household.
Because these changes often signal a need for one twin to see herself as an individual, it may be a good idea for a parent to talk with the other twin about individuality. Encourage both twins to explore different activities, talents, and experiences alone.
Of course, if one twin is making unacceptable choices (for example, clothes that are too risque or friends who experiment with drugs), a parent must step in and reign in the behavior. However, parents must also realize that the underlying message is that the twin is feeling a need to be an individual. To avoid more conflict, parents should encourage both twins to explore other ways to display their uniqueness.
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