Teaching Your Twins to Embrace Individuality

As twin parents, when we watch our kids grow and develop, we see our twins’ unique relationship manifested through cycles of sibling rivalry and interdependence. These cycles can last days, hours, or minutes but always seem to hinge on the element of sameness. So, how can we help nudge our twins towards alternatives? How can we help them embrace their twindom while still standing out in a crowd?

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Episode Transcript

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 0:03
As twin parents, when we watch our kids grow and develop we see our twins unique relationship manifested through cycles of sibling rivalry and interdependence. The cycles can last days, hours or minutes, but always seem to hinge on the element of sameness. So how can we help measure twins towards alternatives? Today we're here to talk with Dr. Joan Friedman and learn how we can help our twins embrace their own individuality. This is Twin Talks!

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 0:32
Well, welcome to Twin Talks. Twin Talks is your weekly online on the go support group for expecting a new parents of twins. I'm your host, Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald. If you'd like to listen to our show on the go, be sure to download the Parents on Demand app. And it's available in Apple and Android. Not only can you hear our show, but you'll also discover more great podcasts geared towards parents and families. So today, let's introduce everyone who's joining our conversation. And maybe you can tell us a little bit about yourself and your family and your experience. And I'm going to start with our speaker Dr. Friedman wish you're in a very unique situation. Speaking about twin individuality?

Joan Friedman 1:39
Yes, hi, I am an identical twin and I have five children. And my last children are fraternal twin sons who are now 30 years old. So I have the unique situation of knowing sort of what it's like to be a twin inside and out. And since they were born, I've devoted my sort of professional career to studying twins helping parents of twins, helping adult twins actually now also helping clinicians who might be interfacing with twins, how to best understand what it's like to grow up as a twin and what you need to look for this very special about their development.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 2:15
Wow. So not only are you the parent of twins, but being a twin, you yourself gives you a very interesting perspective, you got a lot more empathy than then the rest of us parents hear.

Joan Friedman 2:27
Well, not so much empathy, but since I focus on when twins don't get along. So and again, that's a minority not to scare everyone out there. But the way you can really understand what twins need is to sort of help and study what goes wrong in between twin sometimes as they grow up. So that's given me a unique sort of perspective, to think about how to really help twins develop their individuality and their attachment without, you know, going into those areas where they have issues when they grow up. And they have difficulty having a sense of themselves and difficulty getting along with their twin.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 3:07
And I want to turn this over to Sarah. So you are also the mom of twin boys, you want to tell us about yourself?

Sarah Roberts 3:14
Hi, I'm Sarah Roberts. I have identical twin boys who are five years old. I am not a twin. I definitely didn't grow up with twins or really have any in my family. So I'm kind of learning as I go with mine.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 3:29
Yeah, And Sunny. Okay, we got a theme here going with ID twins, because I think your girls are identical.

Sunny Gault 3:37
Yes. And they're crazy. I mean, wonderfully crazy. But they are I'm kind of one of those strange parents that I've always wanted twins. I always wanted... no twins run in my family. And I kind of was a twin stalker. I think I stopped you a little bit, Christine. Before I became a twin mom, because Christine was on some other podcasts that I produce. And whenever someone would say, Oh, I have twins, my eyes would just bug out in my head. I would just be so obsessed with it. And I don't know if I was I was an only child. I don't know if that has something to do with it. But I was just completely obsessed with twins. And my story is I had two boys already. And my husband I we got pregnant and we went in and they they said it was only one baby. We had no reason to think it was gonna be anything else. We got pregnant naturally and whatever. And then it wasn't until like my 11 or 12 week appointment I went in you just make sure there's like you know, 10 fingers 10 toes kind of thing. And I walked in and they're like, Oh, this is a twin appointment and I'm going What are you talking about? This is a twin appointment. I have no idea what you're saying. And she's she didn't realize that she was giving me the news, right? She just thought that the doctor didn't book her for a twin appointment. She had two babies to look at an amount of time they only scheduled one baby and so that is kind of my crazy story of how I found out I was twins and my life has never been this same. They are such a joy. I am obsessed with them. And they're amazing. So I have four kids total. My two boys and then my identical girl twins who are now five and a half and a half.

Joan Friedman 5:11
What a story.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 5:14
I know, right? And this is Christine and I am also have ID girls as well. And so our first kids, so they are now nine years old. So unlike gosh, I know in the Twin world that just seems like it's so hold, not mine. Yeah, that's, you know, I have to say I wanted to have the experience. I thought, you know, gosh, this this twin thing. It's just such an anomaly. I mean, not for us, but I'm like, Well, you know, just going through all the appointments and having to like, well, what is it like to have just one kid? So my curiosity, I guess it was kind of maybe in the reverse. You know, I said, Well, I'd like to have maybe just one kid one pregnancy, you know, one time, you know, the normal stuff. So we went on to have another girl and she's six. And I don't know, she she gets beat up by her. By her older sisters are like they're, they're the mean girls, and she's the young one. And she holds her own. I got to say that. So it's been really interesting. And so three girls, and I think we said, three girls is good. We like that we're done.

Sunny Gault 6:20
I can't believe Mikayla is now six. Because I remember when you were pregnant with her, and we were podcasting and you're pregnant with her. And I was like, Oh my gosh. And now. I mean, again, makes sense. My kids are older too. It's just it's hard to believe they just grow up so fast.

Joan Friedman 6:35
They do even if you're not even watching podcasts.

Sunny Gault 6:47
Alright guys, so to kick off our show today, before we get into our main topic of embracing twin individuality, we have a segment called Twin trivia. And you may guess by the name of the title of this segment, we are going to quiz our parents and our experts today on you know, having twins and this let's see how much everybody knows about twins. And hopefully this won't be embarrassing. This is supposed to be fun. I don't know how competitive everyone is.

Sarah Roberts 7:17
What's the prize?

Sunny Gault 7:20
This is a pat on the back saying thank you for being a twin mom. That's so yeah, so I'm going to go through these are true/false, right. So you got a 50/50 shot. I want to be fair. And let's see how we do here. So the first true false question is this twins have the same finger prints. Christine, what do you think?

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 7:40
I'm going to say? False? Because I was reading that. That's one thing and it has to do with how they're shaped in the womb. So I'm going to say false.

Sunny Gault 7:48
Okay, Joan?

Joan Friedman 7:50
False, I agree.

Sunny Gault 7:51
Okay. And Sarah?

Sarah Roberts 7:52
I'm also going false.

Sunny Gault 7:53
Ah, now I want to know how many of you are just like listening to what Joan said.

Sarah Roberts 8:00
No, trust me. I've answered in my head.

Sunny Gault 8:04
Okay, okay. I trust you, I trust you. And you're all right, you're all right. So the answer is false. It says fingerprints actually get created in utero. So this is back to what Christine said, and vary based on a baby's contact with amniotic fluid, the umbilical cord and whatever else is in there, which I find that funny what else, whatever else is in there. So every person's fingerprints are different, even if there are an identical twin, which is what makes it helpful, like for forensics and stuff like that, right? So we can track people down and you have your own identity, which kind of goes into today's topic, right? Because we're talking about being individuals and at least we know that all twins have different fingerprints. At least they have that that's their own. Right?

Joan Friedman 8:41
But we're really working on individuality beyond the fingerprints.

Sunny Gault 8:45
Yeah, exactly. We've got to work the rest. Yeah, we got to really work. Alright, now this this next question kind of goes along with that identical twins have identical DNA.

Joan Friedman 8:54

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 8:56
True. Yes.

Sarah Roberts 8:59
I'm also gonna have to go true, but I feel like there's but there is some difference that I remember somewhere. It's just not the DNA level.

Joan Friedman 9:08
It's the epigenetic level. But that's not that's not the question. So are you trying to give us a trick question here?

Sunny Gault 9:15
Actually, I kind of am trying. Okay, so Okay, so I should have told you guys in the beginning that this is from an article from the bump. Right. Okay. And let me just tell you what they said in regards to that. So they say the answer is false. And then they and then they back it up. They say, well, sort of it says, identical twins share about 99.99999. And that probably goes on for infinity percent of the same DNA, but it's not quite 100% Which is why the twins you know, probably have some differences, like a mole or birthmark. Researchers have even found an identical twin who carried a gene for a certain disease, which his twin didn't. Differences between twins can increase over time as a result of environmental factors and genes can even change slightly.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 10:03
Well, I know like the astronauts, right. So yes, they did the Okay. And I'm totally forgetting their names, but right that one of them spent a whole

Joan Friedman 10:11
Scott Kelly and somebody else right. Yeah. Okay. But you know what that article is? You know, if they say 99.9? That is a trick question, because all the amazing, interesting research now is about using identical twins to study epigenetic change. Yeah. And that's why one twin might have diabetis, or one might have breast cancer and the other one doesn't. And that's how they're studying all these amazing things to help be able to find the markers for these diseases. So what is bump we're not using that....

Sunny Gault 10:43
Wehave our own experts to compare this.

Joan Friedman 10:47
Actually, all right, yeah.

Sunny Gault 10:53
Okay, next question. Twins skip a generation True or False?

Sarah Roberts 10:57

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 10:58
I, I'd say false.

Joan Friedman 10:59
I say false too.

Sunny Gault 11:01
Okay. You guys are too smart for this. So the answer is false. It says, it says, okay, so fraternal twins can run in families. But there's actually no evidence that it matters which generation you're in. So if you have a parent who's a fraternal twin, there's still a chance you can have twin babies. But you do hear that right? Haven't you ever heard? Oh, what's not going to happen? To me? It's going to skip a generation or whatever?

Sarah Roberts 11:20
Well, I think a little bit have that had to do with because you can get it only the mom can produce the extra egg to have fraternal twins. So if her dad was carrying the gene, she would like because her grandma, for example, is a fraternal twin. That's why it looks like it skips a generation.

Joan Friedman 11:35
Well, when I was growing up, since I'm considerably older than all of you, that was something that was talked about all the time. They everyone said, they skip a generation, I think it's because they had no genetic knowledge back then. And it was some some sort of, of kind of a belief that got passed down people saying this and saying that, but it had no, that I know, no scientific background, it was like sort of what people felt or saw in families or something. But everyone used to say that, yeah.

Sunny Gault 12:09
It's interesting. It's not true. So if you guys, if you guys hear someone say that now you can say no, I know for a fact that is not true. Okay, last question. Before we wrap up our segment... Animals can tell identical twins apart even when people can't.

Sarah Roberts 12:22

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 12:23
Yeah, I think probably true. I'm gonna guess smell or something. Right.

Joan Friedman 12:28
I think it's probably true only because I know that little children can tell identical twins apart when adults can't. So I go for true also.

Sunny Gault 12:37
Yeah, so it says it's true, but it's only based on one study. So it says... in one study, highly trained police dogs were able to sniff out the difference between identical twins, even when they lived in the same place, and presumably, were exposed to all the same smells. How did they do it? No one really knows. So yeah, well, we know that the animals can be pretty smart, you know. And then like Christine said, they can smell different things. You know, my dog smells a ton of things. I'm like, Why aren't Why aren't you going crazy? Well, you need these on some sort of scent, right. And he's, he's off to the races. So we know that that they have some some skills in that area.

Joan Friedman 13:15
Well, it's so funny because I'm working with a set of twins, and they both have the facial recognition on their iPhones, and they're identical twins. And one twin took the phone of the other because the phone did not recognize the difference. Unlike the police dog, so that's a parlor trick.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 13:44
We're here today with Dr. Joan Friedman. She's a prominent and well respected twin expert who shares her passionate views and insights about twins and their emotional needs throughout the world. And his identical twin and the mother of five, including fraternal twin sons, she's ideally suited to do this task. And we're here today to talk about how parents can help their twins embrace individuality. Well welcome Dr. Friedman. And well, first of all, how do you define individuality? I mean, we're kind of using this term quite a bit. But But what does it really mean in your world?

Joan Friedman 14:16
We know so interesting. When you, you know, asked me to think about that. I thought, yeah, how do I define individuality? It's so I mean, I use it all the time bandied about all the time. And I was thinking, Okay, well, first of all, you have to use it kind of in a developmental way, because individuality for a four year olds not going to be the same as individuality for an older person. But I guess I thought in terms of younger children, I thought in terms of twins, I was reminded of what a little girl once said to me, she said, I miss my twin, but I don't need her. I think she was about, you know, maybe six or seven. And I thought that was a really good way to kind of conceptualize it. It's it's an but it's being able to feel that you're comfortable with yourself and who you are, without feeling that you need a kind of another half or another person to make you feel secure or whole or integrated or capable. So I guess I'm sort of, and again, and again, for adult twins as well. It's a person who feels that he or she can be okay by himself in the world, and handle what they're supposed to handle. And they might miss their twin and the companionship, but they don't need that twin to complete them.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 15:37
Hmm...that's right. So basically, that's a really, you know, I love the way that you express that because I think that's something for me as a parent, I can probably talk to my girls about the idea of being okay, by yourself. I mean, that's, that's such a, I mean, it's a big concept, but broken down into very childlike terms that I think even even a six year old, could understand and not needing the other one.

Joan Friedman 16:02
Well, you know, I was, you know, because I grew up, you know, as an identical twin and my, my Jane and I were never ever having any kind of separate activity. So when Johnny and David were born, you know, I was a crazy woman, you think Sonny was crazy being twin obsessed, you can imagine the stuff that I did, to make sure that they had a sense of being separate and having alone time and, and alone time with me alone time away from one another. So that they could feel that they could function by themselves when they were separated. So it was often something we we talked about, as they got older, that you know, you're doing this, he's doing that. And you know, you need to know what it's like to be on a team by yourself, you need to know what it's like to go to a, you know, go to a gym class by yourself or go to day camp by yourself. So it's all kind of a situation of helping twins recognize that the experiences they can have on their own will be so important to them as individuals, and yet they bring their own sense of their individuality back into the twin connection, that the twin connection is just not all who they are. It's part of who they are. But it can't comprise their entire identity, because then they're not going to develop an individual sense of self, if that makes sense.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 17:29
Oh, absolutely. So that's interesting. So the twin connection, it's not, you're saying it's not all that they are, but it's part of it's one component of being a unique individual.

Joan Friedman 17:39
Exactly. But I think, again, it's not the twins fault. So often, it's its parents, its society, this expectation that the twin connection, that's the most important part about who these two people are, because everyone makes a big deal about it. And of course, it's cute and has all these wonderful, positive aspects. But it's really hard because law society really sort of celebrates that twinship when they're young society also mandates by the time their adolescents are older, that they should be well functioning singletons. So they're really in a way not given the opportunity to sort of develop from the cute little, you know, twin dumb that they share into a very competent single person, unless our parenting helps them find opportunities in order for that, for them to do that. And without that, then the twin connection becomes much more important, much more a sense of who they are, and then develops what you know what Christine talked about earlier, that interdependence, that when it's excessive, really interferes with that sense of being an individual.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 18:50
Wow. Now, now, you mentioned you said that, like an of our society is sort of obsessed with this too. I believe we kind of were joking around at the the twin obsession, I mean, think before we became twin parents were like, Oh, that's so cool. And, you know, the idea of, you know, the, the twins and you know, we get celebrity status, so to speak, right? So, I mean, it almost sounds like this twin connection is really more it's, it's, it's emphasized and enforced from an external standpoint. It's not always internally but the kids as children, they're learning it from the outside in that, you know, hey, it's really great to be a twin and you've got all these unique things. And it's sounds like it's more emphasized than it is the individuality at least when they're young.

Joan Friedman 19:39
Well, yeah, you know, and you and yes, and of course, and you know, if you're walking with a family and there's a twin stroller, who do they pay attention to? Right, you know, it's it's the twins. So there is so much external, absolutely external environmental, sort of, you know, emphasis on the importance of twins. And, you know, it's very hard bounce Because twins get this from teachers, they get it from other kids, they get it from lots of, you know, lots of other places. And so if the parents are also adding to that, and not adding in the component that we're trying to talk about today, which is trying to, you know, trying to bring individuality into that twin connection, then they are going to get a very skewed idea that, wow, this is the greatest thing about me, I'm a twin. And yet I write often about as twin gets older, it's not so much about being noticed which your notice, but it's so much more about being known. You want to be known for yourself, you want to be known for who you are. So if you haven't had that experience, and your parents and your family haven't helped you, you know, emphasize the sense of feeling and being known, then you're kind of the default position is sort of being a twin, and whatever else that brings to you. And of course, there's positive things toward being a twin. I'm exaggerating it, if that's all that someone feels that's unique and special and different about them, that that kind of falls apart and fragments, as you get older, because people need more than just being a twin to make them feel like a like a whole integrated, valuable person.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 21:22
Oh, yes. They you know, it's interesting. You touched on you said the parents role in all this, in that with that the message that the kids are getting from a lot of different places is that, oh, this twin connection is so important. It's the most dominant thing about, you know, what makes them special? And I think you're saying that, well, the parents really need to play the role and say, no, it's actually not the the most important thing. But what about parents? I mean, I think we've all been been guilty at times of really relishing this this uniqueness. And I mean, okay, my girls, I dressed my girls in the, you know, the same clothes when they were little. And, you know, we went out and, you know, the stroller? And I mean, come on, we enjoy the attention. So, I'm a match, I think it's probably hard for some parents to sort of give that up. And, and maybe they don't want to emphasize the the individual because it's so much fun. Right, you know, having twins and, you know, really relishing that. I mean, is that unhealthy? You know what, what can happen as a result, if we don't make a conscious effort to emphasize individuality?

Joan Friedman 22:31
Well, you know, absolutely, that, you know, that you have to understand that having been dressed alike, you know, until I was 10 years old. And having all that attention, I come from the worst possible place with kind of like, not thinking all those things are good ideas. But I understand there is a narcissistic value to emphasizing the twinship. And I think it's, it's important because it is so difficult, having twins giving birth to twins, you know, kind of recovering from the first year of twins, that the The wonderful thing about going out and getting that narcissistic boost was wonderful is wonderful and very needed by a lot of parents, because it's so depleting and difficult, you know, that first year or two when you're taking care of two babies at one time. So but after that, you know, then it really does have to shift from, you know, up to sort of the parental narcissistic, you know, extension, to really thinking about the fact that you're creating and parenting to unique individuals. So there has to be a transition where you begin to focus on the individuality of each twin.

Joan Friedman 23:44
And I think in our family, because of my experience, you know, we grew all the other children and Johnny and David two, were growing up with this idea that it's great being a twin, but there's a lot of hardships, and there's difficulties involved. So, you know, when you talk to your twins, even to a five year old, and you realize that one's not getting what the other one's getting, or they're not exactly the same, or things just aren't fair, or they're not always equal, or you know, one's getting more attention than the other. It's like, it's really important to talk about those things really early on. So they don't expect that growing up, life is going to give them everything the same and everything equal. So it's it's a wonderful thing to talk about the fact that well, yeah, you look a lot alike, but you're such two very different people. And I know all of you know that your identical twins have very unique personalities and very different temperaments. So I'm sure you're constantly telling other people that they're very different because a lot of people can't appreciate how very different they are because they see that they look so alike and they make all these kind of strange assumptions. So when you're when you have I have an identical twin in in kind of a separate activity from her twin or his twin. I think that gives that twin a real good example of what it's like to socialize on her own, make friends on our own, be alone in a class be alone in an activity. I know it sounds so simple, but it's yet it's so important. Because if we as parents don't create something where they get a sense of their own individuality in, in connection to other children, without the twin there, they can't develop that aspect of themselves that we've talked about earlier, which is, I'm an individual, and I'm also a twin.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 25:41
Wow, you know, it's interesting, you said that, we should start on it early on. And I'm curious what is early on, because I know when when they're a little, that's when it's really tough. And just logistically, you know, you've got two babies, preschoolers. And it's just like, oh, my gosh, she didn't either, either. They're usually together most of the time. So when should we be starting on it? And and what are some practical ways to start encouraging that?

Joan Friedman 26:10
Okay, well, I again, you're right, it depends on everyone's family circumstances, and the other children and logistics and their financial resources. So all of that's gonna kind of come in as a criteria, but it can start and again, you have to start very gingerly, and you have to explain it, you know, I might go this one woman said, Well, they're both taking tennis lessons. And I go, Well, you know, why are they why do they both have to take tennis lessons, you know, it sometimes doesn't even occur to a mom of twins, that they actually couldn't be doing something different. So that in and of itself is like getting the mindset that they they don't have to do the same things. And I know what identical twins, it's difficult, because I know, probably 90% of the time, they both enjoy the same activities. So it's just a question of finding one where, you know, one maybe likes dance, and one takes gymnastics, and then maybe they switch around, and they do the other class, the next session around, but it's like, and if they don't want to do it, and there's and you're getting sort of resistance, I think you just have to say and explain, you know, we really want you to learn to be able to be with other children, without your sister there or without your brother there.

Joan Friedman 27:24
And you know, might feel difficult at first, but I think you're really going to like it. And actually, that's really, they do like it, they end up really finding a sense of their own independence and a sense of their own capability of managing tasks, socialization tasks, and peer, Inter, you know, peer relationships, they sort of get the experience of being on their own with it. I've talked to a lot of parents who have been reluctant to do this, and then they do do it. And then it turns out to be wonderful. And you're I think you'll find that it's going to be easier for one than it is for the other possibly, maybe not. But so for the one that struggles, even more important that he or she, that you're putting them in that situation, so that they can develop skills to kind of be on their own. And again, it's a short period of time, it's a class, it's an hour, but it's a repetitive thing, maybe four or five sessions or 10 sessions. I think it's it's such a gift to give your twins, especially identical twins, this experience of being away and finding out what that's like.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 28:34
You know, I want to go to Sarah, because I think your boys are still fairly young. So I'm curious, what have you done with them in terms of just activities or messages? Because I think that's, I mean, how they are, how old are they again?

Sarah Roberts 28:50
They are five, they actually graduate preschool in two weeks. So exciting, exciting, and scary and sad, all rolled into one. You know, I will say we've always had the logistical difficulties of my husband and I have different work schedules and different days off. So when one of us has the kids, the others at work, and they're not at the age where we could do drop off activities. So I have found, at least with us, we have kept the activities together so far. But my big thing is I've always had them separate at preschool, because I want to each have them in their own space that's theirs, that they have to meet other kids that they have to make their own friends. So I think that's really been working and I know we talk about it a lot because they didn't want to be in separate classes. And I know we've been talking about the transition to kindergarten and talking about moving to separate classes and kindergarten and again, they are really hesitant because they do want to be together. So we do talk a lot about how we want them to make their own friends and meet other kids and then you know this great concept of you guys will have double the friends because you get to meet your brother's friends as well.

Sunny Gault 30:02
I love that.

Joan Friedman 30:03
Sara, that's wonderful. I mean, this is just what I do with Johnny and David it was they were definitely in different preschool classes and went into, you know, all through school, we're always in separate classes. And it was so nice for them. I mean, they ended up sharing the same group of friends, but then having the own your own separate classroom experiences from a very early age was so wonderful. And I know it's harder with identicals and fraternities and I, I applaud you for plotting on with it, even though they're hesitant because I know it's so easy to say, Okay, you want to be together, oh, maybe it's going to be traumatic if you're separated. I mean, their parents make so many excuses when they hear that they're twins want to be together, because they're really not thinking or they don't know, that down the line getting through this resistance, or this hesitation, or this wish, just to be more comfortable is something that's so important for their overall development as they get older. So I really applaud you for that, because I, you know, again, because I, I hear mostly problems, it's the problems when, because this hasn't been done thoughtfully early on, is when they're, they get, you know, into second third grade, and they're in there together all the time. And there's so much competition, and, you know, one is more miserable than the other, and they're fighting a lot.

Joan Friedman 31:22
And, you know, but the idea of separating them is still too traumatic, because by that time, they are still so interdependent that the idea of being separate is is really hard. So if you do it sooner, rather than later, I think it's so preferable because they come to understand that that's what's expected. They're going to be you know, in different classes, and they expect that and they, and they, they handle it. And that develops resilience. It's so funny, I remember Johnny and David were like, in middle school, and they, and they went to see the counselor or whatever. And, and she saying to them, Why do you always have to be in separate classes? Aren't twins supposed to be together? And they they looked at her and they said, do you know my mother? We have to be in separate class. So you know, it's like, again, it's it's a push, it's a struggle. And know most people just don't understand there's, there's such an important psychological relevance beyond the academic. Do you know what I mean? It's just an overall constellation, helping toward the development of an individual person and a twin.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 32:36
Oh, absolutely.

Joan Friedman 32:37
Good for you, Sarah, I applaud you. Most people don't do what you do, especially in the face of them saying I don't want to so good for you.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 32:47
Alright, well, we're gonna take a break. And when we come back, we'll continue our conversation talking about how we can help our twins and towards that individuality, especially for school age and older kids.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 33:04
Welcome back, today, we're talking with Dr. Joan Friedman, about how parents can help their twins move towards a positive individuality. And we've been talking really about kind of, you know, encouraging twins through different activities in the sort of the preschool age and then into school age. And I know, You've been saying that it really, you know, we have to start out when they're young. And as they grow older, and maybe, you know, what are some of the kind of the conversations and kind of the key messaging points that we need to be be telling them? That it's that it's okay to be a twin and being apart? What do we what should we be talking to them about?

Joan Friedman 33:43
Well, I want to tell you, this is a very normal problem that someone will contact me about what my twins are, they used to share friends, and now one twin is turning all the other friends against her twin. And I don't know how to handle this, and what do I do? So it's a very tricky situation, because who do you hold responsible for that? You know, if if a twin is saying that kind of a conflict sort of embodies the whole thing about twins, and rivalry and interdependence. So a parent might say, to this twin who's pushing all the friends against the other twin, you're terrible, this is wrong. You can't exclude your sister, you have to stop doing this. This isn't fair. And so the other twin with all you know that what the twin with the power is, is victimizing her sister, so and now is supposed to take care of this sister. And probably the reason that she's victimizing her sister is because they probably haven't had the opportunity to sort of be away from one another. And so this kind of power struggle develops. So you know, what do you say what do you do? I think what you do If you have to talk to the twin who's victimizing her sister and saying she's trying to have her own friends and her own relationships, it's, it's not okay for you to be sort of becoming powerful and telling everybody else what to do. And then the twin who's feeling left out, you have to try to empower her by saying, You need to speak up, you need to talk to these friends, you need to figure out a way to find your own way of connecting, and not allowing your sister to be taking away everything from you, because it's just not the right thing to do.

Joan Friedman 35:37
But it's, it's, this is really an awful situation. And I feel like these things could have been headed off earlier, if parents were making twins responsible for making their own friends and doing more of their own things. Because I feel like that power dynamic is just a dynamic of the twinship. That's getting played out with the peer relationships. So I don't even know if I'm asking answering your question. But it goes back to the whole situation of saying to a twin, you know, this is your friend, you don't have to share this friend. And then you have to work on the other twin making her own friends. Because that dynamic comes out of twins having to share everything, and getting angry about it, and then then pulling this stuff with one another. And it's, it's really an outcome of the twin dynamic. That was a horrible explanation.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 36:36
No, no. I know. But I mean, one of the things I'm hearing is that you're saying that parents need to put some degree of responsibility on the kids themselves. And I think we're talking more about, you know, the school aged kids, and probably, you know, maybe it's more junior high or older. But we're saying hey, you have some degree of responsibility in, you know, making friends and creating that sort of separateness. So is is that something that we should be, you know, talking about early on, I mean, like, you know, okay, my girls are nine. And they are starting to develop their own friends at school, which I was, you know, really excited about.

Joan Friedman 37:17
It is because often, they often they don't often identical twins don't really make their own relationships, they. And so it's great that they are making separate friendships, because, I mean, if you I've interviewed so many adult twins, identical twin girls, and they say, we didn't make any friends, we didn't need to we had each other. And that's created problems for them in their adult life as they try to make individual friends. So I'm really happy to hear that, because a lot of adult identical twins don't make best friends, they have a built in best friend. And while it sounds wonderful, it creates issues or can create issues down the line.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 37:57
So I think we're talking about the sort of the, the social building those social skills. Now I'm thinking from, from a really practical standpoint, you know, I'm wondering if maybe I should, you know, as a parent, say, hey, you know, as, as a goal, beginning of the school year, let's say, Maybe we should make a goal of, hey, I'd like each girl to make, you know, one friend, and we do, you know, at least one individual activity together or something like that. I don't know, if that's a practical way of sort of, you know, forcing them to do something on their own.

Joan Friedman 38:28
Well, I like what I like, what you said is, you again, none of us can force things on unless we find that there's an opportunity to do that, right. So you're seeing that they're making individual friends or making attempts at that. So so then what you're doing is you're not forcing that, but you're seeing a situation and you're seizing the opportunity to make something more of it, you're not forcing it, but you see that there's an opening, and you're going for it, which I think is great. It's you know, if the goal is to help them do that, then I think, you know, you know, giving them that that sort of goal or that option, or that sort of endpoint is a great idea. Because you are giving them the message that this is something that you'd really like them both to be able to do, or to have, which is a semblance of separate friendships. Absolutely. So it's not forcing it, but it's like, Oh, I see the timings right, I'm going to go go for that and kind of brought in the opportunity or make it sweeter.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 39:27
And maybe we can just use that as incentives to and, you know, thank you, Sara, you know, with your boys. I mean, they're, they're young. But you know, maybe maybe that's something like you could offer up some type of special activities, you know, for the boys, you know, once maybe once they're in school, or you know, do special playdates or something like that, I don't know, has that ever come to mind?

Sarah Roberts 39:50
Well, it's something where I definitely once we get to the age where we can have playdates that are drop off playdates because I think when they're still young, and you have to be there It's almost impossible to have a playdate that doesn't include both. So it's something where I think going forward, I think that's a great idea. And I know, that's what I'm kind of trying to sell to the kids. And it's also part of it's, you know, with their transition going into kindergarten, they're very sad about leaving their friends behind, because their preschool is not near where their new school is going to be. So I think, to them, friends are something fun and exciting. So I am in a sense, using that as the incentive of, hey, look at our new friends. And hopefully in a year or two, I think when we get to the point where we can do drop offs, it can be, hey, why don't you make a special plan with your friend, and you make a special plan with your friend. And if we do at the same time, and I drop them off, Mommy gets an hour to herself.

Joan Friedman 40:45
Sara, you know, we might also that's, you know, get into a situation from time to time where one boys invited for a playdate, and the other one isn't. And you know, you can try of course to, you know, make the other boy, you know, have a play date. But this often happens. And so you drop the one off that does, and then you say, you know this, you're going to have special time with me, this is going to be a special time, you know, your brothers and so and so and you and I are going to do something fun today while he's with his friend. So you don't have to feel like you can make it all equal, you may not be able to make two play dates at once. And that's okay, because he's going to get alone time with you. But if you if you get into the mindset that they both have to have one, and you're not gonna do it, unless they both have one, then it's going to be harder. So think about it that this special alone time with you, if one is going off with a friend. And then then that's again, a way of trying to get away from, you know, trying to make things the same and equal and fair for each of our twins, which of course can't happen. But we always try because we feel guilty. And then you know, it drives us crazy. So think about the play dates in that way, too. I think it'll be helpful and take some pressure off. If one doesn't have one. And the other one does.

Sarah Roberts 42:02
We can just call it a mommy playdate. Yeah.

Joan Friedman 42:07
Which are a lot of fun sometimes. You don't have to share a mommy for once. It's a tree. Yes.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 42:15
So okay, now, we've been talking about, you know, doing, you know, the right thing early on and getting them separated is is ever too late. I mean, if the kids or I don't know, middle school, if we've got dads moms listening now and they said, Oh, you know, I really haven't done any separate activities is there? You know, can they still start doing it and finding those opportunities?

Joan Friedman 42:36
Well, I think what happens, and this is what I've gotten a lot of calls about is sex, sometimes in middle school, and later on, you know, the twins themselves are desperate to differentiate, they're desperate to be known to be who they are. So one might become like a golf, you know, and one is not. So big becomes an extreme, an extreme way of differentiating. And I think, when this happens, parents get really upset. And instead of understanding what it's about, they don't understand that underneath at all, there's this kind of drive toward wanting to be known as an individual, they get really upset. And they want the the twin who seems more mainstream, to try to convince the non mainstream twin to kind of stop doing that. And so, you know, that's a problem. And, and, of course, you don't want a parent of twins sort of disrupt whatever it is that they're trying to do. But this is their way that they are trying to differentiate because they haven't had any opportunity to do that before. So I would just caution parents that have some sort of huge, dramatic shift in an appearance or something and they get alarmed by it, rather than making the one twin responsible for the other. Just kind of see it as, you know, kind of a glorification of each twin trying to be related to by other people as an individual. Because I've often find that one parent will freak out, rather than recognizing it as a statement of individuality.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 44:08
So we shouldn't freak out if our kids dye their hair purple or shave their head just like, ok.

Joan Friedman 44:14
Not at all. Finally they'll be able to Oh, yeah, you're so and so. Oh, okay, I get it. You have a bald head.

Sunny Gault 44:21
I love that. You guys I have I'm actually a funny story that just happened like literally as we're talking. I had to mute myself because my twins came in. And they each planted like in a little cup. They had a seed that they got from school, they're in TK whatever. And they had a little seed that we planted at the same day. And in one cup. My one twin her plant is thriving. Her plant is like going like it's just going crazy, right? And they're in my other twin was so upset because sissies plant was growing and hers had not begun to grow yet it's still below the soil. And they both were like really upset, like they were comparing each other. And like, it just reminded me of our the whole conversation we're having today about how I was very careful with my words with my one twin whose plant wasn't growing because she felt like she was insufficient. Like, if sissy is doing this, I my plant should be doing this too. And I'm trying to explain to her honey, you know, it depends on the soil and you know, the sun and how maybe we bury this one a little bit further down. Don't worry, you don't have to compare yourself to your sister all the time. But I thought that was an interesting example of how they think they you know, because we're twins, our plant should grow at the same time. And that's not reality, right?

Joan Friedman 45:39
That is such a wonderful metaphor. I'm going to have to write a blog about it... fantastic.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 45:51
Nurturing yes, we're all different, even the plants, we should we should, you know, do that as preschool experiments, right? And have them the very beginning Look, they're different.

Joan Friedman 46:01
Isn't it funny, because they see the world through their identical reality, you know, and why wouldn't they? It's just, it's just what they do. Right?

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 46:10
Interesting. Okay, so one last question here. So I gotta say, you know, we see in the headlines, you know, sometimes we see like, pictures of these older ladies, you know, I gotta say, like, you know, sort of that the oldest twins in Britain, you know, that are like 100 years old, and, you know, talks about their life and how they, you know, spent their their whole entire life together and like, maybe one got married and the other didn't, and they still dress like so I don't know, is what do you think? Is it cute? Or like completely unhealthy?

Joan Friedman 46:43
Well, I think when you're 100, and everyone's husband has died and your twin sisters, I think it's probably really nice and fine at 100. But, you know, I wrote my last my last book is twins in session. And it's all it's for clinicians and educators about how to understand twin development. So of course, it's all problem oriented and all you know, about, you know, psychological issues that evolved when, you know, twins don't grow up feeling that they're separate enough. So, you know, some of it is cute. Some of it isn't but you know, the basically the way you evaluated is is if you see that his twins get older, how how are they able to navigate on their own, you know, it's basically maybe even like sort of comparing them if you have singletons I have so many calls you know twins ready to go to college they've never really been separated they decide to go to different colleges so basically they're just they have to go as Singleton's to different colleges and they've never been on their own. So it's it's all about how how they're capable of navigating themselves their social life, their their ability to kind of study on their own to make friends on their own to have a relationship that isn't a replacement for a twin. There's all these really fascinating aspects of of growing up as a twin that Singleton's you know, know nothing about but Singleton's go to school on their own. They don't have a twin, you know, comes along, right? Right. They don't have a shadow, they don't have a best friend. They don't have a, you know, a roommate. They don't have a soulmate. You know, they don't, they don't, they have to sort of be able to cope a little bit better on their own. And that's, that's what twins have to learn to cope better on their own, as well as really value the very special connection attachment that they have. And it's not easy all the time to be able to navigate both.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 48:43
No, absolutely. Okay, well, we'll wrap this up and just say thank you so much, Dr. Friedman, for joining us today. And thank you to Sarah, our panelists and sharing your experience.

Joan Friedman 48:53
Oh, it was my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.

Sunny Gault 49:00
Okay, so as we're wrapping up today's show, we have our final segment and this is a segment we call special twin moments. So we all know his parents of twins, sometimes are twins do things doesn't matter if they're fraternal or identical, but they just totally warm your heart and make you wish you were a twin just to experience whatever they're going through. And I thought this was a great comment from a mom her name's Nicole, and she was sharing her twin moment she says, My boys have their own beds. But after many mornings of finding them in the same bed, we finally push the beds together. They sleep across each other and they say they're going to get a house together when they get older. I hope they always want to have a strong bond. I love my twins. So I just thought that that was kind of a cute thing and it made me think of well how do my twins sleep I guess it's more about just a bed right? This is more just you know them wanting to be together in general and my twin my girls actually share a full bed Jonah I was I was curious if you had any input I feel so bad. I do everything my twins do everything together. And this whole conversation today has been about how we need to start kind of separating them any any thoughts on the bed situations, since that's what Nicole was talking about here.

Joan Friedman 50:11
You know, I know everyone like, whenever they talk to me, they want to run away. My, my bed story is this when you know, so had three older kids, Johnny and David were born, Johnny and David and all the other kids had their own rooms, they had a schedule, they had a ritual, you know, bedtime, blah, blah, blah. Johnny and David were born and Johnny and David slept in our bed until, because we were just too tired to put them in their bed, probably they were like, I don't know, even like two or three years old, where they finally were in their own beds. So I'm the last person to ask about. And they didn't get their own room until our older son went to college. And they were eight. So by they were sharing a room and then you know, so it's not about the beds, you know, it's about you know, the beds, again, are a metaphor, like the plants that I talked about. I know, it's just, I don't know, get the pet. It's cute that they're in bed together. You know, it's like they have a closeness, there is a twin bond. And when they get older, you know, 30 and older extends beyond their beds. And you can find so many wonderful things that, that you get warm heartwarming about their closeness and their connection and their intimacy. So again, the beds are a metaphor, and they don't have to mean anything terrible.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 51:29
So relish it for now, because it won't always be that way. Right?

Sunny Gault 51:33
Take pictures because it's really cute. Sometimes when you find them all cuddled up together. I'm like that is the cutest thing!

Joan Friedman 51:40
Take separate pictures too. Everybody forgets pictures of them separately. So remember to do that.

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald 51:50
Well, that wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Twin Talks. Don't forget to check out our sister show Preggie Pals for expecting parents and our show The Boob Group for moms who breastfeed their babies, Parent Savers, your parenting resource on the go and Newbies for new moms during their first year. This is Twin Talks- parenting times two!

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