They started out as little bundles in identical or similar outfits. They may eat at the same time, sleep in the same room, and take part in many of the same activities. But someday your twins will start showing signs of independence that you as their parent will want to nurture and guide them into discovering themselves.

Dress for success

Ease into the process with something simple, like letting your children have more control over their clothing choices. It wasn't until one of my twins developed a staunch hatred for denim that I finally started to let go of the coordinating themes I had spent almost five years putting together. Before long they were both turning down my suggestions for tops as well, digging through their dresser to find what they each wanted. I admit I struggle with the outfit discord at times, but it's essential to their decision making skills and development of their own sense of style. Your twins may choose radically different outfits, or they may decide to continue dressing alike.

Sharing is not always caring

For the children who have been sharing since conception, it's important that they have things that are theirs and theirs alone.

When it comes to their belongings, twins deserve to have their own items, just as different-age siblings would. They shouldn't be expected to share everything. In fact, Dr. Joan Friedman, a psychotherapist who specializes in twin-related issues and author of Emotionally Healthy Twins, states that "too much required sharing between same-age siblings can interfere with each child's ability to develop an individuate self." Learning to share is an essential part of life and childhood development; however, for the children who have been sharing since conception, it's important that they have things that are theirs and theirs alone.

This idea can even be expanded to include their personal spaces. As your twins grow, consider giving them the option of having their own bedroom, if your home allows. They may choose to stay together. If so, encourage them to select their own bedding and decorations to show a little bit of individuality.

Promote one-on-one time

Carving out time to spend alone with your twins is essential to their development as a person. Without one-on-one time, parents miss out on that intimacy that helps them get to know their children as individuals. It wasn't until I had my third child that I realized that my twins and I missed out on the sweet, quiet moments I was getting with her. I still feel a little cheated at times.

Abigail Pogrebin, identical twin and author of One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I've Learned About Everyone's Struggle to be Singular, strongly advises individual time. She feels that the lack of individual time in her own childhood cemented a feeling that she and her twin were a unit and not two separate people. When Pogrebin was 18, she admitted feeling uncomfortable going on a trip with her parents because she had never been alone with them before. Until then, neither parent had even realized that they had never been with just one child.

Alone time gives the child the confidence that their parents recognize them outside of their twinship. Dr. Friedman can't emphasize enough the importance of alone time without the distractions of siblings. "Being alone with you gives each child the chance to see herself reflected in your eyes, in your reactions to what she is doing and saying." This dedicated time doesn't have to be a special outing — it could be a trip to the grocery store, an oil change, or even just time spent reading together or building blocks. Parents only have to make the effort to carve out this time, and it does take effort.

Separate in school

I'm fortunate that in Texas, parents get to choose whether or not to separate their twins in school. This is a touchy topic for some — however, it's important to think about the individual needs of each child. My twins were a great distraction to each other in the same class, and it hindered their learning and caused disruption. Their constant togetherness also limited their social interactions and relationships with the other children. Now separated, they not only have their own teachers, friends and experiences, but they each flourish in their own abilities, with less opportunity for comparison. You as their parents know them best and can conclude in which settings they will thrive.

Don't you dare compare

Avoid using subjective labels...identifying twins in this manner can affect how others see them, and eventually how they see themselves.

Comparisons for twins start at birth. Some feel that they should develop at the same rate, get teeth in at the same time, or have the same academic abilities, especially identicals.

Avoid using subjective labels like "She's the smart one," or "He's the aggressive one," or especially "She's the heavier/pretty one." Identifying twins in this manner can affect how others see them, and eventually how they see themselves. As babies, I identified one twin as the shy observer and the other as the outgoing ringleader. But as they grew and we spent more time outside the home, it became clear that my shy observer was extremely charismatic, while her sister became reserved and clung to my leg.

They are two

The most important thing to remember when raising your twins is that whether they look exactly alike or not, they are two completely different people who just happen to be born at the same time. Yes, twins do usually share a greater bond than most other siblings, but recognizing and encouraging their different interests and abilities will set them on the path to independence and help them develop healthy relationships with others.

More on raising twins

You're having twins! How to deal
Do I need a C-section with twins?
Fresh and fun twin baby names

Topics: