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How to foster individuality in twins

Samantha Kemp-Jackson

“How do you tell them apart?” It’s a question that I’m often asked, being the mother of identical twin boys. To the untrained eye they certainly seem like carbon copies of each other. I can definitely see how people view them as one; the same person in two separate bodies.

For many twins, particularly identical, they are commonly seen as perfect halves to a whole — two parts to a puzzle that is only complete when they’re together. Yet twins, like any two siblings, have their own minds and their own personalities in spite of the fact that they may look similar. As a matter of fact, it’s these same twins’ need to be seen as individuals that often compels them to behave so differently from one another. How often have we heard about twins where one is shy and the other outgoing? Or where one is a left-brain logical type and the other a more “creative” sort? And don’t get me started on the “good twin/bad twin” dichotomy. It doesn’t exist.

Regardless of the labels that are put on them, twins are often seen as a “package deal” and no attempt at differentiating themselves from each other is successful as a result. For a twin child, being seen and appreciated as an individual will not only increase their confidence and abilities as they move through the difficult teenage years, but will foster their success as well.

Following are five ways that parents can foster individuality in twins:

1. Focus on their differences

Yes, they may look the same but they’re different people. They may like many of the same things, but upon more careful inspection, you’ll find that they differ in many ways as well. For twins who will have a lifetime of being compared to each other, it’s these differences — however few — that will foster their sense of independence and individuality. Don’t forget to “spot the differences.” It’s worth it.

2. Interact with them individually

They are often seen as a “package deal,” not only to friends and family, but to strangers as well. Is it any wonder that they long to be seen as individuals every so often? Sure, they may love their twin brother or sister, but don’t underestimate their need to be appreciated for their unique traits — quirks and all. If you’re a parent to twins, try to spend some “alone time” with each of your children regularly. Not only will they appreciate the effort, but you’ll likely find out many things about your child’s personality that weren’t apparent before.

3. Don’t dress them alike

Once in a while is okay, too often is not. No one will deny the “cute factor” of seeing twins dressed in identical or similar clothing, but realistically doing so does little to foster individuality. As kids get older, they are more conscious of their appearance and identity — so duplicate outfits are not always appreciated. Dress them differently and watch their individual personalities come alive.

4. Give them their own “stuff”

“Share and share alike” is often the motto for parents of twins for both practical reasons (clothes and toys are expensive) as well as emotional (they’re twins, after all). Because of this, it may seem unnecessary to provide each child with their own items. On the contrary, it’s extremely important for twins to have items that are theirs and theirs only. Sharing is likely the default for all of the child-related items in the home, so why not make items extra-special by giving each child something that belongs to them alone and doesn’t have to be shared? They’ll cherish the items all the more and will appreciate the fact that you made the effort to give them something that belongs only to them.

5. Encourage separate friendships

Just because they’re twins doesn’t mean that they have to share everything — including friends. Building on the idea that they’re individuals, your twins have likely forged some friendships that don’t include their sibling. Consider this a good thing and support them as much as you can. If one of your twins wants to have a play date or sleepover with their friend, don’t feel obliged to include the other twin in the festivities. Both twins and the friend will appreciate it, guaranteed.

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Secrets of involved moms
Sibling rivalry stressors

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