Poll: Do your twins/multiples have the same friends?
- Yes, they share the same friends.
- No, they have their own set of friends.
- They have some individual friendships, but also share some friends.
When my twin girls were in third grade, one of them struggled socially and became increasingly downhearted. As her unhappiness grew, we visited a counselor to help my daughter sort out her feelings. In a follow-up meeting, one of the therapist's comments really startled me. "She's really lonely," she said. "She craves a best friend."
That's crazy, I thought. She has a best friend -- her twin sister! I was convinced that this counselor was completely off base in her assessment of my child. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my attitudes about my twins needed some updating. While I considered them best friends, they considered each other as sisters. Even though they enjoyed playing together, they needed individual social opportunities and I needed to step up my efforts to facilitate them.
Friendships are an important part of a child's social development and parents have a responsibility to help their children develop healthy relationships. Some may assume, as I did, that multiples have an easier time with friendships; after all they have a built-in buddy. But parents of twins and more know that their children may struggle with some social issues.
Young TwinsToddler and preschool twins may actually have a advantage over their singleton peers when it comes to social interaction. With a same-age playmate in the house, they have plenty of opportunity for socialization. When my twin girls started preschool, they jumped right into social situations without hesitation, joining other children's play and organizing play scenarios for other children to join. The other kids seemed perplexed by them and preferred to play individually.
However, there is research that suggests that young twins have less diversity in friendship than singletons and tend to be more socially withdrawn. In many cases, parents (like me!) assume that they are built-in playmates for each other and don't feel the need to arrange play dates. Some parents are simply too busy to organize play opportunities; with multiples, it frankly takes extra time and effort and often the invitations aren't reciprocated by other families who are hesitant to host multiple children. Finally, (parents too busy to arrange play dates, built-in playmates for each other, friends interact with both twins, so they have less one-on-one interaction) Because parents of younger children have more influence over their children's friends, it's never too early to start guiding your twins in social relationships. It's convenient and easy to let them play together, but they'll benefit from arranged play dates.
Tips for Parents
- Create play opportunities for your toddler/preschool multiples with other children.
- Organize activities for both/all multiples as well as individual play dates.
Many twins have friends in common. They may share a single best friend or a shared group of friends. Research indicates that monozygotic (often called identical) twins are more likely to have the same friends, but many dizygotic (fraternal) twins share friends as well. It makes sense for monozygotic twins, whose genetic similarities may predispose them to be attracted to the same types of people. However, since childhood friendships are often based on proximity, it's easy to understand why this is common for all twins and multiples. They are usually in the same grade in school, and they tend to hang out in the same places at the same times.
While shared friendships are convenient, there are some pitfalls. As many parents of triplets can attest, a threesome can present a tricky dynamic, with two children pairing off and excluding the third. Only certain types of children have the right personality to be a friend to twins, children that are fairly easy-going and able to forgive some twin idiosyncrasies. My daughters have a lovely friend that patiently tolerates their squabbles, not trying to mediate or resolve their conflicts, but redirecting their attention when their arguments heat up.
Shared friendship can also produce intense jealousy between twins, who may compete for their friend's time and attention. This is a quick way to lose friends; it's uncomfortable for a child to be in this position, forced to choose between the two.
Another disadvantage of shared friendships is that twins are more likely to be excluded from activities that can only accommodate a single child. For example, some families may be unable to host two twins for a sleep over, dinner play date, or outing to the mall. To avoid hurt feelings by only inviting one, they simply don't include twins in this type of social event. Twins are isolated by this kind of social exclusion more often than you'd think.
But the benefits of shared friendship can be rich, both for the multiples and their friend of choice. As the saying goes, "The more the merrier." Being friends with twins is sure to be a fun-filled adventure. Meanwhile, a shared friendship offers many comforts and conveniences for twins and helps them develop important social skills. As an adult twin explained, it taught him to work things out and learn to compromise.
Tips for Parents
- Encourage twins to include a fourth playmate or arrange one-on-one play dates from time to time.
- Let your twins work out their differences, but step in when necessary to provide guidance and direction.
Go to Page Two: Dealing with Differences
What do you think? Talk about your twins and their friendships: Comments.