By Christina Baglivi Tinglof
Excerpted from Parenting School-Age Twins and Multiples (compare prices) (McGraw-Hill, 2007). Reprinted with permission.
The Advantages of Being a Teenage Multiple
No doubt that going through adolescence can be tough on all kids. Peer pressure, the need to be seen as different yet also a part of the crowd (never could figure that one out), raging hormones wreaking havoc on one's mind and body -- it's a wonder anyone survives! Many parents I interviewed described their multiples' adolescence as a time of enormous love coupled with a bit of jealousy. Surprisingly, everyone survived just fine. While it's true that multiples experience additional obstacles (which we'll get into in a moment) as they navigate through the tempestuous preteen and teenage years, there are several distinct and important advantages to being a twin, triplet or even quad. Many adult twins have even joked that if you're going to be a teenager, it's best to do it with a cotwin by your side.
For instance, as a teenager would you ever attend a popular party alone? No way. You wouldn't do it. You'd call every friend you had to se if one would go with you. With multiples, however, new and unfamiliar social situations aren't nearly as threatening since they're often in it together. The power and comfort of two or even three -- whether hanging out at the coffeehouse or the Friday night football game -- sounds better than that of a singleton braving these social waters alone any day. (Granted, many teenage twins prefer to hang out with their own individual friends rather than their cotwins, but others still count their cotwins as their best friends.)
Research also shows that adolescent twins, girls as well as boys, remain closer to their parents than singleton children, and that often they have a greater difficulty in rejecting their parents' values, especially if they've been reinforced by a cotwin throughout childhood. In other words, going against what Mom and Dad say means going against each other, too, and most multiples choose not to. In fact, two large studies done in Finland found that twins used alcohol and smoked less often than their single-born counterparts. The researchers, who tracked 284 twins from pregnancy through adolescence, concluded that the twin bond offered the support that these teens needed to say "no thanks" to dangerous behavior. Multiples, a peer group unto themselves, may find it easier to reject the questionable values of others. In addition, the twins in this study were found to be more physically active than their singleton counterparts, participating in sports more often. Now how can you argue with all that good news?
We're in This Together
Let's go back to our own teenage years for just a minute. If you were like me, you probably spent hours yakking on the phone, hiding in the closet so your mom couldn't overhear the conversation. You exchanged notes with a close friend about what happened in school, who was seen kissing whom between classes, and on and on, ad nauseam. Every teen needs someone to talk to, to confide secrets both big and small. When you're a multiple developing simultaneously alongside a same-age sibling, you have someone who takes you seriously and understands what you're going through. While singletons turn to a close friend for this kind of support, most twins have that special relationship already built in. The strength of the twin bond helps to ease many teenage growing pains. This one positive component trumps all the other special challenges of being an adolescent twin.
The Popularity Factor
Many twins are great friends and take pleasure in being in each other's company. Their pool of friends is usually larger than that of singletons, too, as they share many acquaintances from each other's classes. Perhaps it's this strength of comradeship that draws others to them. In fact, studies reveal that being a preteen twin actually boosts a twin's popularity. In one study conducted over a five-year time span, more than 1,874 eleven- and twelve-year-old twins and nontwin classmates used the "peer nomination technique" to decide who in their classroom displayed socially active behavior -- strong leadership abilities, being outgoing and popular, compliant behavior and the ability to control emotions. The results? Twins surpassed singletons. In particular, opposite-sex twins, both male and female, exhibited stronger socially active behavior than single-born children.
Christina Baglivi Tinglof is the mother of three boys, including school-age twins. She is a contributing writer for Twins! magazine and founder and editor of www.talk-about-twins.com. She is the author of Parenting School-Age Twins and Multiples, as well as Double Duty, The Organized Parent and The Stay-at-Home Parent's Survival Guide. (Compare Prices on these books.) She lives in Southern California.