By Joan A. Frideman
From the book Emotionally Healthy Twins by Joan Friedman, Ph. D. Reprinted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2008.
Teaching Twins Not to Share
According to clinical psychologist Barbara Shave Klein, twins are inherently predisposed to sharing from the time of conception. They share space in the womb, precious time with their parents, and usually a bedroom. One of our responsibilities as parents of twins, however, is to help our preschool-age children realize that they don't have to share everything with their same-age sibling. Just like singletons, they are entitled to their own time with mom or dad, their own friends, their own experiences, and their own things. Since twins are called upon to share everything from their toys to their parents' attention, it is important for twins to learn not to share all the time. In fact, too much required sharing between same-age siblings can interfere with each child's ability to develop an individuate self. Feeling entitled to what is theirs and theirs alone helps children gain a sense of their individual place in the world. Singletons take this proprietary sense for granted, and as parents of twins, we need to provide our children with opportunities to experience this feeling of ownership as well.
With this in mind, make sure that your preschool-age twins have their own personal items, just like singleton siblings, such as different sweatshirts, pajamas, shoes and jackets, all of which you can label with their names. If they want to ware each other's things or share each other's toys, that is up to them. And, of course, there will be certain larger items -- a train set, a toy stove, a rocking horse -- that they will inevitably share; you certainly can't be expected to buy two of everything. Other than these big-ticket items, however, make it clear to your children that what belongs to one does not belong to the other. Again, adhering to boundaries about what belongs to whom promotes a needed sense of ownership and individuality.
Not being required to share everything with their same-age sibling doesn't mean that your twins don't need to share with other children when they're at preschool or on a playdate. Learning to share with other kids is one of the key lessons of preschool socializing, and chances are your twins will find this easier than many of their singleton classmates.
Joan A. Friedman is an identical twin who has over thirty years of experience as a psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of twin-related issues. The mother of five children, including twin boys, she lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband. She is the author of Emotionally Healthy Twins: A New Philosophy for Parenting Two Unique Children. (Compare prices.) Visit her website at www.emotionallyhealthytwins.com.