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The twin story: Think alike, grow separate

HAVING TWINS can be one of the most exciting times in one?s life. It can also be one of the most demanding too. From sharing the womb to discovering the world together, twins are two individuals bound to each other by nature.

india Updated: Oct 31, 2006 16:11 IST

HAVING TWINS can be one of the most exciting times in one’s life. It can also be one of the most demanding too. From sharing the womb to discovering the world together, twins are two individuals bound to each other by nature.

When a couple is told that they are expecting twins, it is not surprising if they feel a little ambivalent. Everyone knows that looking after one baby is a full time job, but two at the same time can be truly daunting. 

Twins may be double the trouble, but they are also double the joy.  The security of twin relationship is greater than any other, and that it helps them live with more assurance in their other relationships too.

Two types of twins
WHILE TWINS bring special joys, caring for twins is a big job. Twins are of two types – identical and fraternal or non-identical. Identical twins are born when the fertilised egg splits into two distinct entities in the early stages of cell division.

The DNA and other genetic material is shared by the twins. Identical twins have a similar genetic make up and also look similar from the outside. Identical twins are always of the same sex.

Fraternal twins are the most common. They are no more alike – genetically and phenotypically, than any regular pair of siblings. Fraternal twins are formed when two separate eggs are fertilised by two different sperms. They share only the uterine space and the intra-uterine environment. Fraternals may not be of the same sex and they may also not look alike.

Encouraging individuality
JUST BECAUSE your babies are born at the same time or look alike, does not mean that they are not individuals in their own right.

It may be amusing to dress them up alike so that people cannot tell one from the other. But remember they are two separate beings and treat them as such from day one.

Avoid referring to them as ‘the twins’ and use their given names. Be sure to take photographs of each child separately because at some point he will ask for a photograph. It is important to encourage individuality.

Understanding their personality
AS CHILDREN become older, try choosing different toys and encourage sharing. Build a special one-to-one relationship with each child.

Look for special talents and praise them often. Twins usually have a special bond between them. Try to rear them as individuals without destroying their special bond. 

Each twin should be encouraged to have his own friend’s circle and to do separate activities with his own friends. Parents of twins will have to take decisions based on the personalities and wishes of their set of twins.

Twins often tend to develop at a similar pace, and may be predisposed to having similar choices e.g. in toys, food etc. but they may not be ready for sharing as yet. It may be a difficult situation to handle when both want the same thing, or when both demand something different. Twins, however, are children who get along more or less easily with each other just like other siblings.

At times, twins may behave as if they are one person, thinking, speaking and moving alike. It is their separateness that needs to be emphasised. For the development of each twin, it is very important that both of you spend individual time with each baby.

Encourage their bonding
TWINS HAVE the closest degree of kinship possible for two distinctly separated individuals. A study of young twins revealed they show more affection for each other and are less aggressive than singletons.

Twins rely on each other and trust each other completely with their innermost feelings and thoughts. Even as infants and toddlers, they are able to communicate with each other by facial expressions, special signs and even special language.

With time, twins are allowed to grow in an atmosphere conducive to individual growth. While acknowledging benefits of their being together, they will reach a stage when they decide to part ways.

(The author is a psychologist and a professor of psychology and social work at BSSS. He can be contacted at drvinaymishra
@rediffmail.com)