Posted in: Adolescent Twin Dilemmas, Ask Dr. Joan, Sibling rivalry, Twins and Parental Connections, Why?
A thousand years ago when I was elected student body secretary in high school . . . and my twin sister was not. . . how was I to know that she felt awful? Last week over coffee we recalled this experience and so many others that are difficult for twin teens. I had no idea that my sister felt so guilty about getting into a prestigious and highly academic high school program that I did not qualify for. As a result, she told me that she chose to only participate for one semester rather than two.
Even though these events occurred more than forty years ago, they remain salient emotional markers in our adult relationship. My sister and I are grateful beyond words that we had each other during our growing years. We both recognize and acknowledge that it was our twinship that protected us from unhealthy family dynamics. Most siblings, including twins, form a distinct relationship with each parent. I tried to take care of our mother emotionally. My sister, on the other hand, experienced such profound maternal disappointment that she stopped feeling any connection to her at all. Both of us reacted in different ways to a situation rife with maternal neglect and cruelty.
As we have raised our own children, we have a renewed appreciation about how our unique connection to one another actually saved us. I have interviewed hundreds of twins and am often told that the twin relationship served as the anchor and safety net in family situations where the parents were emotionally damaged.
While my sister and I are similar in may ways, we have distinct preferences and personality traits. I love to shop and spend money; she buys her clothes online and is careful about “saving for a rainy day”. Nonetheless, our shared experiences create an unbreakable bond that allows for individual differences and perspectives. Our need to create an even balance is no longer an issue, as it was in high school. So, we can tip the scale in many directions without either one of us feeling fearful about falling off - such are the advantages of wisdom, mindsight, and hindsight as we grow older and wiser.
Posted in: Adolescent Twin Dilemmas, Ask Dr. Joan, Babyhood, Dr. Joan Rants, Preschool, Sibling rivalry, Toddler, Twin bliss, Twins Mystique, Twins Stereotype, Twins and Parental Connections, Twins in the News, celebrity twins
“Using Emotional Intelligence to Raise Compassionate and Resilient Children”
Sunday, June 12
$40 Skirball Members
$30 Full-Time Students
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
In this seminar, participants learn to help their children become emotionally intelligent and find ways to express their feelings authentically and appropriately.
Through a keynote presentation and multiple workshops, participants will learn how to use Mindsight with their children to help them discover their feelings as a source of strength.
Techniques for cultivating resilience and well-being will be explored. The seminar will also enable parents and caregivers to strengthen bonds with children, leading to stronger families and communities.
Designed for parents, expectant parents, mental health care practitioners, and teachers, the program includes the keynote lecture and two ninety-minute workshops, Session A and Session B.
Dr. Joan A. Friedman will be offering a worshop during Session B, from 4:00pm till 5:30pm.
Raising Emotionally Healthy Twins
Facilitator: Joan Friedman, PhD, author of Emotionally Healthy Twins
Drawing on her experience as a twin, the mother of twins, and a psychotherapist specializing in twins, Dr. Friedman outlines seven key concepts for helping twins develop into self-realized, resilient individuals. Her current research about adult twin development will enhance parental awareness about twins’ ongoing emotional growth.
Posted in: Ask Dr. Joan, Sibling rivalry, Twin bliss, Twins and Parental Connections, Uncategorized, Why?
I want to thank everyone who filled out the survey. More than 250 people participated, from ages 18 to 85, and I continue to receive responses every day. I was surprised by some findings and validated by others. More than ever, I am convinced about my book‘s relevance since so many twin pairs are hungry for information and advice concerning their relationship to their twin. The majority of respondents were very motivated to understand the aspects of their twin relationship that contribute to feelings of sadness, confusion, and fear. While a small percentage of people were incredulous that being a twin would have any unpleasant or negative consequences, most authentically acknowledged difficulties and desired help in resolving them. Many twin pairs are attempting to work out their issues so that the twinship can maintain its integrity alongside other primary relationships.
I was not surprised by the fact that there were only a handful of respondents who expressed unmitigated resentment and estrangement from their twin. The few who did so described years of legitimate frustration and angst. The segment where I appeared on the Rachel Ray Show entitled “I Hate My Twin” a few years ago was an exaggerated and sensationalized ploy geared to generate audience ratings and publicity. Like so many survey respondents, the young women on this show were struggling to understand and rework their issues with separation and individuation. Presently both are doing well – living in separate cities, pursuing different career paths, and appreciating their cherished connection. It is imperative that non-twins along with society-at-large recognize that twins, just like singletons, have expectable developmental struggles with their siblings. Conflict does not signal that they hate each other nor insinuate that they are no longer close. Twins’ yearnings to forge other intimate relationships without alienating or hurting their twin emerge as the salient struggle.
I do want to mention the many poignant stories shared by twins who describe how their powerful connection to their twin helped them survive traumatic events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, and illness. The multiple references to fear about twin loss reflect the love and devotion that many twins feel for each other. Also, the diverse parenting styles reported by twin pairs were intriguing.
Thanks again for your continuing interest in and support for my work. I will keep you updated on my research and the book’s publication.
Posted in: Ask Dr. Joan, Babyhood, Preschool, Sibling rivalry, Toddler, Twins and Parental Connections, Why?
I was speaking with a mom of twin toddlers the other day that was lamenting the fact that her girls were no longer content playing by themselves. They both want mom at the same time now and are bent on outdoing the competition. Mom used to be able to placate one while she handled the other. Unfortunately, now the stakes have changed. If she is sitting with one on her lap, the other comes and rests her head “assertively” on mom’s knee, making it very clear that she is not pleased about her sister’s “top billing”.
I reminded mom that developmental stages just happen. Often we are so preoccupied with the everyday hustle and bustle that we don’t necessarily recognize the shifts and changes until we find ourselves right smack in the middle of them. Parents of adolescents bemoan the fact that it felt as if their beatific son or daughter turned into a surly adolescent over night! Something similar occurs with toddlers. Their invigorated sense of self and new felt autonomy changes the rules of the game. Parents need to understand the game beforehand so that they can be aware of the winning strategies. This does not mean, of course, that you will win by entering into a battle of wills. To the contrary, the emotional strategies that help you understand and communicate with your child will help to socialize and protect your forward moving toddler to feel masterful in a secure and predictable world. In addition, there is the challenge of learning how to evaluate which battles are worth fighting. Aside from issues of health and safety, many first time parents understandably struggle with figuring out what is important for their children within the framework of their family, the community, and their culture.
Dr. Jenn Berman has a wonderful new book called Super Baby. It is available for early order on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. Her chapters that describe how to handle an out of sorts toddler are excellent because they help parents understand a toddler’s emotional and physical struggles from the toddler’s age appropriate developmental level. Dr. Berman gives lovely examples about how to talk to toddlers, how to give them choices, how to set effective limits, and “how to say no without saying no”. She explains why parental predictability and consistency is key to a toddler’s healthy emotional maturation.
Parents of twin toddlers face additional challenges. Often they are required to make a decision that benefits one twin and makes it difficult for the other. Some expectations must be the same for both children in order for the parents to model consistent, clear, and unwavering behavior about specific limits and rules. For example, one mother told me that she had to take away the bottle from one twin because the other refused to use her Sippy cup when she saw her sister with the bottle. Another mom told me that she had to enforce the same rules for both of her sons about using the pacifier in order to quell the protests of inequality. It takes tremendous courage for parents of twins to make decisions that do not necessarily reflect the individual needs and wishes of both children. Usually parents of singletons are not so vigorously or repetitively challenged by their children about “unfair practices”.
While I believe that parenting the first time around involves a big learning curve for most couples, the additional commotion and complications of two at a time poses an extra challenge that is exhausting and depleting. The good news is that this stage does not last forever. In fact, these little dynamos turn into loving preschoolers who remind us about the infinite wonders of life all around us that we often take for granted.
Posted in: Adolescent Twin Dilemmas, Babyhood, Preschool, Sibling rivalry, Toddler, Twin bliss, Twins Mystique, Twins Stereotype, Twins and Parental Connections
Posted in: Dr. Joan Rants, Sibling rivalry, Twins Mystique, Twins Stereotype, Why?
Parents of twins often feel like dreadful failures if their twins are not close. Do they need more reasons to feel inadequate?
Most parents hope that their children will be close; however, some parents of twins seem to assume or expect that closeness is part and parcel of the twinship.
I do understand how this expectation is created.
It is another manifestation of the “twin mystique” – a mindset which defines how twins should feel about one another. While it may seem counterintuitive, the more latitude and permission that you give your twins to have ambivalent feelings, the more psychic room you are providing to articulate, manage, and negotiate predictable conflicts that most siblings encounter.
Remember, often in the course of human interactions familiarity breeds contempt. Are twins exempt from these feelings just because they have that special twinship bond? I don’t believe so.
I do firmly concur that twins share an undeniable intimacy that is viable and authentic.
In my opinion the healthiest way to nurture this special bond is to foster free expression of twin differences so that they are free to love one another as individuals instead of feeling obligated to love one another because they are twins.
Food for thought? What do you think - do twins have to be best friends?
Posted in: Babyhood, Sibling rivalry, Twins Stereotype
We often “label” our children as a means of distinguishing each one’s personality, quirks, or differences. We innocently remark, “He’s very sociable, she’s a go-getter, he’s introspective, she’s a people pleaser.” However, in the case of twins, this naming or labeling frequently turns into an identity rather than a well-intentioned description. Twins struggle throughout their lives to find and define their uniqueness. Careless and thoughtless labeling by family and friends makes a challenging situation even more overwhelming.
With two same age siblings sharing mom, dad and physical space practically 24/7, neither twin has much of an opportunity to be known or recognized for him or herself. So, what often begins as a seemingly harmless distinction may turn into a long lasting characterization.
The other day I was speaking with a mom who has 2 1/2 year old twin girls and a one year old son. She described how one twin is very kind, maternal, and loving toward her younger brother while the other twin is angry, rejecting, and disinterested. Mother expressed concern that the “angry” twin was not behaving like her sister. I explained that most children have some sort of reaction to the birth of a sibling. In the case of twins responding to a new baby, there can be a definitive difference.
If one daughter covets the role of loving mommy toward her baby brother, what role is left for her sister to play? If she, too, acts as the loving mommy, she has one more reason to compete with her sister – this time for the attention of the new baby. If she does not feel like participating in yet another competitive struggle, she can devise a different and distinct strategy – which is to behave in an oppositional way as the hostile, angry, and unloving older sister.
I told this mom that I appreciated this mean-spirited strategy because the “angry” daughter refused to pretend to be a good girl; she was articulating her distress and sadness in an authentic way. I advised that mom attempt to help her daughter talk about her angry feelings with empathy and understanding and to let her daughter know that she understands how she feels and that things will get better. I also suggested that she take out her “angry” daughter alone so that she feels reassured that her angry feelings don’t make her unlovable; also taking her out alone with the baby will provide her with an opportunity to engage with her brother without being burdened by her sister.
The twin dynamic makes the sibling issue a bit more complicated. Parents seem more accepting about a singleton’s ambivalent feelings toward a new baby because there is no other child with whom to compare or judge his behavior. Parents of twins are consistently thrown into this world of compare and compete.
Parents who have worked diligently to carve out a separate attachment to each twin will feel better equipped to handle these inconsistencies with less guilt and fear that they are showing favoritism or special treatment. They won’t “label” their twins because they will understand this behavior is an adjustment reaction that will resolve over time - NOT a permanent personality trait that will distinguish one twin from the other.