Parenting Seminar

“Using Emotional Intelligence to Raise Compassionate and Resilient Children”

Sunday, June 12

12:30–5:30 p.m.


$50 General

$40 Skirball Members

$30 Full-Time Students


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.

Everything You Want to Know About TWINS!!!
This event is a wonderful opportunity to learn about twins from an emotional, sociological and biological perspective.
If you still have unanswered questions, feel free to visit me at my book signing after the panel discussion.
Where: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Lenart Auditorium
When: Tuesday, May 18 @ 7:00 pm
RSVP: or (310) 267-5471
Admission: Free (parking is $10)

Recently I received an email from a despondent adolescent who was depressed and angry over the fact that no one seriously believed that being an identical twin might in any way account for his dissatisfaction with his life or himself.

He expressed that he felt odd, misunderstood, and sad because he believed that he had never had any opportunity to develop, create, or shape his own unique self. He said that his angst over these issues was dismissed as foolishness and self pity by his mother and his therapist. The teenager’s attempts to differentiate from his brother by doing separate activities were thwarted by his twin brother who ended up copying and mimicking his actions. There was no parental intervention to stop this interference or sabotage.

This boy feels adrift and isolated with his frustration and sadness because he is trapped in the “idealized” world of being a twin. Certainly, those people who have fantasized about being a twin or having a twin might readily dismiss this twin dilemma and understand the boy’s state of mind as reflecting expectable adolescent struggles. However, this is far from the emotional reality of many adolescent twins.

Imagine how troublesome it must feel to want to be your unique self and yet feel terribly unsure and conflicted about your own identity. Throw in the additional variable that the price of being your true self might come at the expense of the most significant attachment that you have. How does a conflicted adolescent cope with his or her longings for separateness and self-definition if it means the loss or alteration of the most important attachment figure? So often the twin who dares to separate is perceived as bad or wrong, and this projection creates enormous guilt and struggles for the teenage twin attempting to wrest himself into some sort of individuated person.

Do not underestimate the impact of a twin relationship on your adolescent twins.

While identical twins often have a harder time given that they have been treated as an indistinguishable unit for most of their lives, fraternal twins also have difficult obstacles to overcome. Fraternal twins frequently differ significantly in terms of their sociability, academic successes, and athletic prowess. While some sets of twins find a workable balance, many struggle needlessly because their parents do not acknowledge that the twinship can create difficulties.

One mother I worked with was exceedingly reluctant about considering the option of putting her fraternal teenage girls into different high schools. While it seemed perfectly obvious to me by virtue of the mom’s reporting that each girl was suffering tremendously by being compared and interdependent, she appeared reluctant and uncertain to provide each twin with what she needed because of the sanctity of the twinship. Reluctantly, she adhered to my advice on blind faith since she could not bring herself to acknowledge that the twinship had become a toxic attachment.

The girls are doing beautifully in their separate schools and she is forever grateful for my advice and counsel.  Again, this is another instant which substantiates my belief that parents of twins have to make important decisions for their children - the twinship cannot be such a powerful entity that decides how lives should be lived.

A mom of two and a half year old twins explains that one daughter cries whenever mom attempts to take her out alone without her sister. Her daughter yells and screams and protests that she does not want to leave her sister at home. Mom feels angry and guilty about this situation.

She feels badly about the fact that her daughter misses her sister but at the same time resentful that her daughter is unwilling to spend time with her alone – without her sister present. Mom reports that her other daughter exhibits none of these behaviors when she is separated from her sister. In fact, mom notes that this daughter relishes the time alone without her sister present.

How do we understand this dynamic? Sometimes, one twin is more attached to her twin than to her mother.

Thus, the over dependent attachment to her twin is an attachment to mom via proxy. Parents need to understand this dynamic and attempt to make some restitution. While it’s exceedingly difficult to see one of your twins longing for the other, there is an important developmental lesson to be learned.

The intense separation fear has much more to do with an insecure attachment to mom and NOT unrequited love for one’s twin.

The media announces that the quadruplets born in Baltimore will be presented to the media next week!

The keynote speakers at the upcoming annual convention of the National Organization of the Mothers of Twins Club (NOMOTC) are the parents of twins and sextuplets. Their family life is filmed and aired frequently on the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel and they have been Oprah’s guests.

I remember hearing about the Dionne quintuplets. They were identical quintuplets whose lives were sensationalized and destroyed by the exploitation of the Canadian government and their family. Their books reveal the horrific aftermath of their lives’ ordeals.

Perhaps, seeing other parents with so many children to care for makes some of us feel less burdened by our parental obligations and tasks. Having twins is a breeze compared to these broods of children.

I think about these large families and wonder how the kids will develop.

Certainly they will thrive emotionally and physically within the framework of their sibling network. They will grow up in a rich communal environment. Yet, will these experiences provide them with any opportunity to know themselves as individuals?

Jon and Kate plus 8 put enormous faith in God to help them with their large family. Faith is a viable resource along with the monetary benefits of television fame and exposure. They certainly will need all the help they can get.

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?

Twin Labeling is a Liability

Date: Monday March 24, 2008
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.

I do understand that it is very difficult – especially the first time – to send your child off to preschool. The action itself proclaims that the child is entering into a wider world where parents can’t control their well-being. Letting go and helping your child feel that he can master feeling safe in the world without mommy and daddy is a vital developmental hurdle that lays down the internal groundwork for inner reliance and self-confidence. In this generation of “helicopter parents” this fundamental child development tenet is largely ignored.

Parents of twins approach the preschool experience with a special perspective.

Granted, mom may feel bereft since she needs to separate from two babies at the same time. However, she can minimize her loss with the knowledge that the twins have one another and therefore they will not feel alone. Of course, the twins’ close attachment needs to be approached with sensitivity and good sense .

Nevertheless, mom’s difficulty around separations should not be managed by the twinship. While twins might need to be with one another initially, there also needs to be opportunities for them to have some experiences away from one another via separate playdates, alone time with mom and dad, and eventually separate preschool classes if that is an option.

Parents must find out in advance if their twins’ public school mandates that twins be separated in kindergarten; if this is so, it is the parents’ responsibility to prepare their twins so that a smooth separation occurs.

Yes, it does take more time and effort, to be sure.

Yet, just remember that a healthy separateness beginning as early as possible helps to ensure healthy individuation throughout their lives.

joan2.jpg“Don’t twins always want to be together?” This single inane question emanates from the mouths of the educated elite on down.

The Harvard educated high school college counselor cannot understand why my twin sons are applying to different colleges and why they make such a big deal about adjusting their schedules so they have separate classes. “I don’t understand this”, she mumbles incredulously, “don’t twins always want to be together?” Even the University executive vice president is shocked to learn that our son’s twin is attending a different college. “Don’t you realize that there is a discount for twins who are roommates?” he says to us.

Sadly, however, it is parents of twins who seem most outraged by our decision to send our sons to different universities. Our sons were aware from an early age that attending the same college was not an option. Although we recognized that some viewed this stipulation as mean, unfair, or unhealthy, my husband and I did not want our sons put in the position of having to decide this for themselves.

Parents of twins who have not recognized and nurtured their twins’ needs for individuality and separateness cannot tolerate the notion that their twins’ might want or need to be on their own. One parent I know sabotaged her twin daughter’s desire to have a separate college experience by urging the other twin daughter to apply to the same college after her sister had already been admitted. Months later she contacted me wondering why the twin who was admitted first was enraged with her sister and refusing to speak to her.

Parents, educators, and society at large need to revamp their mindset about twin togetherness.