TWIN ETIQUETTE 101

Date: Wednesday January 18, 2012
Posted in: Uncategorized

DO’S and DON’TS

Whenever I speak to parents of twins, inevitably someone in the audience feels compelled to share his/her most recent story about the most annoying, hurtful, outrageous, unbelievable, or exasperating twin comment they have experienced. A resounding groan of empathic understanding and laughter resonates throughout the audience. So, in light of these cosmic occurrences, I have decided to create my own Emily Post “post” to help educate the uninitiated about how to approach twins and their parents with sensitivity, emotional intelligence, and tact.

I

DON’T ASK:

THE EXPECTABLE QUESTIONS (not in any expectable order)

  • Who is older?
  • Is she (he) the shy one?
  • Who walked first?
  • Were they natural or did you have IVF?
  • Which one is your favorite?
  • Why is the redheaded twin more talkative than her sister?
  • Why are they fighting with each other?
  • Are you sure they are identical?

Parents of twins do understand that these questions and inquiries are well-intentioned attempts (most of the time) to find a way to differentiate one twin from the other. Try the following approach and see what happens.

DO ASK:

  • What are their names?
  • How shall I remember who is who?
  • How are they different?
  • What are their personalities like?
  • What does each one like to do?
  • What are their preferences?
  • Tell me about each of them.
  • Make your own observations about each twin just as you would if there were one baby – and do it twice.

The goal is to help family, friends, and strangers focus on each twin’s uniqueness and individuality. Approaching twins in these ways helps parents mitigate their concerns about how much their children are being labeled and compared. They will sincerely appreciate your efforts to relate to their children as two separate people.

Don’t make comparative or labeling statements in front of the twins themselves. Contrary to popular thought, even babies as young as toddlers understand these communications and take them to heart.

Parents whose twins look remarkably alike need to help outsiders identify each twin by dressing them in different colors, pointing out any distinguishing features, or styling different haircuts.

II

DON’T FEEL COMPELLED TO SHARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT RAISING TWINS

· How do you tell them apart?

· Double trouble, right?

· Glad it’s you and not me…

· How do you do it?

· I have kids that are close in age, and it’s the same as having twins.

DO REMARK

You are doing an amazing job. I admire how you are able to manage two babies at the same time. They are lucky to have such a patient and loving mom/dad.

III

DON’T MAKE IDEALIZED STATEMENTS ABOUT BEING A TWIN:

  • They must be best friends.
  • They won’t ever have to worry about being alone.
  • They are each other’s soul mate.
  • They probably never fight.

It is a blessing on many levels to be a twin; however twins and their families are unduly influenced by our cultural fascination with twins. If twins grow up imbued with these sorts of twin myths, they may feel as if something is wrong with them if they don’t feel this way about their twin relationship. Help your family and friends appreciate the twins’ relationship rather than romanticize it.

DO REMARK:

IT’S WONDERFUL THAT THEY HAVE EACH OTHER AND LEAVE IT AT THAT. If you want to add a bit more, say something along the lines that as in any partnership, there are ups and downs.

IV

DON’T CONFRONT A PARENT WHO IS ALONE WITH ONE OF THE TWINS BY ASKING

  • Where is his twin?
  • How can you take out one and leave the other alone?
  • Aren’t you going to ruin the twinship?
  • Isn’t he miserable and sad without his twin?

DO REMARK:

  • It’s great that you are giving each twin alone time.
  • I imagine it takes a bit of creative juggling to make it happen.
  • I admire you for making this a priority.
  • It must be wonderful for you and each twin to have time alone together.

V

DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO THE TWINS FIRST IF THEY ARE WITH OTHER SIBLINGS

  • Don’t judge the sibling’s behavior as rude or impolite if he appears sullen or upset.
  • Be empathic and understanding. Siblings of twins have it rough sometimes, and they deserve recognition and acknowledgment.
  • Talk to them about the challenges of being a twin, such as having to share so many things and being compared so much of the time.

DO REMARK:

  • Ask the siblings their names, age, and preferences.
  • Ask them about themselves, not about their relationship to the twins.
  • If he/she seems does not feel like engaging with you, just acknowledge politely that he/she doesn’t feel like talking.
  • Then you can turn your attention to the parents and the twins.

Keep this advice in mind. Parents of twins and the twins themselves will be forever grateful.



2 Comments

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These are great, and so true. As a twin, and a mom of twins, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked all of the “don’t ask” questions. Great advice on how to handle it too! Most people mean well, but most people don’t understand the complexity of being a twin, or having them!

Comment by Christian on April 30th, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

This is a fabulous article to hand out to everyone you meet while pregnant with your twins ;)
I sometimes assist my clients to be assertive with friends and family around their wants and needs during the initial post natal phase when bringing baby/babies home by creating individual CARE CARDS. This way visitors cannot be mistaken when they are aware of parents needs, expectations and preferences regarding etiquette when visiting the family.
It is each families right and responsibility to make their own rules. We don’t give advice on parenting when my partner and I run the http://www.beerandbubs.com.au sessions for Dads, however we do say “our only advice is to not listen to advice freely given but seek out what you want to create and live it, take a page out of everyone’s book and make your own book as there is no one size fits all, there is not only one philosophy on parenting that exists, so many books out there so i say take what you want and leave the rest as you may like aspects of many different styles and you’ll end up developing your own style eventually, you gotta do what works for you and your family” - then I throw in until “that baby” comes along to shake you up again cos you got too smug and then you must learn new concepts and strategies to cater for your next child’s individual needs to make it all work again. So, take responsibility for your rights to be the parents you want to be and lay down the law and give people in your life clear boundaries so everyone learns to respect our individuality!
I’d give this out as a handout to family and friends so they are aware of the faux pas that exist. Although most people are well meaning, it can still be annoying and being assertive about my expectations is also about feeling competent in my communication and I’ve done my job on creating respectful boundaries in my parenting relationships with my kin and others which hopefully ripples out into the community and eventually society will be more conscious and mindful of language and we will not assume and generalise or judge others so much instead we will all remain confident in our personal power able to ask appropriate questions and relate effectively and respectively honoring individuality!
Let’s get collectively conscious!
Helen x

Comment by Helen - Adelaide Doula on June 3rd, 2012 @ 1:27 am

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