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Fostering Independence in Twins

Education Expert Advice from Barbara Callaghan

Q: It appears that one of our boys is more dependent on the other and seemingly is less confident of himself as he enters first grade. How can we ease this stress for them, make their adjustment easier, and reinforce that while they will always share the bonds associated with being a twin, that they must also develop their own selves, interests, friends, and self confidence, and not be fearful of doing something independently of each other (other than one spending some time with one parent while the other is with the other parent)? These are our only two children.

If you can also recommend any books or professional literature on the psychological and social development of twin boys it would be greatly appreciated.

A: It is common for siblings, and especially common for twins, to become dependent on each other in the way you describe. I agree with you that it is time for your boys to become more independent and develop their own identities. As a general rule, it's important to see the children as individuals and treat them independently as much as possible. As they begin to bring homework and grades home this school year, for instance, work to avoid comparing them.

I have several additional suggestions that might help you encourage independence in your sons as they enter the first grade. For one, seriously consider placing them in separate classes. This would allow them to form independent social ties at school.

To further reinforce this process, encourage each boy to invite a classmate over for some playtime during a weekend. The more dependent child may need more of your support initially as he strives to make playmates and to develop his self-confidence.

Finally, as options become available for afterschool activities, let each boy develop and pursue his interests independently of the other. While this may mean enduring the logistics nightmare of driving to two different activities, car pooling can relieve that strain. Also, because choosing afterschool activities will require your sons to take the initiative, this is an especially fruitful way to nurture their independence and self-confidence.

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After teaching in California for nearly ten years, Barbara Callaghan moved to New Hampshire in 1985 and became a principal. After 10 years as a principal, she returned to teaching, her first love and true vocation.


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