Triplets and Twins Identity Issues

Individuality in twins and triplets is something that many parents worry about.  Whilst trying to meet the daily, practical needs of two or three babies at one go, they worry about triplets and twins identity issues,  what the effects of having two or three babies/toddlers/children/adolescents of the same age will have on their development into adults.  Of course they are never going to have the same experiences as a single child, but that doesn’t mean they will not have an equally enriching childhood, filled with experiences they will share with their twin or triplet, but that also doesn’t mean they can’t have individual experiences too.

I felt pressure from myself,  to encourage individuality in my triplets.  I called them very different names, admittedly one was a boy but I could have chosen names like Scarlet, Sophie and Sam or Alice, Anna and Adam, which I don’t really think would help them be individuals. Its like a sort of subliminal connection, bringing attention to the fact that they’re triplets/twins. The same as dressing them alike.  On the odd occasion my girls were dressed the same, but these occasions would be few and far between.  They might have the same clothes, but wear different clothes to each other each day and when I see twins or triplets out and about that are dressed the same I struggle to understand why parents would do that, except of course to draw attention to themselves and their twins/triplets. For example… Roger Federer has two sets of twins, two girls and two boys…. Roger won Wimbledon this year, the cameras were continually panning to his family, the two girls dressed identically and the two boys …. why? even down to their cotton socks…. They are individuals. These sets of twins are not identical, however I think if they were, even more reason to dress differently.

So I have 9 suggestions to encourage individuality in your twins or triplets.

  1. Encourage Individuality and Sense of Self.

As soon as my triplets were old enough, I let them choose what they were going to wear that day. Not from a whole wardrobe of clothes but a selection of suitable ones for whatever we were going to be doing that day. Invariably the girls chose different things, which was what I was trying to achieve. Occasionally they would choose the same, but not because one was following the other.  You can’t control your children’s sense of self, but encourage individuality.   As your twins/triplets grow up, they their individual  identity will evolve in a healthy, normal family atmosphere.

My triplets all went to the same school. There are just some things that are in practical terms way too hard and trying to get to three schools to collect would have been ridiculous, compounded by the fact that trying to find one good school is a nightmare, the chances of finding 3 in a reasonable distance was impossible.  However, the school had two classes per year group so one could be by themselves and the other two in the other class.  This worked well,  the two together were sat at different desks and not paired together for things, although should anything happen to one or other in the school yard for example, the other two would ‘pop up like rabbits’ to help them.

2. One-On-One Time

Time as an individual is important, for healthy, normal development and whilst it is awesome to always have a playmate, Im the first to admit that my triplets having each other to play with was certainly an advantage for my sanity, they do need time by themselves.  My son developed cerebral palsy after he was born, due to extreme prematurity and when he was a toddler the local authority offered him a nursery place. Only him, not his sisters. So on his nursery mornings, I would take either of his sisters with me to do the shopping or go for a coffee, or go swimming whilst the other one stayed home with my neighbour to do some baking or painting. My son, of the three of them, got the most adult time, because of his disability, he got a lot of mummy time.  This system worked well, each got time to do their own thing, unhindered.

I remember going to a meeting of the multiple birth society when I was pregnant with my triplets. It was at Queen Charlotte’s in London and was run by Dr Elizabeth Bryan, a world expert in twins and triplets. She showed a picture of a child making a pattern on the grass using stones and petals, twigs and leaves. She asked us ‘Is this child a twin or triplet?’ Of course none of us could answer because we had no idea….. She said ‘ You can see she has worked on that pattern for quite some time, arranging the leaves and petals. She is a singleton and the reason I know this is because if she was a twin or triplet, she would never have been able to do this without being disturbed, or helped, or hindered…’  It struck me at that point that alone time is as important to wellbeing as being with others and if you are one of twins or triplets, you never have the chance for either individual time alone or alone time with a parent where there is no competition for parental attention.

3.  Collective Names

I actively discouraged anyone from referring to my triplets at ‘The Triplets’.  I didn’t want them to be collectively labelled. They were three distinct individuals and whilst looking at them together or independently, you would still know they belonged to the same family, they did not come in 3’s (well they did when they were born!)  I have heard twins referred to as ‘twinsies’ and other collective names.  It might be quicker to talk about ‘the triplets’ rather than ‘Bethany, Giles and Eloise’ but I always made a point of saying their names.  They aren’t some kind of alien species ( The collective – Star Trek) but three individuals who happened to be born at the same time and have a right to be their own identity.   I agree that there is something none of us can comprehend about being one of twins or triplets (unless of course you are one!), always having someone to watch your back, never having to walk into a situation by yourself, thats got to be one of the advantages and I think that is an awesome aspect of being 1 of 2 or 1 of 3.

4. ‘One For All and All For One’ Attitude Towards Punishment.

Sometimes a collective punishment is the right course of action for misdemeanours, but only if they have all played a part.  Collective punishment isn’t fair on those that are behaving. There will always be one that will be naughty, sometimes its the same one, sometimes not.  One of my girls was generally the ringleader, with the other two getting caught up in her antics and so generally it was her that ended up on the naughty step.  She is still high spirited. We were always careful that their uniqueness wasn’t squashed either by each other or by the desire to have three perfectly behaved children.  I felt that they needed to understand how to behave when out and about at a young age so we wouldn’t be restricted to where we could go because of their behaviour.  Be warned… when it goes quiet, they’re up to something they shouldn’t be doing !

5. Individual Activities,Interests and Possessions

When your twins/triplets are toddlers, its likely that they will go to the same parties, do jungle gym, go to the 1 0’clock club all together, but as they get older, they can be encouraged to do different activities.. I tried various things with my three, horse riding, gymnastics, musical instruments, including my son with cerebral palsy playing a trumpet …. a long shot I know but he loved it! He wasn’t very good but that wasn’t really the point, it was just about him being included.  The girls played instruments too, although none of them were musically minded, they still find pleasure in playing.  Whatever their interests are, be it latin club ( as it was with my son ! ) or russian after school class for Eloise, they have a unique space to be themselves without competing with each other.  As school has gone on, my three have had very different passions, which as far as their competitive spirit is concerned, has never involved being up against each other.

It might seem obvious that your twins/triplets will have their own possessions, but as young toddlers, sharing is not on their agenda.  Its a normal characteristic, for 2-3 year olds to have their own toys and sharing comes later. Twins and triplets learn this lesson young, because there’s always one or two other toddlers around vying for that book or train…. but its also important that they have their own toys so they learn to give back to the owner after playing.

6. Individual Memories

It only struck me when my three came home from their preschool one day with the annual photographs that I realised, they would never get individual photographs like every other child. School photos don’t matter so much but I went through all their photos up to that point and there were none of them individually. I changed that!  We have tons of them together but tons of them separately too. I have started a memory book for each of them, photographs of them by themselves and together, certificates, articles from the newspapers, drawings etc and I plan to collate them all for when they’re 18.  I have tons of photos for the family album too. At one point I was making three birthday cakes ! I thought this was important for them when they were younger, not so much now they’re older but I was glad I made the effort.  One year I made a Rupert Bear, My Little Pony and Dennis The Menace Cakes!

7. Don’t Compare

My triplets were very prem. They took a little time to catch up with their peers but by the age of around 10, they were up to speed, except my boy who with cerebral palsy was physically struggling.  We never did any sporty holidays… skiing or cycling weren’t on the agenda.  Acaedemically they were all good at different things, and each had one or two subjects that they struggled with. They helped each other and we didn’t compare them to each other. It never crossed my mind. We were so concerned with their prematurity and reaching milestones, keeping up with each one individually at school. Even at parents evenings, their teachers treat them as individuals. It takes me all evening to get round each child’s teachers, Im there when its starts and Im the last one to leave!  Thankfully all three are bright and parents evenings are a joy!

UPDATE: Have a read of this article published today 7th September 2017….Daily Mail Story.

8. They Will Have a Bond Regardless of What You Do

What ever you do, they will still be twins/triplets and will still have a unique bond between them. They will have a more developed interactive play, because they are used to having another toddler around most of the time, playing with each other at an age that other toddlers only parallel play (age 2yrs). They will be more confident because they’re always backed up by each other, first day at school, jumping straight into social situations without hesitation. Having said that, one of my girls was still quite shy at times. Both girls did ballet when they were little and at the recital, she decided that she was going to crawl through all the chairs, rather than do her dance, with her sister, she said she didnt want all the mommies looking at her, even though her sister was there!

9. Friends – Can They Cope? 

There isn’t always constant harmony, much like any other brothers and sisters and this can be a bit hard for friends to cope with squabbles between twins or triplets.  Its great that they might have the same friends, convenient to have a friend over, but thats where it runs into problems, one friend but two twins or three triplets. They need a friend each to equal up the numbers and then no one is isolated and squabbles less because ‘ Sophie’s playing with Ella and not me!’ complaints.  Friends of twins and triplets are a special kind of friends too. They seem to cope well with the squabbles, letting them get on with it, they don’t seem fazed by things and stick around.  My triplets friends are ones they have had since they were very small and they are still friends now.

I hope that these suggestions offer some  insights into how the twin or triplet ticks, what is important to include in their lives and what isn’t. Like anything else, you can only do your best but whatever you do do, you will enrich your twins or triplets lives for the better!

 


 

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10 Comments

  1. Twins and Triplets are becoming much more common. Nearly every baby or toddler group I go to has at least one set!

    It was great to have the insight of a multiple birth mum. I’m afraid I have been guilt of a few of the tropes you highlight but I hope to be a better friend to the mom’s of twin in my circle. Thanks for the great indepth article.

  2. Hi Helen, I learned many new things today. I admit that I did not know the twins could have identity issues and I did not expect it too.

    I will share your article with a very close friend of mine who have twins. I am sure he will find it helpful.

  3. A fascinating, interesting topic and very well written. As a teacher of some 40 years I remember having twin boys in my school boarding house. They were around 9 years of age when they came to us and we absolutely identical in my eyes. In fact for some time I had to ask them to turn around so that I could name them by the tiny mark one of them had on a cheek. But one thing we all noticed as time when on was that they were easily identifiable by their friends/classmates at school and very different in nature and character. They were in fact two different individuals even though they were identical, almost, in looks. There is something VERY special about twins.

    • Thanks Roy for your insight into twins and your observations at school.  They are very different even if they’re identical and I think sometimes the programmes on TV concentrate on the ‘twinness’ showing how they think alike or ‘have a unique communication’ when in fact those features are rare, and I would almost say not normal, but who can say what is normal or not. For the most part twins are just two babies born at the same time and I hope I have shown how we should recognise that. Thank you for your comments on my writing too! 

  4. I have never thought too deeply about indivudality of twins. Of course,that’s because I don’t have a brother or sister that’s born at the same time as me. I guess people sometimes treat twins like another species. If you think about it carefully, it’s nothing special. It’s just a very convenient birth for the parents so they can have all kids they want in one shot. It’s definitely not fair for them to be treated as a “group” when each of them can be having their own passion and direction in life. They all should be valued and given individual attention. Right now I have a baby daughter in her diapers, and I can barely give her enough attention. How did you manage three all at once?

    • Hi Bill, thanks for the comment ! I wish blessings on you and your family!  I think I coped because it was me or no one really. They learned patience very quickly as toddlers, waiting their turn.  It wasn’t ideal but as a parent you do the best you can and I think theyre growing up okay ! 🙂 

  5. I really enjoyed reading this article. Have to admit, that there were things I didn’t know regarding twins and triplets… I agree with all points that you mentioned, regarding correct methods of parents encouraging individuality in their twins and triplets.

    My son who’s a teenager has friends triplets – two guys and a girl, who live in another town, but, often come to visit their grandparents in ours. These teenagers are completely different individuals. They are often together, but, have different friends. They’re all kind, communicative, with nice behaviour. I believe that their parents did a very good job.
    Thank you for this great info, Helen!

  6. Haha I’ve never seen a website like this before and it is really cool:). I known a few twins in my life and in my childhood it was interesting because my best friend was the twin of the girl I was dating! I love what you mentioned about encouraging individuality, that is so important.

    What do you think is the most important thing out of everything you’ve mentioned?

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Josh !  Its something that I dont think anyone who isn’t connected with twins or triplets really appreciates.  I think it is the individual time that is the most important, having time with a parent by yourself, having their own bedroom if at all possible, their own space.  Some times its not possible but  being aware of the fact individual time is important to a healthy child. Thanks so much for taking the time to look at my site and send me a comment. 

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