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Parting Ways

3rd June 2018

All adolescents have to separate from their parents but multiples have to separate from each other too…

As adolescents spend more time with friends and hobbies, they begin to detach and become independent of parents - a process that can throw up conflicting feelings all round.

Youngsters may be excited at the prospect of adulthood and independence but scared at the responsibilities this brings. Parents may feel sad, almost as if they are ‘losing’ their children.

For many multiple birth children, the hardest job is to separate from their fellows multiples. Separating from parents can push them closer together, temporarily increasing their interdependence. As they start moving towards independence, conflicts can grow as one child begins to develop different interests.

Dependency on a co-twin or triplet can make a young person feel an even greater need to highlight differences. They may try to emphasise their unique identity through contrasting choices of hairstyle, clothing, hobbies and friends. One 34-year-old twin, looking back on adolescence, said: ‘We came to the conclusion that at that age we were really tired of always being thought of as “one of the twins”. Instead, I had a strong desire to be me, an individual who was different in both my appearance and my thinking from my twin.’

Children’s desire to separate from each other may go at different paces. A twin who feels more dependent on their co-twin often feels they are the weak one, especially when the other twin clearly shows his or her desire to separate from the relationship. The more dependent twin may find the situation isolating, suddenly being on their own to forge friendships and interests.

Sometimes parents are so keen to protect the more dependent child from rejection that they urge the independent sibling to take them along to activities. This may unintentionally make the more independent twin feel guilty about wanting to have their own friends and hobbies.

The process of separating in adolescence will probably be easier if parents have supported each child’s unique individuality from the earliest years, and given them opportunities to be away from each other at intervals throughout childhood.

If one child is more dependent, it can help to emphasise their uniqueness. Think about what you can suggest to the dependent twin that is more interesting to do or think about than what their twin who is attempting to separate can offer. A parent usually knows to what extent they can appeal to the loyalty of the twin who is trying to detach, and demand they take along their sibling. At a later stage, parents can then concentrate on supporting the more independent sibling’s separation process.

Despite the physical and cognitive changes going on during adolescence, young people still need a lot of support from parents. They need to know that parents are available to listen, and that they can confide in them if they need help. The parent-child relationship has not disappeared, but merely changed its form.

This article is abstracted from the ‘Multiple Birth Siblings as Adolescents’ booklet, available to download from www.tamba.org.uk Help and info

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