Audrey is a Twins and Triplets Psychotherapist with over 20 years experience in family therapy and twin daughters of her own. For the last ten years she has been an honorary consultant family therapist for TAMBA – The Twins and Multiple Births Association. Audrey writes regularly on the subject of multiples and is the author of ‘Twins and the Family’ a parenting manual based on her own research and clinical practice. She is also the author of ‘Twin and Triplet Psychology’ an edited book for professionals. She works with twins and parents of twins to resolve emotional and behavioural problems concerned with competitiveness, separation and identity. She is registered with the UKCP and through her private practice offers individual counselling to those who are suffering from loss, anxiety, separation, bereavement, family problems or loss of direction.
For individual advice you can contact Audrey direct at:
Speak to her direct on 0906 194 9635
£1.50min from a BT landline; calls from mobiles and other networks may vary.
Are your toddler twins fighting, or are you worried that they are like two peas in a pod and wouldn’t be able to cope if the other was not around. Here are some useful tips for a more peaceful life and ways of encouraging a sense of identity in your twins.
One of my two-and-a-half year old twins is biting the other. He is able to climb out of his cot into his brother’s and bites him before we get up in the morning. He draws blood! He does it during the day as well. His brother just accepts it and doesn’t defend himself.
Biting is natural behaviour for babies and toddlers, but it can get out of hand, particularly if it attracts attention from adults. Chickens have a pecking order and this behaviour can be aimed at becoming the dominant twin. In your case he seems to have been successful!
Is it possible for your twins to sleep in separate rooms? If so make sure the door handle is too high for them to reach or use a stair gate across the door. If this isn’t possible, take turns with your partner to wake them an hour earlier. If you still find that the biter has already bitten, just say a firm ’no’ and put him back in his own cot. Then take his brother into your own bed, ignoring the biter’s protests and give all the attention to his twin. Use the stair gate to prevent him following you. Warn the neighbours about what you are going to do beforehand! Keep the twin with you for not more than 10 minutes, and then attend to both twins as usual.
It’s best not to leave toddler twins playing on their own for more than 10 minutes. Like all of us they can get bored and tempers frayed. Just give them a break and some time for playing nicely, even if it’s only a couple of minutes. If the biter bites during the day do the same as before – but after ‘no’ place him in a playpen or other safe place and give all the attention to his brother, except for making sure the biter stays in the safe place. He stays there for five minutes, then put them back together. Repeat the process if he does it again. The aim of the biter is to get more of your attention, if he only succeeds in getting his brother more attention he will usually decide to change the behaviour.
It makes sense to start this treatment at the weekend when you and your partner can both watch the boys. If you don’t have a partner perhaps a relative or friend can support you. If they play nicely for 10 minutes without biting, pick up the biter and tell him what a good boy he is and give him a cuddle. If they play nicely for another 10 minutes give both a cuddle and look at a picture book, or give them a drink and a biscuit or chocolate button. By the end of the weekend he should have got the message.
My three-year-old twin girls are identical and everyone gets them mixed up. How can I encourage them to see themselves as individuals and cope with the absence of their twin?
This is a problem for lots of parents of twins and three is a very good age to start thinking about it before they go to school. Here are some tips:
Speak to each child in turn rather than as a pair, using their names.
Make eye contact with each twin.
Let each have a box to keep a few of their own toys in. This will help with squabbles and give them a sense of their own identity. It will also encourage real sharing.
Different hairstyles will help others to tell them apart as well as different clothing where possible.
Individual presents, and a birthday cake each so they can blow their own candles out.
Let them each have a friend round to play. Relatives will enjoy having one at a time to visit sometimes.
If possible send them to playgroup on alternate days – both together on Fridays to give you a day off. This gives each the opportunity to make friends on their own and relate to helpers on a one-to-one basis. The twin at home gets several hours with you on her own. One child on their own is much easier than two at a time. You can get on with your chores and she can be your special helper, but allow time for play as well. Developing that special relationship with you will give them greater self-esteem and a sense of their own identity. If this is not possible, perhaps some one-to-one time can be found for each child, enlisting the help of dad or a friend, or relative, every day if possible. A useful tip is to sit them round the kitchen table doing an activity like drawing or colouring. Other siblings can join in as well. Take each child in turn for a 5-minute cuddle and chat while the others are busy. This can also be done every day.
If you’re feeling desperate or need some help and advice please do feel free to contact me direct at anytime.