Q: I have 12-1/2-year-old identical twin daughters, one of whom is becoming resentful toward her twin: She wishes desperately that she was a singleton and becomes frustrated when her sister wants to do the same activities as her.
I see them as individuals, and my approach has been to express that each of them has the right to pursue whatever dreams or desires that she wants (within reason and budget), and that I will not deny one girl the opportunity to pursue an interest (like theater, in a school with just one drama club) just so that the other girl can experience the interest on her own. I'm sure this is just a phase she is going through, but this growing chip on her shoulder is upsetting her sister and me. Any suggestions?
A. With puberty comes a process called individuation, in which adolescents push to prove their individuality. It's likely that this frustrated daughter is needing to go overboard to prove her independence not only from mom and dad but also from her identical twin sister.
It's important to affirm to the twin who is trying desperately to carve out her individuality separate from sister by saying, "You're an individual, a unique person. Although you have an identical twin sister, you've a personality and style all your own." It's important to relate incidences where she's proven this fact to be true.
Of course, what she believes is that if they're not together in a drama club then she would have an easier time distinguishing herself from her twin. While this may be true, you can't, as you've stated, keep the other twin from drama club; doing so would be unfair. If one twin wanted to dress just like her sister, this you could prevent. But you can't stop one from pursuing an interest or talent.
Here are three approaches to take with the individualistic twin:
You're unlikely to instantly convince her of your point of view but in time she'll catch on. If she keeps bringing up the issue of drama club, don't engage in a debate: Just repeat the limit you've set, and do so matter-of-factly. In time she'll become bored receiving the same response, and will end the discussion.
Lastly, be sure to point out in as many subtle ways as possible the uniqueness of these two girls. There's no need to deny their similarities, but remember to notice and talk about their differences too.
Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of two parenting books, Mommy, I Have to Go Potty and Unplugging Power Struggles. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for HealthyKids.com and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.
Originally published on HealthyKids.com, January 2006.