There’s no denying that growing up as a twin, triplet or more is a unique experience. After all, they have shared a womb and were born as the same time as their sibling – we think that’s pretty special.
Most multiple birth children navigate their way through the teenage years in the same way as any other teenager. In fact, in some ways it can be easier being a multiple birth child as he/she has a sibling that is in the same situation, sharing similar thoughts and emotions.
Although, as a parent, it’s worth being mindful that a twin, triplet or more relationship can be a focus of comparisons and competitiveness.
Every family will have a different experience of adolescence, however, entering adolescence at exactly the same time as your sibling is very unique.
Puberty can start as early as 10 years old or as late as 18 years old. Even twins of the same sex can go through puberty at different times.
We know the thought of entering into the teenage years with more than one teenager under your roof can be daunting but help is at hand – as a parent of multiples, here’s some things to consider:
- You can support your multiples by considering how sensitive privacy can become particularly when they experience physical changes, especially for boy/girl multiples.
- It may be the case that one child wants more privacy than the other. It can help to talk to them both separately about their privacy needs.
- For girl multiples, you can support them by reassuring your girls that periods starting at different times is perfectly normal. Some multiples have started their period three years before their twin/triplet.
- As it becomes more important to your children about being part of a peer group and not being ‘different’ they may want to play down the fact that they are part of a set of twins/ triplets.
- You can support your children to become independent. It’s possible when they finish secondary school they’ll be heading off in different directions depending on where their career preferences lead them.
The uncertainty of the teenage years, together with physical and hormonal changes can be challenging, but fear not, this phase will pass and you’ll be parents to young adults before you know it.
Growing in independence
The time will come during the teenage years that your children will want to spend more time with their friends than with you. During this period your children may have conflicting feeling towards you. One day you’ll be the best parent ever, the next day, not so much. Adolescents still need a lot of input and support from parents but often this needs to be on their terms. Let them know that you are available to listen to them and that they are they’re able to confide in you, at any time, if they need help.
All families going through the teenage years will need to be negotiators. When you are a parent of multiples you’ll find that you are an expert negotiator by the time they hit adulthood!
Tips for parents
- Try to spend time with each child individually. It gives you a chance to hear their views or concerns and reassure them that you’re there to support them. Car journeys on a 1:1 basis can often be a great opportunity to have a chat without the distractions of home or a sibling.
- At the beginning of the teenage years, teenagers experience significant changes in their mental and physical development. Acknowledging these changes will make it easier to accept and understand new patterns of behaviour.
- Multiples do not necessarily become independent at the same time and in the same way. It may be that one twin or triplet may be more dependent on their sibling/s than the other multiple.
- It’s important that one child doesn’t feel guilty about wanting to have friends and hobbies away from their sibling(s). Not many parents would expect this from siblings of differing ages but it can be tempting to do so with twins and multiples.
- Research shows that twins, triplets or more mental and psychological health is connected to the relationship that they experience with their sibling – Particularly if a multiple felt that their dependency on their sibling was one-sided.
- Parents’ providing support to their children through the teenage years is crucial for their self esteem and confidence.
- Try to understand some of the developmental changes your children are going through, both physically and mentally.
- Pick your battles - Acting as the referee in every argument will only exhaust you, and will deprive your children of the opportunity to resolve problems by themselves.
- Remember to make an effort to give positive feedback. This can help to maintain a happy family atmosphere and supports the adolescent’s development as they journey towards adulthood.
Sibling jealousy, competition and comparison
With emotions running high during the teenage years, your children can be very sensitive to feeling that their sibling is getting more attention or they are finding things trickier to do than their sibling. For example, the siblings may be comparing gifts they receive. This could result in one sibling feeling that it’s unfair and feel bitter towards their twin, triplet or more. Although it can be difficult to deal with at the time, these experiences can offer the opportunity for good emotional growth, helping the teenagers to learn empathy and how to support each other.
Making negative comparisons between your children is likely to cause conflict. For example saying that one sibling is better than the other at swimming. Comparisons, even if they are not intended, may often increase jealously and competition between siblings. On the flip side, competition between the siblings may also be a positive experience – it’s a way to build their own identity in an attempt to define themselves as individuals.
Arguments between the siblings may just be where they are finding their feet on the path to independence. In this situation, it could help if they are supported in trying to understand more about themselves, and each other, in regards to their changing interests and strengths. Try to encourage siblings to support each other with their hobbies. This will give everybody the chance to succeed without competition or jealousy and give them the opportunity to feel genuinely happy with each other’s achievements.
When the time comes to make decisions about relationships, career choices and lifestyles, your children will need to make these independently. Up until this point in life it may have been easy for a multiple birth sibling to seek support from a twin or triplet.
Building a life and making those big decisions can make your children feel insecure and question how their decisions will affect their twin, triplet or more. This may bring a feeling of jealousy or guilt.
Parents can help by reassuring their children that independence isn’t the same as selfishness. Even though they are independent they can still love and care for their siblings.
As well as parents it’s important that teenagers have other adult role models. Encouraging your teenagers to have different adult role models as well as friends can help further develop their independence.
When teenage multiple birth siblings start to date it can be trickier to deal with than siblings that are different ages. It’s very unlikely that each of the siblings will start dating at the same time - leaving one young person feeling pressure to start dating because their sibling has.
If one young person is dating and the other isn’t it can cause insecurities. Parents can chat to each of their children individually about the situation. In particular, the young person that isn’t dating will benefit from chatting to their parents about their individual strengths. Even though it may not feel like it at the time, these setbacks may also help them to learn to persevere when faced with future adversities.
It’s hard to take a step back when your children start the journey into adulthood. Young people need their privacy and they don’t want to discuss every issue with their parents or sibling anymore.
Parents of multiples can find this stage very difficult. Parents may worry that their twins, triplets or more bond will be broken as they become more independent and move into adulthood. This is a natural part of multiples’ development and parents shouldn’t be worried about their growing independence.
According to research, twins with very close relationships but do not rely on each other are happier with their life than those who continue to rely on each other into adulthood. In addition, they are more satisfied than twins that have had a very distant relationship.
New life situations often lead multiples in different directions and their relationships may change. They may no longer keep in touch as much as they used to. This is all very normal, rest assured after the busy years of early adult life the siblings tend to reconnect and become close once again.
Being a twin, triplet or more is a truly unique experience. Many adult multiples talk about the special bond that they share with their twin or triplet.
The unique relationship can also bring challenges – relationships between multiples can be difficult to navigate and may not always run smoothly.
It may be helpful to talk through any concerns relating to being an adult multiple with a counsellor. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has an online directory where you can search for a qualified counsellor in your area.
Or alternatively, if you feel you or a family member might benefit from chatting to a family therapist who specialises in adult twin/triplet issues you can apply for support through our Professional Referral Service.
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