Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Book Review - Emotionally Healthy Twins

Books on twins; there aren’t really all that many out there and I think I’ve read most. Some are informational, some dry, and some are hilarious. Some of the pregnancy ones are good but also a bit outdated. One of the funnier ones I read was Juggling Twins. It was good for a laugh, but not really practical. The most practical raising twin book I found was Emotionally Healthy Twins.

I first picked this up about a year ago. The author is a psychologist who specializes in families, particularly those with twins. But more than that, she is herself an identical twin and raised twin boys (along with 3 singletons). She has personal background, experience and training. So I decided to give her a read.

The book is organized chronologically from prenatal up to the high school and early adult years. Each section has information, recommendations and at least one case study. I only read up to the grade school section. I’m keeping the book and will reread the current stage sections along with the next one periodically as the boys grow.

I started reading when my boys were almost toddlers. So I had already missed out the chance to implement the first two sections (during pregnancy and baby time). Crap. At first I felt horrible that I had screwed up so much. While I wasn’t doing everything ‘wrong’, I wasn’t doing all of it how she suggests. Then I calmed down a bit and kept going. The information is only that, information. I can use it or not how I choose. Some of what she said came natural to me. Other things just aren’t practical, even if they “make sense” (for example their own rooms from the start – we’re in a one bedroom apartment for all of us, no one has their own room and even different age siblings often share a room).

Much of what she says is (or should be) common knowledge. While they are twins, they are still two distinct individuals (even if ‘identical’). She is not the first person who emphasizes not to give them cutesy rhyming names. Whenever possible, give them alone time with each parent/caregiver. Do not assume/force them into liking the same thing. But she goes much further than that. She recommends to not refer to them as twins. They are siblings who just happen to be born on the same day – so if you need a term, use ‘same age siblings’. And even have two birthday parties on different days with different themes and friends invited (I can see this happening at our place once they get older).

While she has case studies and I’m sure they are factual, remember that in her practice, she is only going to see families/twins who have known issues. The methods she promotes might not be necessary in all cases. And to be honest, I’ve seen some, if not most, of the same issues in siblings of different ages. I think it’s just a bit easier to identify and correct than it is with twins.

There is one example she has the bugs me. She gives it as an example of how you sometimes should/can not be fair to each twin. It’s not the message per se, just the example. In it, each child is given a reward chart with a prize at the end. One excels at it, the other doesn’t (it sounds like she wasn’t ready for this system) but mom sneaks stars onto it so that both get the prize in the end at the same time. She says this because mom wants to be fair. WTF! No, mom was not fair because the one who earns it is getting shafted by the one who gets something for nothing. I still think as a parent you need to be fair when you can be, which may not always seem like fair to the kids.

I’m not going to give you all the details. You should really read the book. But if I were to summarize the underlying statement it in one sentence, I’d say “Treat and respect each child as the individual they are.” For me, in our family, I go one step further and add “while still honoring that they are twins.”

Oh, if your twins are already in high school and totally well adjusted, you might want to skip the book. You’ll either spend all of it disagreeing with her or feeling like a total failure.

If you’re newly pregnant or recently delivered with twins (or more) this book is well worth the read. If you really want to know and see the range of twin parenting, find and join a local parents of multiples group.

I watch my boys, as all parents do and if something worries me, then I’ll follow up on it, for now we’re going with the flow. They are very clearly two different boys. I love each for who he is. And clearly, they love each other.

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