At three days old I knew my boy/girl twins found safety and security in each other. They were born via emergency C-Section, sending both to the NICU, with baby A (girl) taking up a multi-day residence. After 72 hours in the hospital, we started the talk about what happens when you go home with only one baby while the other stays behind, healing. That same day, a NICU nurse suggested that we bring baby B (boy) to spend some time with his sister. We took him to the NICU, laid him in her bassinet, and just allowed them some time together. Less than 24 hours later, baby A was now an occupant of my hospital room alongside her brother!
Watching the safety and security my twins have with each other is my favorite thing about being a mom of multiples.
When do twins start building the “twinship” relationship?
The safety and security of having a twin develops very early on. A 2010 study from Italy’s University of Parma and the University of Turin found that twins interact socially with each other as early as the 14th week of gestation. The study’s findings suggest that twin fetuses are aware of their siblings and want to interact with them. By the 18th week of gestation, the twin fetuses were spending more time contacting their partner than themself.
All through my twin pregnancy I jokingly scolded the twins for fighting for space with every kick. Turns out, it wasn’t a joke at all! They really were interacting and bonding (and probably got into a duel every now and then too).
Do all twins find safety and security in each other?
The bond between twins is distinctive regardless of whether they share the same DNA.
Maureen Healy, an expert on sensitive children and author of Growing Happy Kids, says that twins have a bond that is oftentimes unexplainable and are closer than typical siblings — whether they’re fraternal or identical. And even though fraternal twins are two genetically unique beings, she thinks the time spent in the same womb during the prenatal period creates a close connection.
Based on research, it seems that all twins create a safe and secure relationship when very young. However, depending on environmental factors, twins do not always continue to have a relationship throughout their lives. Twin estrangement usually grows out of unresolved anger, disappointment, and resentment. When twins are misunderstood and mistreated by each other, their communication can be destroyed because of fighting and unrealistic expectations. If not resolved, this can cause feelings of hatred. Sometimes causing twins to grow apart and not continue to share a safe and secure relationship.
My twins are 5 years old, so we are right in the middle of the “love/hate” relationship of siblings. My twins fight and make up at least 12 times a day, sometimes more. No matter the fight and who hurt who’s feelings, I know my twins will always work it out (for now). They are more sensitive to the actions of each other than to anyone else. They truly care what the other thinks. When one twin says something hurtful to the other twin, tears are bigger and frowns are deeper than when their older sibling hurts their feelings.
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Are there any cons to twins relying on each other?
Twins spend 38 weeks (give or take) together before birth. They share a special way of communicating and understanding each other without words. This safety and security twins receive from each other allows them to rely on one another. This is both a blessing and a curse. Although adorable, when your twins find safety and security in being together it can lead to some emotional distress when separated.
Twins grow up side by side, share experiences, and understand each other without saying a word. The safety and security that twins have is strong and, if broken, anxiety and depression can ensue. In young twins, these feelings cause crying, tantrums, anger, and sadness.
Older twins who have separated at one point in their life have admitted to having suffered from loneliness even when surrounded by people. Why? Because no one understands them as much as their twin. Dr. Barbara Klein, an identical twin, and author on twin-identity development says she experienced intense separation anxiety when separated from her twin.
In extreme cases, the relationship can be so intense that one twin cannot function without the other.
Twin separation anxiety should diminish with age and experience, but it is possible to have these feelings linger throughout their lives. There may always be that longing and loneliness whenever away from their twin.
Experiencing depression when missing your twin is normal when you are a twin. The loneliness that twins experience is impossible for non-twins to understand. When you are used to having someone near you that “gets you”, it can be frustrating and lonely when away from them. Twins often understand each other without words and often expect others to have this same connection with them as their twin siblings. This feeling of being misunderstood can heighten their loneliness and make them miss their twin sibling more. If this loneliness lasts long enough, it can turn into depression.
Many twins will tell you that there is an extra special bond that comes from sharing a womb. However, there is always an exception. In fact, some twins can’t stand each other. Twins always have highs and lows, but is there something parents can do to encourage more highs?
Can I encourage a safety and security bond in my twins?
I was given advice on encouraging a twin connection from a fraternal twin whose brother is also her best friend. They have the rom-com spin on how a boy/girl fraternal twin relationship is meant to be: best friends through adolescence; dated each other’s friends in high school, and then her brother married her best girlfriend. Now her first best friend has also made her second-best friend her sister (is this not what all moms of boy/girl twins wish for?) giving her two best friends for life.
The advice, although seeming a little jaded, was to ask each twin who their best friend is. The correct response should be their twin sibling’s name. Her parents asked her and her brother this question every day while living under the same roof.
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I love this advice. It encourages friendship and rapport and discourages loneliness and displacement. Being part of a “twin unit” is a unique experience that can play a positive role in the lives of both twins. Her advice was simple, silly, and a bit persuasive, but I ask my twins this question every day!
Positive interaction is the best way to encourage your twins to have a secure connection. Don’t separate your twins too early for long periods of time. The safety and security of being together is already inside of them; it’s all about encouraging them to continue to find it in each other.
Finding safety and security in a twin sibling is something only twins can understand. It can mean having someone who is always there for you to push you to become better, yet it is often the person you argue with the most.