Tackling twin troubles
Growing up in the 1950s Joan Friedman did everything with her twin.
They wore matching outfits, had alliterative names — Joan and Jane, and were always the life of the party.
“Twins were unusual in the 1950s,” the psychotherapist said.
“We got a lot of attention and were very popular.”
Being a twin was fun, until they separated to go to different colleges; Dr Friedman to study psychology and her sister to study art history.
“We were ill-equipped to manage on our own,” Dr Friedman said. “There had never been a need to be self-reliant because we'd always done things with each other.”
When she learnt she was expecting fraternal twin sons at 40 she vowed things would be different. Her sons would be raised as individuals.
“I didn't want to repeat my twin experience,” she said.
“It ended up being wonderful and I was able to parent them the way I wish my sister and I had been parented.”
Her sons, Jonathan and David, are now 27 and although close emotionally, live on opposite coasts of the United States leading different lives.
Dr Friedman was in Bermuda last month to share her unique duel perspective on twins. She is the author of two books The Same but Different: How Twins Can Live, Love, and Learn to Be Individuals and Emotionally Healthy Twins: A New Philosophy for Parenting Two Unique Children.
“I came to Bermuda with friends who were coming here for a conference,” she said.
“When I found out we were coming to Bermuda I looked to see if there were any multiples groups in Bermuda and found the Bermuda Amazing Multiples Group (BAM), a sub group of MAMA.”
She gave a presentation for BAM at the BUEI, where she met twins and parents of twins.
“It was wonderful,” she said.
Much of her psychology practice is now devoted to twin issues.
“Before having twins, twins weren't the focus of my practice,” she said.
“Once I became a parent of twins and started to understand some of the issues I became very involved and passionate about wanting to educate parents.
“I see a lot of adult twins in my practice. There aren't very many people who specialise in issues of adult twins.”
She said often adult twins were ashamed to get counselling because they feel twins shouldn't have problems.
“It is very hard for them when they are not getting along,” said Dr Friedman.
“Their twin is often the most important person in the world to them. It is like counselling a couple, and twins like to talk to other twins.
“That way they don't have to explain a lot of things that singletons wouldn't necessarily understand.”
She said when singletons go to college their primary attachment is usually their mother or father.
Other siblings or good friends usually come after that relationship, but not so for twins.
“For a lot of twins, the other twin is their primary attachment,” said Dr Friedman. “Separation can be traumatic.”
Dr Friedman said one of her clients told her being a twin had always made him feel like a superhero.
“When he separated from his twin to go to college he felt like he'd lost his specialness.
“He had to learn to work hard to develop friends and attachments,” she said. “It strips you down.”
She said separation is healthy, but must be done with a lot of thought, in a developmentally appropriate way.
“Twins will have a difficult time with separation unless there is preparation,” she said.
“You have to approach separation with twins in a developmentally appropriate way. At the kindergarten level, for example, if the policy is to separate twins, the twins have to know this ahead of time.
“With my boys we gave them a lot of different opportunities to be separate. They went to different day camps and did different community service projects in different countries. We always made sure they had opportunities to be separate from one another. When they went to separate colleges they were well prepared.”
She said twins sometimes feel guilty when they achieve something and their twin does not.
“When their twin isn't in exactly the same position they sometimes can't enjoy their success, because they feel guilty,” said Dr Friedman.
“Sometimes getting married, for example, makes them feel like they are abandoning their twin.”
She has five children, Matthew, Sarah and Amy, Jonathan and David and lives in California.
For more information see her website www.joanafriedmanphd.com