picnic.jpgNews & Tips for Parents

Why Is It So Hard to Separate from My Twin?

Posted on Friday, December 22, 2017 at 06:47PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

On Your Own: Does twin loneliness come to an end?

Posted on Friday, December 22, 2017 at 06:45PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Twins can teach non-twins about the power and comfort of closeness.

Posted on Friday, December 22, 2017 at 06:38PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

How Being a Twin Can Complicate Your Dating Life

Posted on Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 05:02PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Transitions in Gifted Children Are Related to Persistence Not Autism or ADHD

After reading my website and/or my books on gifted children, parents call me all of the time, asking almost verbatim, “Are problems with transitions indicative of autistic spectrum disorder? My child’s teacher has suggested that our son is on the spectrum. I can see that Henry has problems changing activities when he is doing what he wants to do. It is extremely difficult, often impossible, to get him to follow directions. Henry could spend all day doing his own thing. Henry thinks he knows it all.”
Transitions are very difficult for gifted kids, who are very single-minded and love to concentrate on what they want to concentrate on. Teachers and friends may find their intensities and behavior out of their comfort zone and inappropriate. This personal story from my own childhood family sheds light on the transition issue. I remember very clearly how much my older brother Alan, a world-renowned solar physicist at NASA, used to love to go the the Mojave desert in the 1950s and shoot off rockets with his friends. My cousins and friends thought Alan was very strange. But my twin sister and I enjoyed the family trips to the desert and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the sand.

Margie and I really knew our brother was a nerd and that other people had a hard time with the intensity of his interest in outer space. He always had his slide-rule with him no matter where we were going. Remarkably, our mother didn’t see him as over-involved in outer space; rather, she promoted and bragged about his giftedness and how he was in the “opportunity class,” the forerunner to the gifted class of today. My mother let Alan do whatever he wanted to do, which helped him develop his brain and set the stage for his under-developed social skills. Today, without a doubt, psychologists, educators and teachers would say my brother was definitely on the autistic spectrum. His ability to transition from his scientific studies to other school work was very marginal and shoddy. Relatives spoke up as well. Our genius brother embarrassed our whole Jewish family by not studying for his Bar Mitzvah. Our uncle, who was the Rabbi, shunned him in front of our congregation for inadequate preparation.

My mother always made excuses for my brother’s behavior. Even though transitions are stressful for the family of the gifted child and of course the child. The gifted child needs more time to explore on their own. You will definitely have problems getting your talented child to follow the rules if they are overly constricted by too many demands in areas of disinterest or actual challenges—where they are not gifted. In saying this I want to underline that I am not saying anything goes. There is a time for your child to listen to you and to the teacher. What my dear misguided mother did with my older brother limited his ability to connect with others and to develop deep relationships. His stellar research may be astonishing and valuable to the planet’s survival, but it was a cost to himself and our family.

Accepting that your precocious child is having difficulty with transitions is the first step toward resolving your child’s listening problems. Find an expert who knows the personality structure of precocious children. The fascination of the gifted child is very different than the lack of social attunement that autistic children struggle with on a day to day basis. The social issues of the gifted child are related to feeling ignored, out of sync with peers, or misunderstood by parents, teachers and relatives. When you find other children who like to play what your son or daughter likes to play, your child will listen better to your rules. If you explain briefly your point of view and present the consequences of not listening, transition frustration will gradually diminish. You are not an unreasonable tyrant if your consequences include reduction of screen time, time out, or doing chores that are boring.

Here are some strategies for getting your son or daughter to listen at home and at school.
    1.  Structure your home life as carefully as the teachers do at school. Doing this will make transitions a natural part of your child’s day.
    2.  Avoid chaos as much as possible. When the schedule of the day needs to change, forewarn your child. Predictability makes life more manageable.
    3.  Establish time frames for play time, bed time, bath time, family time, meal time, story time, etcetera.
    4.  Point out when transition time is about to happen. Quietly evaluate your child’s ability to follow your rules. If need be, gently make corrections using an empathic stance.
    5.  Make social situations with children, adults and teachers as frequent as possible.

Posted on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 06:55PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Twin Dilemmas Blog on Psychology Today website

Twin Dilemmas
What all twins need to understand


Posted on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 02:14PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Loneliness in Adult Twins

Last week my twin estrangement group discussed the profound pain, depression and emotional difficulties that loneliness brings to adult twins. Everyone in my group agreed that loneliness is an unwelcome side effect of estrangement.

In my own life experiences I felt loneliness and loss even after I got over missing my twin sister. When I was young I thought that we would work out our intense differences with each other. We spoke about missing each other profoundly but also wanting our own lives. I hoped that eventually the fighting would be over with, and we would be able to connect as we had as children. And I was wrong.

I felt that my problems were secondary to hers. And vice versa: my twin felt that I put myself first and should know how serious her issues were. There was no compromise.

I accepted that we would not be able to agree, but it lead to deep states of loneliness that were very confusing for me. I did not want to miss my sister or even see her. I knew she was ok without me and that we were just twins who could not get along. I wasn’t even sad. In fact I was relieved to close a chapter of my life that was far too hopeful and naive.

But the loneliness came spontaneously. I tried to tell myself I was not really alone. And truly, I wasn’t. I had a family and a career and lots of good experiences to look forward to. Even so, I still felt a desperate loneliness.

I racked my brain to figure out what was wrong. No one understood; even my most compassionate friends were baffled. Finally I found a solution that was truly soothing: working with twins who felt my pain and wanted comfort. It was healing. I no longer felt alone or a misfit.

The solution to my loneliness was to have friends who could identify with the feelings of emptiness due to my twin’s necessary absence.


Posted on Thursday, August 24, 2017 at 02:58PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

How Parents Can Limit Fighting Between Twins

Twins bring joy and a sense of specialness to a family. Still even with the special rewards that twins create, raising twins is hard and frustrating. Sometimes parents feel overwhelmed, hopeless and confused. Well-meaning and attuned parents wonder, How can I help my children stop fighting with each other? When will my twins enjoy each other?
Parents who want to raise healthy twins strive to build independent and loving interactions. One key to successfully raising twins to be individuals and trusted friends is to understand why and what they are fighting about. Understanding twin fighting behaviors is not easy to do. Rather, understanding your twin children’s conflicts will be a lifelong challenge with unexpected twists and turns if you’re honest with yourself.

Here is an important piece of understanding and insight. Twins fight more intensely than single-born children because they see themselves in one another. For example, if your twin brother is fat, you see yourself in him and feel fat. You hate to be fat and are enraged with your brother for making you ashamed of yourself. Or you judge that your twin sister is falling in love with a loser. You feel that she is also a part of you and both of you deserve more. Serious and deeply contentious fights ensue about who is right and who is not. And really in these arguments there are no right answers, just opinions.

Twin inter-identification, which is a part of twin bonding, creates more expectations, disappointments, anger, and fighting. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to dealing with enmeshment and competition that leads to fighting. Understanding that there is no recipe that will help you achieve some harmony between twins is critical. Some developmental experts will suggest the right times and kinds of separation and the amount of sharing that is good for twins.  But each set of twins is different; some twins will have difficulty being separated in school. When twins struggle with separation, parents need to handle separation carefully rather than arbitrarily. In other words, have a goal for separation and work toward it instead of imposing it on the twins before they are ready. Separation experiences limit fighting and competition.

There are strategies that should be followed and crafted to your twin children’s needs.
      1.  See each of your twins as an individual as well as a twin.
      2.  Develop a unique relationship with each child based of their interests and their strengths and challenges. See the differences in your children.
      3.  Respect the twin bond but do not let it take over home life and lead to double trouble.
      4.  Make sure that your children’s speech develops adequately. Twins need to talk to other children and adults who are not their twins.
      5.  Give each child their own toys and help them to develop separate friendships.
      6.  Do not discipline your children as a pair. Consequences for each twin are important and will help them be more accountable to parents.
      7.  Talk to your children about how proud you are of them as individuals.
      8.  Do not make their twinship a celebrity event.

Posted on Monday, July 31, 2017 at 05:35PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Why Are You Afraid to Set Limits for Your Son or Daughter?

    “Why set limits? It’s the summer.” --Jane
    “No limits seem to stick.” --Jack
    “My husband is the only person who stops the children from fighting.” --Rhonda
    “I need my husband’s help to get our daughter to listen.” --Leslie
    “My wife and I cannot agree on what limits to establish for our son. My wife wants the whole house clean. I say, just his room.” --David
    “My child’s executive functioning is underdeveloped, so he can’t listen.” --Arlene

I hear one excuse after another for the chaos that gifted children create in their homes, which carries over to school and homework. I wonder, Why can’t kids listen to their parents? Is this disrespectful behavior a sign of our times? When I was growing up I was afraid to be blatantly disobedient. My parents never said, “I am saying this for the last time.” We listened to their first direction. There was really no advice to get from the experts. Old fashioned ideas were revered.

My children were not as well behaved as my sister and I were. My husband and I had more child-friendly rules and expectations. Children were listened to more readily in the 1980s than in the 1950s. Still, we had a structure that was followed. Sometimes rules were broken and then the rules were evaluated as worthy or not appropriate. My children were eager to trick me if possible. There was give and take but there were also some lines that were not crossed. My kids did their homework and did not miss school.
In today’s world some kids don’t follow the family rules. Families often do not have rules to follow. With no structure kids can become truly out of control. “Who is the boss at your house?” is a concern for grandparents and teachers. Parenting experts come up with new strategies every day to help set limits for the strong willed or free spirited youngster. Parenting now has developed into a profession that involves a complicated education. Some current subjects include:
    1.  How to talk so children will listen.
    2.  Behavior modification.
    3.  Modeling appropriate behaviors.
    4.  Learning-style differences.
    5.  Decisions in school choice.
    6.  Disadvantages of helicopter parenting.
    7.  Nutritional strategies for healthy kids.
    8.  Childhood psychological and neurological problems, such as ADD and autistic spectrum disorder.
Here is what I think in a more down-to-earth psychological tone. Children and teenagers thrive in a calm and nurturing home environment. Ongoing and productive communication will lead to a compassionate relationship between parent and child. Power struggles are common and predictable and normal. There are many ways to avoid a stalemate between you and your son or daughter. Unresolved fighting will lead to resentment and fear. Misunderstandings are a normal part of the parent-child dynamic, which can be managed with success. There are positive results of child-friendly limits because structure creates a sense of predictability for children. When children know what to expect they are more productive, creative, able to listen to teachers, and respect authority. When expectations are not followed and consequences are reasonable and not overwhelming, children and their parents grow closer. Fear-based interactions are curtailed significantly.
Families who are chaotic by personality or circumstances provide almost no structure for their children. Consequences and rules are made haphazardly and are easily broken. Fear of one another on both sides will flourish. There is continual arguing between parent and child. The anything-goes family has children and parents who lack self-esteem and a sense of purpose in their day to day lives. A sense of meaningful purpose is absent from the core structure of the family. No matter what your circumstances your child needs space to grow.
Your best option as a parent if you want to raise emotionally healthy children is to understand your fear of setting limits. Ask yourself the following questions. Am I afraid that:
    1.  My children won’t love me?
    2.  I will feel like a mean parent like my parents?
    3.  My children will not be able to be free spirits?
    4.  I don’t have time or patience to establish a routine and predictability?
    5.  I don’t know how to do it, because I grew up with too much freedom or too much fear?

Try to conquer your fear by seeing it for what it is. Is my fear realistic or based on unresolved issues from my childhood? For example, if you were a latch-key child you may want to give your child  too much attention. While this may be helpful for you in many ways, too much attention can make a child feel helpless. Decide what your child needs. Give yourself what you need.

Decide if you are over-reacting to your own fears (in your child). Eliminate as much of your fear-based behavior as possible. If you are afraid your child will not be safe then make sure that security is in place and then give them a chance to thrive on their own.

Posted on Sunday, July 23, 2017 at 09:34PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

When You Hurt Your Twin You Hurt Yourself

I have come to this conclusion through my clinical experiences working with twins who have suffered differing types of estrangement, from fixable to totally unresolvable. My complicated psychological theory is based on the reality that twins share an identity as twins. In addition and hopefully, each twin has his or her own individual identity that helps him cope and be successful in the world of non-twins. Twin identity based on shared life experiences and shared parenting creates identity confusion, enmeshment and interdependence as twins grow into adults. I wrote about this in more detail in my book, “Twin Dilemmas: Changing Relationships Throughout the Life Span.”

Here is how I translate my ideas about adult twin identity confusion into action words.
1.  Whose problem is it to take care of our older relatives now?
2.  Is this bill/check/invoice or dinner party your responsibility or mine?
3.  If you look fat do I look fat? Why do we need to look alike?
4.  Do I have to share with you my happiness/sadness?
5.  Am I a bad person because you are angry with me and want me to act differently?
6.  Please don’t treat me as invisible.
7.  Am I borderline because my sister says so?
8.  Why can’t I be important like my brother?
9.  Who was and remains the favored child?
10.  Why can’t my husband get along with my twin and her family?

Of course, twin confusion about responsibility and ownership begins early in life. My mother was featured on a morning radio show “The Breakfast Club” in 1946 because she did not know which twin she was feeding. Her dilemma was seen as an amusing news story. But looking back on her confusion, I can only imagine our (me and my twin’s) confusion as infants and toddlers and as we grew into adults. And from working with twins of all ages throughout my career I am totally sure that twins are painfully confused by their twin identification, which results in anger and estrangement. Longing for childhood intimacy, twins continue to struggle with each other.

Non-twins cannot understand the intensity of emotion that goes into setting limits for your twin. While twins have been idealized in our culture, the reality of twins’ relationships is very different and certainly not ideal. Twins can be mean to each other and call one another names. Twins can steal one another’s clothes without remorse. Sometimes twins have sexual experiences with each other’s partners, which causes serious damage to their attachment no matter what else ensues. Treating your twin as if they do not exist is another damaging interaction between twins, which is unresolvable because of the intensity of feeling. I know of a twin who was so angry with his twin brother that he threatened him with a gun. Of course, there is no hope for resolution now; there is too much danger.

Recently, I had a referral from twins who wanted to get along after many decades of fighting. These thoughtful and educated women said the most hateful things to one another and argued so ferociously that anything I said made their interaction worse. In their words, they were continually triggering one another. I felt as if they were five years old and trying to get me to take their side. One/each twin wanted to be favored and right. I was frightened by how their intense anger could disrupt each other’s sense of self. Watching their fighting and enragement will be hard for me to forget.

My twin sister and I fought and were critical of each other’s choices when we married and pursued our own very different lives. For over 20 years we barely talked to each other. But we did not try to pull each other’s hair out or sleep with our twin’s boyfriend to get back at one another. I have talked with families about the twin wars that are so common between twins and families
and twins and family. Fighting is not a way for adult twins to resolve their differences. Understanding and accepting that this fighting is a twin phenomena will help.

I say, “Hurting your twin is hurting yourself,” as a warning to help twins stop fighting and being mean to each other.

Posted on Friday, July 14, 2017 at 01:19PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment