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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

Does My Gifted Child Have Asperger’s?

The most troubling and frequently asked questions from parents is, “Is my child on the autistic spectrum? Does he or she have Asperger syndrome?”

This question troubles me because (since 2013) Asperger’s is no longer considered a diagnostic category on the DSM-V. So the people asking the question or presenting the idea are just talking without adequate knowledge, which is harmful in and of itself. When teachers and principals act as experts they are seriously misleading parents and inaccurately labelling children.

I seriously ask myself, “Why is diagnosis so important to parents and teachers?” I guess, because a diagnosis is an introduction—a general statement about the cause of their son’s or daughter’s social problems at school and at home. But from my decades of experience I know that diagnosis is really just an opening statement. Beginning therapists are trained to make a diagnosis as a tool to understanding in order to make a treatment plan. Diagnosis should never be used as a way of labelling a child for the rest of their life. A child who is articulate, bright, precocious, strong willed and highly emotional with social awkwardness is most likely gifted.

For sure, extremely bright children who are “over-reactive” (passionate) or “withdrawn” (introspective) or both, will have difficulty fitting into a traditional classroom. As smart as a child might be also determines how sensitive and intense they will be “in the live.” Understanding how intensities and sensitivities are played out in the classroom is most valuable for parents and teachers. Labelling a child does the child a disservice. Beware of  people who work with your children if they suggest medical diagnoses that are outdated and not within their realm of speciality.

Posted on Thursday, July 13, 2017 at 05:24PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Do Gifted Children Need a Therapist Who Is a Specialist in Gifted Children?

I am asked over and over, by parents whose children do not respond well to traditional cognitive behavioral therapy or play therapy, “Does my child need a specialist in giftedness for his or her psychotherapy to be successful?”

My answer is, “Maybe.” The therapist you choose for your gifted child should know the behavioral characteristics and emotional issues that gifted children and their parents face at home and at school. It also helps if the therapist you choose is gifted themselves, or the therapist has had experiences in the gifted world. You want to find someone who wants to understand your child’s passions, intensities, emotional behavior struggles, and unique social development.

Not all therapists are interested in emotional issues related to giftedness. Disinterested practitioners can create more problems for your family by ignoring the root cause of your child’s problem. My advice is to try to find a warm and welcoming therapist who thinks outside the box like your child does.

For example, emotional intensity is often seen by traditional therapists as over-reactivity that needs to be eliminated through strict limits or through behavior modification. Say, for instance, that your son only wants to collect dinosaurs. The therapist with insight into giftedness will deliberately promote this interest. An enlightened therapist knows that passion is a part of the gifted child’s identity. Passion creates great minds and profound solutions to all kinds of problems. The traditional therapist will suggest that new avenues of interest are necessary, and tell the parents to put away the dinosaurs.

A hot button for parents who usually think the worst is social interactions. Social problems of precocious children are not symptoms of high functioning autism. Social issues are a result of feeling out of place and misunderstood by same-age peers. Gifted children have to learn how to relate to non-gifted children. Thus, learning goes slowly, because it needs to be experienced with other children.

Obviously, special qualities are important in a therapist for a precocious child. You might ask the therapist you are considering the following questions:
    1.  Do you understand the difference in learning styles between high-achieving and gifted children?
    2.  Do you know what three special experiences gifted children will need at school?
    3.  What are the five challenges of working with giftedness?
    4.  Have you worked with gifted children and their families?
    5.  How are the social differences of gifted children different than those of high-functioning autism?

Posted on Thursday, July 13, 2017 at 05:14PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

How Can I Get Along with My Twin?

Twin relationships can be deeply conflicted and also seriously misunderstood by twins, their relatives, close friends and co-workers. Yes, twins often do not understand why they get so angry with each other. Twins do know that anger and fighting is real and intensely upsetting. Parents and close others often suffer confusion and frustration with twin fighting.

Most people believe that twins have an ideal relationship and long for the closeness that twins share with each other. The reality of the twin relationship is more torturous and it is intensely complicated. Even with the best parenting and home conditions, competition between twins creates stress and insecurity; who is the smartest, better looking, more popular, are inevitable problems that create dissension between twins.

Twins who are not given enough love and are not raised to be individuals most definitely have problems with each other later in life. Too much reliance on one another creates an enmeshment that is almost impossible to disentangle. When twins are treated as opposites, estrangement is the natural outcome.
Look into your own feelings, not your twin’s feelings nor any other advisors in your life, about what needs to be worked on. For example, if your twin thinks you are a loser, ask yourself, “Do I agree?” Don’t fight about it. It doesn’t matter who is right – accept your own opinion as legitimate.

I know that’s easier said than done. Still, give it a try. When you stand up for yourself you will gain the respect of your twin and others involved with your twin dramas.

In “Twin Dilemmas” I talk about the maturation of the twin relationship or the development of estrangement. As you read “Twin Dilemmas,” you will gain insight into your twin issues. Insight into yourself will put your twin issues into a perspective that makes them more manageable.

Posted on Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 06:04PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Review for "Twin Dilemmas: Changing Relationships Throughout the Life Span"

Having read Dr. Klein’s book “Alone in the Mirror,” I immediately had to have this one. At first glance it appears to be very accessible and organized in such a way to enable the reader to explore in a focused fashion. Separation, estrangement, parenting, conflict, healing, and many other pertinent issues are thoroughly analyzed. Dr. Klein has put words to my feelings (as a twin) and there are so many “light-bulb” moments of recognition. I know this book is going to help many people begin to understand just how hard it is for twins to function, particularly as they get into adulthood. The complex web and affect of polarization on each twin as an individual is fully explored with the use of many stories, which are fascinating. Dr. Klein’s exploration of patterns and types of relationship outcomes is a crucial study that brings hope to those who suffer without recognition in a world that idealizes the twin relationship.
—Miss C.

Posted on Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 05:35PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

A Review for "Twin Dilemmas: Changing Relationships Throughout the Life Span"

Dr. Klein gives us her latest work, “Twin Dilemmas: Changing Relationships Throughout the Lifespan.” In this incredibly vulnerable book she opens our eyes to the joys and sadness of being a twin. The great love which twinship holds as well as what happens when loss and separation occur.
       Dr. Klein navigates us through difficult case vignettes, and in an easy to understand way, gives us the emotional and psychological implications of what these patients have been through, why and how they function and in most cases where they are now in their lives.
       Physicians who have twins in their practice will find this stark, emotional and honestly written book an invaluable tool. She shares her conflicts with her own identical twin sister and through her own self discovery leads twins through difficult challenges which effect life long positive change in their lives.
       Hopefully a Pulitzer prize winning book, culminating over 35 years of professional endeavors and successes, it is a must-have, go-to book in your library.
—Vincent Arthurs

Posted on Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 05:27PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Another Review for "Twin Dilemmas: Changing Relationships Throughout the Life Span"

Growing up as a twin can be both a joyous and a complicated issue. In Twin Dilemmas, Dr. Klein very clearly describes the advantages and disadvantages of being a twin. She explains the issues that twins encounter often due to improper parenting or more likely the misunderstanding that singletons have about twins’ relationships. As a fraternal twin who has been completely estranged from his twin for over 36 years, I can say that Dr. Klein completely understands how complex an issue being a twin is. I would suggest that everyone who has a twin in their life—parents, teachers, therapists and others—read Dr. Klein’s book to better understand the complex relationship between twins.
—Keith Bigelow

Posted on Sunday, June 18, 2017 at 12:42PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment