Question of the Week:
Both of my six-year-old twin girls tried out for first-grade choir. One twin made the choir and the other didn’t. (She’s a little shy and cried instead of auditioning.) How do I help the one who didn’t make it cope with the disappointment? She often feels left out because of her low self-confidence. How can I boost her confidence so this doesn’t keep happening? It tears me apart. —H.Y.
Answer: They may be born on the same day but twins are unique, individual people and it’s inevitable that some day soon one will make the team, win the science award, get the lead in the school play, or receive acceptance at a prestigious college while the other does not. (But may I also say how sorry I am for your daughter—first grade seems awfully young to form a school choir through auditioning. Shouldn’t choir at that age be open to all kids? It would be hard for any child to deal with that type of needless rejection at age six.)
But as a parent of multiples, you have to learn to walk that fine line between comforting the twin who didn’t make the team/the play/the-what-have-you while truly congratulating the twin who did. Although it’s important to help your twin who didn’t get in the choir deal with the negative emotions that will accompany the disappointment, it shouldn’t be at the expense of the daughter who did make it.
Throughout life, many new situations and developmental milestones are sometimes met by brief cycles of frustration, negativity, and even rejection. Your daughter who didn’t make the choir will look to you for guidance in handling this setback. It will be your positive attitude and understanding that will set the tone, and help her learn to grow, mature and accept that life isn’t always fair. With your loving help, she will bounce back.
On the other hand, your daughter who did succeed in making choir is also looking to you for acceptance and positive reinforcement. She needs to know that you’re proud of her accomplishment. She needs to know that it was OK for her to get that coveted spot even though her cotwin did not. Although she may not outwardly show it, she may also be harboring a bit of guilt as well as it’s tough to compete against your own cotwin. She may even feel on some level that because she made it, her cotwin did not.
So how do you handle these two conflicting dichotomies?
First, be understanding to your daughter who didn’t make choir but don’t talk your way out of her situation. Just listen as she expresses her feelings, and acknowledge her hurt. Perhaps you can relate to your daughter by giving her an example of how you handled a major defeat when you were her age. If she expresses jealousy towards her cotwin for making choir, explain that it’s OK to feel both envy as well as pride for her sister. But part of growing up is learning to rise above the negative feelings and move on.
Furthermore, try to encourage each of your daughters to pursue their own personal passions. (Perhaps the daughter who didn’t make choir really didn’t want to try out but did so anyway because her cotwin wanted to do it.) Unfortunately, when they both try out for the same activity, especially where one excels and the other struggles, often one becomes the “winner” and the other the “loser.” Try to gently steer each girl to a different hobby or sport where they each show individual strengths. This is a good strategy as they won’t always have to compete head-to-head in the future. Since your daughter needs a bit of self-esteem building, why not introduce her to the martial arts? Karate, tae kwon do, kung fu and even kickboxing are enormously beneficial in building mental strength. Before long, your daughter’s confidence will grow as she learns she can do anything she sets her mind to.
And finally, I can’t stress enough the importance of spending time alone with each daughter. When twins get one-on-one time with either Mom or Dad, they are free to verbally express themselves without fear of censorship from a cotwin and you get to dole out some motherly advice along with your undivided attention.