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The Lone Twin: How I Deal With Twin Separation Anxiety

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Happy twins! (Me on the left, my sister on the right.)

Happy twins! (Me on the left, my sister on the right.)

Twin Dependence

My mother had a lot of sayings that have stayed with me through childhood and into my early adulthood.

One of them is that I'm lucky to have a twin because of the bond we share that not many others have. That bond means that we have a best friend for life—someone who's with us every step of the way as we go through our ups and downs, learn life lessons, and grow up together.

Although twins do have this bond, not all twins are dependent upon one another. There are cases in which one twin is more dependent than the other, and cases in which they are completely independent.

You hear about the type of twins that are so dependent on each other that they wear the same clothes and complete each other's sentences. Well, in my case, my twin and I stopped wearing the same clothes as soon as we could. I am the dependent one while my sister is independent; and, according to her, she would rather be single-born than twin-born.

This is not because she hates me. I must clarify this in order not to make her sound like the worst twin on the planet. My sister is one who seeks to break from the bondage of twindom and go out as an individual. We're fraternal in every sense of the word except appearance, which, as we've gotten older, has begun to define itself as just as separate as our interests and goals. Sometimes, being so different in terms of our personalities—and yet looking so obviously similar—can be hard to deal with.

On the other hand, there are those twins who can't imagine being that way and can't handle being separated from their twin, no matter how independent they may be.

The following are some tips on how to cope with separation anxiety if you and your twin become separated for whatever reason.

Twin Separation Anxiety

Twins tend to be at risk for separation anxiety because of the challenges they face in comprehending their uniqueness or individuality.

It is essential that parents start communicating individuality between the twins as early as possible. Let them hone skills and express themselves as each one's talent begins to blossom. Oftentimes, their anxiety comes from being separated from their parents rather than from each other.

At an early age, some of the distinct signs of separation disorder are as follows:

  • Worry when separation from home and parents is expected.
  • Worry that something terrible will happen when there is a separation.
  • Refusal to go to school for fear of being away from home or parents.
  • Refusal to go to bed for fear of being away from parents.
  • Following parents around the house for fear of being alone or separated.
  • Constant complaints about headaches, stomach aches, etc., when separation is expected.

1. Start Early

When my sister and I first entered school, she and I were separated because the school officials felt it was healthier for us. They felt that putting us in different classes would give us the opportunity to be more open to developing friendships with other students. It makes sense—but at the time, it was terrifying.

My parents videotaped everything when we were growing up, so I'm fortunate to know just how things went down.

My class had a couple of children I already knew well enough to trust and talk to. This made me feel relaxed as I saw them enter the classroom and knew that there were others I could turn to for help.

My sister's class, on the other hand, didn't have a single child she knew. This led to her looking at the camera helplessly and asking if she could leave. She cried and declared that she didn't want to say.

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This is proof that my sister hasn't always been as independent as she is now. However, she learned on her own how to make friends without me and find connections with children I never got to know, something that's carried on to today.

Learning the skills necessary to make friends on your own is what helps make it easier when you're separated for whatever reason. It can be difficult at first, but it is essential to teach twins social skills that they can use when they're not together.

2. Maintain Contact

The first shock and realization that I was an adult didn't come with graduation, it came when my sister moved into her dorm on campus at the university.

Unlike her, I'd chosen to go to community college for my first couple of years after high school and lived at home. At first, it was strange without my partner in crime doing her makeup next to me in the bathroom mirror as I got ready for school, chatting my head off about whatever when I got home, or just being there when I needed someone to talk to.

Initially, this was difficult to process. Once I got used to the routine, I learned when my sister's classes were and called her when I could in between class and work. Hearing her voice at least once a day helped, and I weaned her off as time went on.

Eventually, it was every other day, or once a week, until finally, it was whenever we needed to talk. I was lucky to have a twin who understands my dependence and worked with it.

Moving out a couple of years later involved going through the same process all over again. She'd moved back home to save money and my parents had asked me to leave for reasons I won't go through here. We didn't talk to each other much until eventually, contact became more frequent and regular.

If you are a twin that feels dependent on the other in one way or another, this may help. Even if you live miles apart, keeping in contact through texting, email, or calls may ease your separation anxiety. It is especially important to try to make this contact less and less frequent so you aren't dependent on it. It takes time, but, it's possible.

Twins tend to be at risk for separation anxiety because of the challenges they face in comprehending their uniqueness or individuality.

Twins tend to be at risk for separation anxiety because of the challenges they face in comprehending their uniqueness or individuality.

How to Cope With Separation Anxiety

Here are a few other tips on how to cope with separation anxiety for children, regardless of whether they are a twin or not.

  • Practice: Leave your child for brief periods with a babysitter and gradually increase the time you are apart.
  • Separate after naps or feedings: Separation anxiety is more likely to occur when the child is tired or hungry.
  • Have a "goodbye" ritual: Rituals are reassuring. Just a simple kiss or wave is sufficient enough to help put your child at ease.
  • Keep things as familiar as possible: Even if they are going somewhere new, allow your child to bring a toy or other object to help make their new surroundings more familiar.
  • Have a consistent caregiver: If you hire someone to care for your child while you are away, try and keep them.
  • Don't stall: When you tell your child you're leaving, let them know that you will return and then leave immediately.
  • No scary TV: If your child is exposed to less scary shows or movies, they will be less fearful when you are gone.
  • Don't give in: Setting limits will help your child adjust to separation, reassure your child that they will be fine and don't give in when they throw tantrums, cry, etc.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Lisa


Rachel on January 10, 2017:

I wish my twin and I had practiced. We were almost never apart until she left on her mission a few months ago. Mission rules include no phone calls/Skype except one hour on Christmas and Mother's Day, and email only once a week. Talk about trial by fire!

Cassidy on January 04, 2017:

I'm a twin intrested in studies on the actial twin separation anxiety...I have that...I'm 23 and need her to go certain places with me...any one else? Can't seem to find anything on this.

Shawnee on December 08, 2013:

I'm 17 and I have a fraternal twin. This seems like how my life is going to go haha right now I'm deciding to stay close to college like 30 minute away and she's going 3 hours away. We were separated a through grade school to keep us independent but I am still very attached to her. We are fraternal but we share a bond. Not like the spilling our feelings bond but cheering each other up or joking bond. I can't imagine next year without her. Or I guess the next 4 years. I'm terrified so this arrival helped!

Kayla on October 04, 2013:

My sister and I are fraternal twins, and our separation experience in school happened almost the exact same way. I was put into a class with familiar faces, while she faced practically complete strangers. Many times, I would be pulled out of class so that she could see me for a few minutes, even though we were just on opposite sides of a wall, literally. There were no doors. Since then, she has always been more independent and expressing her individuality more adamantly, however whenever she had enough, she always comes slinking back to me.

Although I am not going to a community college, I did decide to stay in state for college while she moved out of state. She seems to have more separation anxiety then I do. I have gotten used to her going out on her own way, because I know she will always come back. She, on the other hand, is struggling with the fact that I am not right there with her whenever she wants/needs me.

This article was very enlightening. Thank you.

Robin-Jones on September 20, 2012:

I am an identical twin and appreciate articles about twins : )

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on August 20, 2012:

Very interesting article. I didn't realize all that went on with twins - one can be dependent and one independent. Separating you at school seemed cruel, but I guess it worked out for the best in the long run. I think twins should be their own persons and I don't think they should have to dress identically. I have always thought the special bond twins share is neat and comforting. Thanks for an illuminating article.

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