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Twin talk: Should you be concerned?

QUESTION: I have two-year-old twins. My problem is with their "twin talk." They understand my husband, and me but refuse to answer in anything but their own "language." Should I be concerned?

ANSWER: It has long been observed that twins often do develop their own language with one another. They have shared a womb, and this special closeness does sometimes allow for a kind of unique communication between them. The development of twins' special "language" has always been a source of much fascination. In fact, being twins poses unique challenges, and many parents complain that strangers gawk and intrude upon twins, more than single children. Consider whether well meaning comments (by others) on your twins' language skills, may also be exacerbating your concern.

Clearly, the fact that your twins understand both you and your husband means that they are learning language, but at their own pace. They are practicing first with one another, but rest assured that this will change, especially as they develop more separately from one another.

If you are concerned about their development, you may decide to put them in separate preschool classrooms, so that they each learn to communicate to others because their twin is not there! Certainly a few hours per week of separate activity with each child could also serve to "jump start" their communication skills with others, instead of depending on their twin for interaction.

Consider, too, what makes each one of them different from the other. For example, does one girl like peas, while the other prefers carrots? Or does one show promise in mental organization of toys, while the other has greater physical abilities?

Encouraging the ways in which they are unique will allow them to differentiate more easily, as they grow. Encouragement in this manner simply extends their reaching out to others, instead of their twin for interaction. Language development will certainly follow as this occurs.

Certainly there will come a time when they will want their own separate friendships, and will grow independently from one another. Perhaps, this is a time to enjoy their special "camaraderie", rather than be worried about it!

After all, they will not stay this young for long, and by the time they reach school age, they will most certainly be placed separately, as this is the usual protocol for twins today.

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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