Twin Separation Anxiety (Causes and Solutions)

Joe Rawlinson by Joe Rawlinson - May 23, 2024

Separation anxiety is a common developmental phase in children, and when it comes to twins, it can present unique challenges.

Not only can your twins feel some anxiety about being away from you, they can feel anxiety about being separated from their twin.

Is separation anxiety common in twins?

It is very normal for young children to have separation anxiety from you or other primary caregivers. This typically starts at about 3 months and children will outgrow this phase by around age 3.

With twins, this natural anxiety due to the close connection between child and parent also includes the dynamic of the twin relationship and strong bond they share.

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When our identical twin girls first went to school, they were in separate classes. While they would see each other in the hallway or during lunch, it wasn’t enough. They did have occasions where one twin had such a hard time in class that the teacher would take her next door to get a hug from her sister.

What causes twin separation anxiety?

Why is it hard for twins to separate? We noticed three several patterns with our twins:

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Twin Bonding Dynamics

Twins share an exceptionally close bond due to their shared experiences from their time in the womb to being raised together in the home. Separation may trigger anxiety as it disrupts this deep connection.

Our identical girls not only spent the entire 36 weeks together in the womb but have shared a bassinet, crib, bed, or bedroom their entire lives. They have almost always been around each other for playtime, meals, baths, bedtime, sleeping, etc.

This has all led to a deep connection and relationship between our twins. You’ll likely see this with your twins too.

Because of this twin bond, we have consistently seen separation anxiety with our twins over the years (even on occasion as teenagers).

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Twins with Sensitive Temperaments

Some twins may have more sensitive temperaments, making them prone to anxiety when separated from their twin.

One of our twin girls is significantly more dependent on her twin sister than the other. Her temperament has led to significant separation anxiety from her twin when they were separated for school, activities, or trips to the grandparents’ house.

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Twins’ Environmental Factors

Changes in surroundings, such as moving to a new home or starting daycare, can contribute to separation anxiety in twins.

When the only consistent thing in your twins’ lives are each other, big environmental changes can force them to rely even more on each other.

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We saw our twin girls’ biggest anxiety when they started school and had to go to separate classes.

Signs of Twin Separation Anxiety

We’ve seen signs of twin separation anxiety with our girls all the way into the teenage years. A few years ago, our girls took turns visiting their grandparents for a week.

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One of our girls cried and stressed the entire week she was at her grandparents’ house. Then when she returned home and her sister left for the grandparents’ house, the same twin cried and worried the entire week.

Emotional Distress

Twins experiencing separation anxiety may display heightened emotional distress, including crying, clinginess, or expressions of fear.

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While typical separation anxiety in young children involves them directing this distress towards you, we typically saw this directed at the other twin.

For example, one of our twins would hug and cling to her sister not wanting to let her go. We also had one twin cry and express her worries leading up to the event or activity that would cause separation.

Physical Symptoms

Physical manifestations can include stomachaches, headaches, or changes in sleep patterns when twins are separated.

Our twins’ biggest physical manifestation of separation anxiety was changes to their sleep schedules. They would have a much harder time falling asleep or would have more wake ups during the night than usual.

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Behavioral Changes

Separation anxiety can lead to behavioral changes, such as regressive behaviors or refusal to engage in activities they once enjoyed,

Solutions for Twin Separation Anxiety

Gradual Separation

Gradual exposure to separation can help twins adjust. Start with short periods apart, gradually increasing the duration as they become more comfortable.

For example, when a twin would prefer Mom over Dad, we’d have opportunities to work on one-on-one time with the twins separated.

Consistent Routine

Establishing a consistent routine provides a sense of security for twins. Predictability can ease anxiety, making transitions smoother.

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We saw things go a lot smoother when we had a predictable schedule with our twins. This was true with sleep schedules, nap times, bedtime routines, and feeding.

Open Communication

Encourage open communication about feelings. Discussing separation anxiety with your twins validates their emotions and helps them understand that it is okay to feel this way.

Positive Reinforcement

Use positive reinforcement strategies to reward brave behavior during separations. Celebrate their accomplishments and build confidence gradually.

Our children responded very well to positive parenting techniques.

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Your Twins’ Separation Anxiety

Twin separation anxiety is a natural part of your twins’ childhood development, but understanding its causes, manifestations, and employing thoughtful solutions can help ease this phase for both your twins and you as the parent.

Remember, each set of twins is unique, and solutions may need to be tailored to their individual needs.

Always consult with a pediatrician or child development specialist for personalized advice based on your twins’ specific circumstances.

Further Reading

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Don't forget to pick up a copy of the definitive guide to raising twins. "Dad's Guide to Raising Twins" was written for fathers of twins to help guide you through the first several years with twins. Click here to learn more about the book and get your copy.