Q: I have 8-year-old twin girls. They are fraternal and look different. They also act very differently. They are in different classes. One of my girls seems to attract more friends than the other. This is becoming more and more obvious as we have play dates or classmates call on the phone. I want both of them to feel good about themselves. How do I handle this?
A: It's excellent that you've managed to put your twins in different classes so that they don't always feel compared. That is sometimes not possible. It is, of course, fine for them to be in some activities they enjoy together. The key to helping your children deal with the difference in their social preferences is not to place great value on popularity. If you explain that some children enjoy being with many friends whereas others like a few friends, it immediately prevents popularity from becoming a contest. You can explain that the best way to make friends is to find other children who share interests and values. You can even remind them that sometimes popular kids are positive leaders and sometimes they are the ones who become involved in the worst peer pressure when they are teens.
Social events can sometimes be set up for your twins together, with both sets of friends, and other times you can arrange for one girl to host friends at home while the other goes to a friend's house. Either way, you'll want to observe your children's social skills when they are with other children and privately coach them on appropriate behaviors. They are already watching each other and competing, even if you never compare them, so teaching them appropriate social behaviors needs to be done sensitively, without comparison.
Divorced Mother Needs Mediator Help
Q: I'm divorced, and my child is a bit of an underachiever. To spite me, her father will not allow her to do homework and will not take her to her tutoring sessions. How do I help her under these circumstances?
A: It is hard for me to believe that a dad wants his child to do poorly in school, and I don't believe that would be his wish if he could receive communication from someone other than you about the problem. He is probably worried he would lose custody or, even worse, his daughter's love if he were to make her work hard. He may believe that you are too hard on her, and he may want to spend the little time he has having fun with her. You and I both know that children need a balance of work and fun.
Your daughter may be seriously harmed if you and her dad aren't united in your messages about the importance of school and learning. The most effective way to encourage children's achievement is for parents to be united in setting high, but not too high, expectations.
Divorces can be difficult for children. If you can meet with a psychologist or another therapist who can mediate your differences and set up reasonably similar guidelines for your daughter at both homes, it will be much likelier that she will become a happy and high-achieving child. If your ex-husband refuses to meet with you, the therapist may be able to meet with you separately and still encourage reasonably similar standards and expectations. The therapist may also be able to convince your daughter's father that these standards and expectations will be best for your daughter in the long run and will even enhance their relationship.
Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or [email protected] To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.