Thursday, July 11, 2013

What do you do with twins?

I am a twin. My twin sister and I were born back in 1984. Look at how adorable we were!


We love each other and we definitely have a bond. As an educator, I've had several sets of twins. Darlena, the eponymous Unlikely Mother at Tales of an Unlikely Mother asked me what I recommend when it comes to twins going to school.

First and foremost, you have to accept one thing. They are going to be separated at some point and they need that separation. A lot of when they need to be separated will be dependent on a number of factors.


Have they been in a school setting before? Skipping daycare and preschool and then immediately starting twins in kindergarten apart is a recipe for unnecessary tears and heartache. They're away from Mom for the first time and now they're losing their wombmate, too? That's a lot of change to accept all at one time.

The first time my sister and I went to a daycare setting, we were separated. I don't remember much from that experience beyond crying so hard that I almost threw up and desperately wanting my sister. It was too much, too fast. After establishing a feeling of safety and security at a daycare or preschool, that is a time to experiment with separating twins. Not all daycares and preschools are big enough to have multiple classes for each age and you don't want one of your children to be with older or younger children when it's not necessary. Also, not all children go to daycare or preschool period. However, if a set of twins is able to experiment with being separated that early, they may be able to be in separate classes. 

If your twins have not been to preschool or daycare, or their preschool or daycare program wasn't big enough to experiment with separation, I believe it is in the best interest of the twins to begin kindergarten together at least. My sister and I had kindergarten together, but by that time, we'd been separated at least part of the time in preschool and we were perfectly fine socializing with other children. Stay active and engaged with your children's kindergarten teacher so you can assess how the twins are doing throughout the school year. 

What happens next is entirely dependent on the personalities of your twins. Do you have a twin that "takes care" of the other one? At some point, you need to move them away from each other. It's best to stay as involved at school as possible in the first few years of school to see when the best time to do a split with your children is. In schools with tracking, your twins may end up in the same class for tracked subjects, like math and reading, but separate for elective classes. This is a great way to introduce and test out separation. Spending part of the day separate is a good way to transition to spending the whole day separate. 

My mother was adamant about keeping us separated starting in the first grade and I'm grateful for it. My sister has a tendency to take care of me and I would have never learned valuable skills if I'd relied on her during my entire school career. By high school, because of tracking, we ended up mostly in the same classes and by that point we were individuals and being together in class was perfectly fine. However, my sister and I are not some gold standard for every set of twins to strive to meet. When in doubt, see if the school will let you separate your twins on a trial basis to see how they do. You won't know after the first day how it will be, just like tears on the first day of daycare doesn't mean you're abandoning your child to be tortured every day. 

If you follow only one piece of advice from this, please separate your twins before high school. In high school, students don't travel in packs like they do in middle and elementary school. If twins have never been separated before high school, they'll be separated in high school purely because of how schedules are made. High school is a big enough shock without that being the first time you're away from your wombmate. They can't stay together for ever, so it's best to make the transition as smooth as possible by being proactive at your children's school.

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