Separate But Equal? Should Twins Be Separated at School?
Should Twins be Separated at School?
There comes a time that, as the parent of twins, one has to make a crucial decision:
Should I keep them together or should I separate them?
This is a particularly pressing decision to be made in the case of identical twins.
Think about it: they share the same DNA, they look exactly alike (to most people outside of the immediate family) and they are, by most accounts, at the same stage of development. The natural course of action that is taken is to keep them together, at least for the early days of preschool and Kindergarten.
My boys are figuratively joined at the hip, doing almost everything together including bathing, playing, sleeping and fighting. They are each other’s best friends and worst enemies, depending on the day and time. They love each other. They despise each other. And if they had the maturity to provide some perspective on their relationship, I have no doubt that they would not have it any other way.
Yet, like most parents of identical twins, I’m acutely aware of the natural inclination to treat the children the same. After all – it’s easy to get lulled into thinking that the kids are two parts of a whole, that they are more or less the same, because of the simple fact that, to the untrained eye, they look the same.
In spite of this fact, they are individuals, reality that becomes increasingly important to them as they navigate the world, correcting those who think that they are their brother – and vice versa. Without being an identical twin, it’s hard to imagine always being mistaken for someone else, or, on the flip side, having someone who looks exactly like you. It must be simultaneously annoying and amazing.
Fraternal twins are often grouped together by outsiders as well, though not as much, especially if the twins don’t look alike, or are of different sexes. While the incidences of comparison are not as high as they are with identical twins, the tendency to do so by outsiders exists nonetheless. Teachers who have a pair of twins in their class – identical or fraternal – often naturally make comparisons between the siblings, as it is human nature to do so.
During the early stages of socialization, e.g. preschool, daycare and Kindergarten, it makes sense to take the simple route and put them together in the same class. This way, there’s no trauma at the prospect of being alone in a new social environment without the comfort of that sibling that will be their guide, confidante and friend, no matter what.
But the time will come where a choice must be made: should they remain together, joined at the proverbial hip to offer support to their sibling, or should they part ways, venture into the world (or classroom) alone and gain their independence?
The right answer is not an easy one, and as a parent having to make this choice, its particularly stress-inducing.
Like any critical decision, the pros and cons must be weighed in order to make the right decision. This is a tricky one, as there good arguments on both sides of the fence – a fact that doesn’t make it easier for the parents in making a decision. As a parent struggling with making a decision about what the right choice is for my kids, I know I’m not alone. Knowing that the choice made will have long-reaching effects on my kids makes the decision to separate the twins – or not – even more daunting. To this end, I thought it would be a good idea to list both the positive and negative implications of separating twins at school. Here’s what I came up with:
Pros and Cons of Separating Twins at School
- Each twin is better able to foster a sense of individuality
- Dependency on each other is decreased, allowing each twin to gain confidence in their own abilities
- The incidences of being compared to or confused with the other twin is eliminated
- The absence of the other twin provides an environment where each twin can “grow” into their own personalities and characters
- Competition between twins will decrease when they’re not in the same classroom daily
- The absence of the other twin as a “built-in” friend and companion will allow each twin to form friendships with other children
- The comfort of knowing that their twin is immediately close by is removed, a fact that may increase anxiety amongst some twins
- Twins often rely on each other to provide support emotionally; twins who are separated may have increased difficulty relying on others for a certain level of emotional support
- The effect of emotional distress and anxiety that some twins may feel being separated from their sibling may affect their academic progress in school
- Parents of twins separated at school will have to navigate double the amount of school-related activities on behalf of their kids (two separate parent-teacher interview appointments, two separate parent volunteer days at school, etc.)
Conclusion: While I’d love to say what the definitive answer is to this question, unfortunately the jury is out. While it may appear that solely on the basis of pros and cons, the scale tips on the side of separating the twins, this is not necessarily the case. Each set of twins are individuals and their ability to positively advance in school, separated or not, depends on a number of factors. These include the personalities of each twin, their ability to adapt to change, and the level of mutual reliance on each other. It would be great to have a “one-size fits all” answer but as we all know, most important decisions related to kids are not ever simple.
On a related note, here’s an extreme case of twins being separated at birth with an incredibly positive outcome:
So what are your thoughts and experiences about separating twins at school? Is it a good idea to keep them together or better to separate them? What are your reasons for the choices that you made? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.
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