SEPARATING TWINS IN SCHOOL: WHEN, WHERE, AND HOW?

Date: Wednesday November 28, 2012
Posted in: Uncategorized

I received the following email from an adult twin the other day and wanted to share it with my readers. It seems especially timely since I participated in a panel discussion devoted to issues about whether or not to separate twins in school a few weeks ago in New York City.  She writes:

I know for my mother it was heart wrenching to split up my sister and I but she did what she thought was best for us.  In fifth grade we separated and went to different elementary schools.  Don’t get me wrong, the moment school was out I would eagerly await my sisters bus to arrive so that we could share our daily experiences.  But the days were long and hard without my sister.  In hindsight, it allowed for us to venture out on our own.  We became individuals instead of the twins. We learned how to make friends on our own.  We were only apart for three years until rejoining in the seventh grade.  Those years prepared us for the future.  Thanks to my mom for seeing us as two instead of one. Now in our forties we only live 5 miles from each other and still talk every day.  But we also have our own families, interests and lives.

For a variety of understandable reasons, mothers of younger twins appear to have greater difficulty deciding what is best for their twins. They feel conflicted about how the separation will affect the twins’ relationship, how to reconcile that each child will not have a fair and equal experience, how to approach and manage developmental differences between the twins, and how to manage the organization and logistics of two different classrooms or even two different schools.

As was reiterated by each of the panel members, school placement for twins is definitely not a “one size fits all” decision. Each family must take into account its particular circumstances and make a plan that accommodates everyone to the best possible degree. The most important message underlying this approach is remembering that development is nonlinear. That means that each child needs to be evaluated within his or her own time line. We all are aware that even identical twins can have different developmental trajectories. Of course, the tendency to compare one twin to the other is an understandable consequence of raising two babies at the same time. A parent’s capacity to mentalize two distinct individuals will help enormously to make these tough decisions.

It was so interesting for me to hear some parents relate that reading books specifically written about twins proves counterproductive, at times.These moms felt that books about “singleton” child development gave them a more enlightened approach to parenting. This perspective highlighted for me the continuing struggles that parents of twins confront in their attempts to treat their twins as two separate beings. I advocate alone time as much as possible for this exact reason – to develop the capacity to hold two different temperaments and personalities in mind at the same time.



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