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Q. Our twins are 8 years old. They have always been in the same classes, as they are in a small private school that only had one of each grade - until this year. Now I have the choice to keep them together or split them up. I have heard conflicting advice about splitting up twins. Daryl does tend to dominate Kevin, for example, answering questions for both of them. Would it be best to put them in separate classes?
A. Tackle this situation from four angles.
First, ask each boy in private if he would like to be in the same or a different class with his brother this coming school year. Make a list of the positives and negatives them being together or separated. Also address each boy's emotions as he contemplates being in a classroom with or without his twin. Realize, as you begin this process, that your twins may have never even contemplated the possibility of being separated at school, so opening up the "separate classrooms option" may take them aback. Give them time to process this alternative, before compiling each boy's list of benefits and drawbacks.
Second, if you haven't already, discuss with your spouse the prospect of the boys remaining in the same classroom or being on their own at school. What are your fears and apprehensions? You're most likely torn between knowing that in order to fully develop they need some time apart from one another, different classrooms being the most apparent place to allow this separation to take place. Yet knowing that they've always been together such a pronounced separation may be too much for one or both of them to manage. One or both may feel abandoned and lonely away from his brother. This well-intended plan could backfire by one or both retreating into himself.
Third, discuss the issue with last year's teacher. What does she think would be best for Daryl and Kevin? When you talk with the teacher make sure you not only discuss the boys' academic advancement and achievement but talk about their social life with friends and their emotional well being when separated and when together. How much do they rely on one another? How positive is it? Is their togetherness deterring from their emotional and social development?
Fourth, discuss the topic as a family. Bring together everyone's written down thoughts and feelings. Read the lists, discuss each point. See if you can come to a consensus. If the family can't decide together, then it's up to the mom and dad to decide. If you decide to separate them, realize they'll still be together at home and for certain activities (recess and lunch) at school and for extra-curricular activities (soccer and scouts) outside of school.
Keep in mind that if you decide to separate them as school gets underway this fall, and by parent-teacher conferences in November you realize this separation is not benefiting both boys, you can always put them back together. Make this fact known to all parties-- teachers and twins-as the school year gets underway if you make the decision to split them up into different classrooms.
Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of four parenting books, including Darn Good Advice -- Baby and Darn Good Advice -- Parenting. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for this site and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.