Two concerns that arise for parents with multiple-birth children are whether they should be in the same class at school or separated, and which type of placement would benefit each child’s personal development.
In some schools there may be enough classes of the same grade to facilitate each child being in separate classes. It isn’t unusual for some schools to make the blanket policy that all multiples must be separated. In order to assist you with your decision making, the following offers some considerations for both leaving the children together as well as for separating them.
Pros to Separation
Although there is no substantial evidence to support the policy that multiples must be placed in separate classrooms in order for them to grow and develop as individuals, there are sometimes some circumstances which would indicate that separation is advisable. Here are some examples for when separation may be in the best interests of each child:
- constant “togetherness” is hindering the development of social skills in one, both or more;
- a “division of labour” exists;
- insensitive comparisons by teachers, peers or even each other have led to feelings of inadequacy in one or more of the multiples;
- the multiples form a “power unit” which is causing disruptive behaviour;
- the kids use their multipleship to exploit, cheat or play tricks;
- one or more of the multiples appears to resent the lack of privacy resulting from sharing a classroom;
- one multiple proves to be a constant distraction to the other;
- in opposite-sex multiples, the female is overprotective or “mothering” of the male co-multiple;
- in skill grouped classrooms where the abilities of one multiple are far above those of his co-multiple; and
- the multiples WANT to separate.
Wise parents and educators will realize that some of the above issues may be evident in one year and not the next. Evaluations/observations of multiples’ behaviour and development need to be regularly monitored.
Cons to Separation
Sometimes there are valid reasons for keeping multiples together:
- major emotional upheavals may have occurred within the family, e.g. death, divorce, moving house, etc;
- only one classroom is available;
- unequal education due to two different teachers employing different methods of teaching;
- multiples are at or near the same skill level in a skill-based classroom.
Recommendations regarding school placement
- It is not recommended separating multiples who want to be together. Forced separation can damage self-esteem, inhibit language development and delay learning.
- It is not recommended to automatically separate multiples in their first year of school. Such a separation adds to the stress of starting school and may actually increase the multiples’ need to be together.
- All multiples need as much independence as they are ready to handle. Multiples flourish when allowed to separate on their own timetable. Together or not can be evaluated each year. As the multiples grow older, they themselves, will also have input as to whether or not they should be together.
- Encourage multiples to choose separate classes and/or other activities as they gain confidence in the school situation.
- Decisions as to whether or not the children should be together is best made by a “team” approach – the parents, the teachers and the principal. Educators need to realize that parents know their children best and it is important, for an easy transition to school, that a parental opinion be considered.
- If multiples are in the same classroom due to lack of other classes, they can be in separate settings within the room;
- The placement of each set of multiples needs to be evaluated on a family by family basis, placement evaluation needs to occur on a annual basis with parents, teachers and principals included in the decision-making. At some point, the children themselves will also have input into the decision.
Some Additional Considerations
- If your children look a lot alike or very similarly, dress them differently to make it easier for both teachers and peers to easily identify them. Different hair cuts or styles for girls can help too;
- Avoid referring to them as “the twins” or “the triplets” as this labels and reinforces them as a group and encourages the public to see them as such rather than the individuals they are;
- For parent/teacher interviews, make sure each child is described in comparison with their peers and not solely as compared to each other;
- If possible, scheduling parent/child interviews separately can be helpful in allowing you to focus on each child individually;
- Be a positive voice for your children and recognize their individual strengths as well as what may make the situation more challenging vis-à-vis them being multiples.
Pat Preedy (UK) provides this important note for Parents: “The critical thing is developing “mature dependence” which needs to begin as soon as the children are born. For multiples who are mature dependents, it actually doesn’t matter whether they are together or apart – they function as individuals and enjoy being a multiple.”
- Multiples in School , Multiple Births Canada, Revised 1999
- Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School , A Guide for Educators, National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc., 1991
Multiples in School Support Kit, Multiple Births Canada www.multiplebirthscanada.org
www.twinsandmultiples.org, Educational Web Site for Multiples in School, Pat Preedy, M.Ed., B.Ed. (UK) and Professor David Hay (Australia)
- Parenting School-Age Twins and Multiples , Christina Baglivi Tinglof, 2007
- The Joy of Twins by Pamela Patrick Novotny, 1988
- Twins, Triplets, and More , Elizabeth M. Bryan, 1992
- The Art of Parenting Twins , Patricia Maxwell Malmstrom and Janet Poland, 1999