To separate them or not? Parent Tips.
A concern of raising multiple-birth children is whether or not they should be together in the same class or separated and which would benefit each child’s personal development. In some schools there may or may not be enough classes of the same grade to facilitate each child being in separate classes so the decision is moot. Also some school systems have the blanket rule that all multiples must be separated. In order to assist you in making the decision regarding placing your children, the following offers consideration for both separating the children and leaving them together.
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 some circumstances which would indicate that separation is advisable. Here are some examples when separation may be in the best interests of each child:
- constant “togetherness” is hindering the development of social skills in one or more;
- a “division of labour” exists;
- insensitive comparisons by teachers or peers have led to feelings of inadequacy in one or more of the multiples, “your brother can do his math, why can’t you?”;
- the multiples form a “power unit” which is causing disruptive behaviour, won’t stay in their seats, throw objects at each other, constantly talking to each other;
- the kids use their status to exploit, cheat or play tricks, e.g. bullying, exchange places, blame their sibling or others;
- one or more of the multiples appears to resent the lack of privacy resulting from sharing a classroom “She won’t leave me alone,” sullenness on the part of one;
- one multiple proves to be a constant distraction to the other;
- in opposite-sex multiples, the female (usually) 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 be separated.
Evaluations/observations of multiples’ behaviour and development need to be regularly as well as annually monitored as issues can be evident in one year and absent the next.
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, illnesses, etc and the presence of their co-multiple can be a calming factor;
- only one classroom is available;
- unequal education due to two different teachers employing different teaching methods and each multiple’s learning abilities; and
- multiples are at or near the same skill level in a skill-based classroom.
Recommendations regarding school placement:
- It is not recommended to separate 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. There are many firsts in primary school: lining up, waiting your turn, noise levels, day run by a clock, away from Mom and Dad, new routines, etc. so why should they also be separated from each other at such a young age? Separation can add 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/able 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 will have input as to whether or not they should or want to be together.
- Encourage multiples to choose separate classes and preferred activities as they gain confidence in the school situation.
- Decisions as to whether or not the children should be together needs to be made by a team approach: the parents, teachers and principal. Educators need to realize that parents know their children best and for an easier transition to school, a parental opinion needs to be considered.
- If multiples are in the same classroom, they can still be in separate settings within the classes.
- Especially if your children look alike, make it easy on the teachers and students and dress them differently so that they are easily recognized and seen as individuals;
- Parent/teacher interviews need to reflect how each child is doing as compared to the other children in the classroom and not in comparison to each other.
- You may wish to indicate you would like an interview per child. Sometimes teachers expect one interview to talk about the multiples together and that can be confusing and unfair as comparisons tend to be to each other rather than their peer group. When compared to each other, one or more is usually presented as “better” than the other(s).
- In middle school, I didn’t point out that my girls were twins as they were in separate classes and wanted them be evaluated on their own merits across the board. In a phone conversation with a teacher, my inner voice was letting me know it felt uneasy about the way the conversation was progressing. I felt the need to say, “You do realize that she is a twin?” (my girls do not look or act alike at all). “No,” she said, “I just assumed one failed. That explains a lot.” Without my speaking up, my one twin’s file would have reflected her as “Failed” for the rest of her school journey. Recognize when to speak up and when to let things be as normal and individual as possible.
- It is recommended that class placement in classes be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, reevaluations occur on a annual basis and that parents, teachers and principals are included in the decision-making. As the children get older, it is also recommended that they have their input considered as well.
Pat Preedy (UK) provides this important note for Parents: “The critical thing is developing “mature dependence” starts 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, www.multiplebirthscanada.org
Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School, A Guide for Educators, Multiples of America (formerly National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc.) www.multiplesofamerica.org
Web Site: 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
Understanding Multiple Birth Children and How they Learn, John Mascazine
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