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School Placement: Apart or Together?

by Pat Malmstrom

Spring is the time to be planning the school placement of your twins or triplets for next fall. Here are some ideas to keep in mind while you talk the decision over with your family and school staff.

There is often confusion made between the physical separation of twins and their development of individual identity and independence. This confusion promotes the placement of twins in separate classrooms as the "best" way to encourage the individuation process for all twins.

In reality each set of twins and triplets have their own unique dynamics and developmental time tables. Placement in separate classrooms does not fit the needs of all twins any more than does placement together. What is true for all multiples is that their classroom placement has an important effect on their relationship and their lives. In order for these effects to be positive, their placement needs to be evaluated every year so that it can be adjusted as necessary to meet the changing needs of the children.

It is extremely important that parents and school staff consider the real needs of the children each year and do their best to place them in ways that support their relationship and their individual development.

Keep In Mind

Twins and triplets just starting school usually benefit from the social support they give each other when they are in the same room. They seem to find it easy to engage in different activities when they have the option of being together. When they are forced to separate into different classroom, they get the message that there is something wrong about being a twin or a triplet. They may suffer emotional stress from worry about their absent co-twin(s) and find it difficult or impossible to do their school work.

You can help teachers relate to the children as individuals by providing visual cues for identicals, such as name tags or color coding of clothes, and by speaking about them as individuals yourself.

Twins who are good friends, may want to be together. That can be fine.

Twins who are very unlike, may want to be in different classrooms. That can be fine.

If one twin or triplet requests separate classroom placement, and her co-twin(s) wants to share a classroom, try to figure out the reason for their different requests. It may be that one has picked up the common notion that twins are "supposed to be separate" and is simply parroting the idea without understanding what it means.

Another possibility is that the twin or triplet requesting separation feels constrained in a negative way by her relationship with her co-twin(s). In this situation it is important to look closely at the relationship between to co-twins to see how it is imbalanced and, rather than separate them, to actively work with the children to improve their relationship. Separation when one child wants it and one doesn't can convey the destructive notion that only one can succeed and must do so at the other's expense.

If after considering all the variables you are still unsure what to do, let the children be together. If they try separation first and find that they want to be together, there is tremendous risk that there will not be enough vacant places in one classroom to reunite two or three co-twins after school is underway. The stress and anxiety of the experience can be demoralizing for all concerned. On the other hand, placement together respects the children's relationship and allows them the freedom to separate gradually on their own timetable. Even if placement together turns out to be a mistake the experience of determining that they each want to be in separate rooms will strengthen the children's confidence in their relationship and their senses of independence.

Reprinted with permission from Twin Services Reporter. This article may be printed out for personal use but may not be reproduced in any other manner, including electronic, without prior written consent from Twin Services. For more information, call 510-524-0863.



The information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice. Please consult with your health care advisor about specific questions or problems.

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