Parents of twins face a tough question at the beginning of school: Would their kids be better off in separate classrooms or together? "In the past, most schools automatically separated twins," says Susan Lipkins, PhD, a child psychologist at RealPsychology.com. But lately many schools have loosened those policies and are allowing parents to decide what to do. Even so, many moms may still wonder what's best.
Although the separation process may be painful at first, Lipkins thinks it's healthier for twins in the long run. "It's really important for them to develop their own personalities, friends, and skills," she says. Otherwise, "twins can become very dependent on each other. So frequently you'll see one twin more verbal than the other, and they'll do all the answering for the other twin. One twin will be more athletic than the other and he'll make sure they're on the same team. Since the other twin is compensating, that means the other twin doesn't get a chance to develop those skills."
But not everyone is in agreement that twins are better off apart. Since the twin bond can be so tight, "separating them in school could result in emotional distress," warns Mark Loewen, a licensed professional counselor at LaunchPadCounseling.com. Yet Lipkins argues that separation is a useful skill for twins to learn that other kids, lacking a twin, have already mastered. "If you allow twins to stay together, it may be easier on the parents and on the school, but it's a crutch they'll need to get over eventually."
The question parents should ask themselves is this: How will each child learn best? "As a long time whole child educator K-12 and an aunt of twins, I believe that in certain cases, parents may advocate for twins to be kept together in a class if they feel that the children will perform better together," says Mary Miele, founder of The Evolved Education. The age of the kids may be an important factor. "For instance, my nephew and niece, who are twins, are only 3 years old and they complement each other very nicely in a classroom setting. When that changes, their mother may advocate them being apart in the classroom."
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Whatever decision you make, experts stress that twins should get some time apart. "When twins have different interests, they will be separated during after-school activities, which can give them the opportunity for individuation," says Loewen. So if one loves soccer and the other art, let them pursue these separate paths. Or, if they're separated all day at school and both enjoy the same activities, maybe that can be a time for them to spend together.
And even if the separation is rough at first, experts assure parents it won't last forever. "There might be some anxiety especially if one twin is shyer then the other," says Diane Lang, a counseling educator at DlCounseling.com. "But after some time passes, you will see both their personalities shine."
Do you think schools should separate twins or keep them together?
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