Should you separate your twins at school? This question affects many of you; if you are reading this you are probably one of them. Whilst in the UK there is no hard core policy recommending separation or keeping the children together in the same class (phew, relief!), it is still commonly believed by strongly opinionated teachers and parents alike that separating twins early on is the sensible way to go, and whilst these opinions are well-meaning, it does put a skew on the way you, as parents of twin children, are guided through the process in the early years.
A report by the Twins Early Development Study (Teds) carried out by King's College London found that twins separated at the start of primary school had more emotional problems on average (anxiety, shyness, withdrawal) than in non-separated twins. Identical twins, and especially boys rather than girls, showed more emotional problems, than non-identicals.
As a mother to "identical" twin boys now aged nine I would like to share my knowledge and experience with you, I would like to urge you to do your research, and to become as opinionated as your teachers! This is a subject that really matters, that should not be taken lightly, or without "knowledge". This is a subject that affects our children's early years, their development, their confidence, their view of themselves, their overall happiness, their future. Whilst we must encourage or quietly nudge our twins to become independent from each other, it is our strong belief that we must also very respectfully let nature take its course. Parents must have a say, and must decide when their children are ready to be separated. Only you know your children, only you know what is best for them, naturally and in their own time. Wait for the signs and your children will tell you themselves. I remember when ours started their first year at school aged four we sat them down to tell them about "big" school and what that entailed (their school had recommended they be separated and we therefore accepted not knowing any better, as it did in fact make sense). I began my well-rehearsed speech about having "double the friends" and la-di-da, only to find my two boys with their heads on the table crying in tears. The reaction was so strong and so fast, I hadn't even finished my sentence, that it took me aback. Only as a parent to twins do you realise and fully understand this unique bond. On one occasion at a birthday party in the park, very recently in fact, one of our twins ran off with some friends, quite far, and on seeing some of the mothers' worried faces as nobody could find them, our other twin began to hyperventilate and tears started falling down his face from fear of losing his brother. One mother who saw this was fascinated and started asking me more. It is fascinating to watch. This type of reaction, that is already so common to us as we have experienced it so many times, goes beyond what a non-twin would feel for his brother. This is the "twin bond" people talk about when they refer to twins, this real emotional togetherness, that you and I, as non-twins, will never experience.
Our children will remain another year together having spent the last two together, in spite of some protesting from their teachers, but thankfully we are already seeing signs that they are becoming ready to be in different classrooms. Again, in their own time. We are very relieved that we did our research, even if two years too late. We are happy that our children can feel relaxed, and "heard" and "understood", and their individual needs met. We are also happy that on the whole, albeit individual teachers' opinions against the contrary, our school was so open and accommodating. Three years ago, we asked for a meeting with our Headmaster and handed him the research we had read, which we had stumbled upon on the Twins Association (TAMBA) website, about twins' development and the whole subject of separation at school. This excellent piece of research can be found here and I encourage you to read it, not tomorrow, but today, right now. Our Headmaster was open, interested, and promised to hand out a copy of the research to every single one of the teachers at the school. Not all stories are positive though, a mother from Spain contacted me about a year ago, and told me her story. In Spain, schools demand that twins are separated. Full stop. She had taken her plea to radio stations and the press with a view to changing this policy. She had taken her case to her local authorities, but she was making slow progress. I hope that she will get there. The largest and most recent study conducted in the UK certainly suggests that separation at age five is not ideal, and whilst some twins sail through school without a care in the world, others struggle unnecessarily, and it is our duty as parents of twins to encourage teachers and schools to treat each decision on whether to separate or keep them in the same classroom on a case by case basis, in consultation with us, the parents, based on the current research that exists. This makes much more sense to us.
Did you know? Last week was 'Twins, Triplets and More' Week in the UK! For more information, feel free to contact Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via her website www.kidsin.club. For more information on TAMBA click here.