As my identical twins headed towards school age, I’d always planned to keep them together for the first year. They’re extremely close, have almost never been separated before (they go to sleep looking at each other and wake up side by side), plus they told us that they wanted to be in the same class.
Actually, they also said they didn’t even want to go to school, which cemented my decision even more: with school being such a big transition, they were going to need each other for familiarity and support.
Professionals suggested otherwise
However, some viewpoints disagreed. We’d spent a year in speech therapy, as both boys had developed some speech habits that made them hard to understand. Twin speak, I suppose. Their speech therapist strongly recommended that they be separated for school, as she felt that one twin would impinge on the other’s learning. I resisted this at first, sticking to my decision.
But after some orientation visits at school, the kindergarten head teacher had the same opinion. Apparently the teachers had observed my twins distract each other in the classroom, which might present problems when they started school. She suggested that by separating them, although it might be initially difficult (read: emotional for everyone), it might prove better for my twins in the long run, as they’d both get to develop and progress individually. In fact, putting them together might hold them back, particularly with their speech.
I took it all on board
Her words left me second-guessing everything I’d been thinking. The last thing I wanted was to rob my twins of the chance to step into themselves as individuals. My youngest, and smallest twin, was quite dependent on his big brother. If I kept them together, I could be holding him back. His language development could suffer. Maybe I was keeping them together for the wrong reasons?
Confused, I started researching to find out what the official recommendations were, as well as what other multiple parents were saying about it all. Amazingly, I learned that some schools don’t even give parents a choice – their policy was to separate multiples from the beginning. Yikes. Then I found some findings from Twins Research Australia that said most parents, if given the choice, decide to keep their twins together for the first year of school, because of the emotional support they provide each other. So I was in the majority.
But for those who did separate, what were their reasons?
The decision to separate twins is a personal one, and sometimes parents just know what’s best for their twins, it seems. Reasons for separating twins include when co-dependency is hindering their social development, the twins are constantly compared with each other, or if one twin distracts the other – as was put forward by the teachers with my twins. And then of course, the twins themselves might choose to go into separate classes.
But … is forcing twins to separate okay?
However, it should also be considered that if twins state they want to be together, it is NOT recommended to separate them. This can damage self-esteem, hinder language development and delay learning in general.
Overall, research suggests that multiples do best when allowed to achieve independence in their own time. Forcing this to happen prematurely can have adverse consequences on their confidence and emotional wellbeing … which can in turn impact how they learn. In fact, when it comes to learning, there’s no research to state that twins do better academically when separated. None. While there may be some circumstances where twins get in the way of each other’s learning, if they’re not ready to be separated, the emotional fallout from this will also get in the way of school progress.
What research also confirms is that the emotional bond between twins runs deep … possibly far deeper than we realise. After all, it began before birth. They have learnt to thrive in the company of each other, and as individuals, they’re happier, more confident and resilient when in the same environment – and that goes for the classroom as much as anywhere else.
Mums and dads know best
Naturally, I asked around on the school playground, to see what other twin mums were doing. One twin mum laughed and said, ‘They’ve asked to be separated, so that’s what we’re doing. Double the work for me!’, referring to the extra workload another class brings. Another twin mum said she was keeping her boys together purely for convenience.
Then I heard something from a seasoned twin mum that really sealed the deal for me: ‘I separated my twins for their first year and I’ve regretted it ever since.’ She went on to tell me that the twin she thought was more confident was actually the one who struggled most without her brother. ‘Don’t let anyone pressure you to separate them,’ this mum added.
I didn’t wait long to contact the school and tell them we’d decided against their advice. At first, I felt nervous about going against professionals’ advice, but once my mind was made up, I realised that as a parent, I knew what was best for my twins, above any experts. There’s plenty of time for separate classes, which the boys can figure out for themselves as they progress through school.
For now, there’s an opportunity for independence within the same four walls, and with each other nearby. Allowing them to learn and develop together now will make it easier to separate when they’re ready.
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