Question of the Week:
Our six-year-old identical girls are coming to the end of their school year having been split for the first time. They were pretty independent before but we can now see worrying signs that they have become clingy and regressed socially since they have been separated. They are also not doing as well academically compared to last year. Our previously more confident twin seems to have suffered more and spent half the year withdrawn and interacting very little with her classmates according to her teacher. Both children we are told struggle to focus and are easily distracted yet at home they are fine working side by side on homework and other projects. They are usually happy resilient children with a healthy sibling relationship but they both have told us repeatedly that they are lonely and unhappy in class on their own. Should we put them back together? —R.J.
There’s nothing worse than seeing your once happy children suddenly become…well, unhappy. It breaks your heart watching them struggle with school and friends, especially at such a tender age.
Yet when it comes to twins and classroom placement, there are two important points to remember:
- Classroom placement needs to be a flexible, fluid process. In other words, your girls’ classroom situation should change as they change. Just because they are in separate classes now doesn’t mean they can’t (or shouldn’t) be in the same classroom next year. The end of the school year is the perfect time to reevaluate their situation and make changes if need be.
- Classroom placement isn’t a panacea for everything that ails twins. Obviously something is going on with your girls. But what? And, will putting them back together in class solve all their issues? Maybe. But maybe not. Something else all together could be at play here. (And this advice, by the way, extends both ways: separating twins who are together doesn’t always solve their classroom dilemmas either.)
In general, however, identical twins sometimes have a harder time with separation as they are usually more tightly bonded than fraternal twins. For many young multiples, being in a separate class is simply too traumatic for their young psyches to handle. These kids just need a little extra time together before separating in school. It’s important to point out, however, that many identical twins do just fine with separation and enjoy their time alone without their cotwins. Every set of twins (and even triplets) is different.
Obviously, mother knows best, and if you believe that this is the case with your girls—that they would benefit from being back together—then by all means, advocate for it. But before placing them back together, you should ask yourself this question: What was your motive for separating them in the first place? Obviously something (or someone) told you that they should be in separate classes. What was it? And is it still relevant? If so, perhaps they just need a bit more time and some tender understanding adjusting to the separation.
One more thought. Perhaps their missing each other is just a symptom of something else. You mentioned in your email that they’re struggling to focus in school and are not doing well academically. Perhaps it’s the rigors of first grade, a big jump from kindergarten, that have them so unhappy. Unable to accurately describe their academic struggles (they are six, after all), your girls may be reverting to the only reason they know for their unhappiness—being apart from their cotwin. Therefore, consider having them tested to rule out any learning issues.
It’s worth investigating.