Question of the Week:
Q: I have been reading your blog for a bit and I have a question. Should I separate my twins daughters in daycare? I have 17-month twin daughters that go four days a week to daycare and share the same classroom. One of the caretakers tells me one twin (Amy) watches over her sister (Mary). For instance, when Mary cries, Amy will share a toy with her to console her.
They will go to a new daycare in two months and will be placed in the same class. I figure the change in daycare will be difficult enough to deal with so I wonder if at this stage, is it a good idea to have them in separate classrooms?
Thanks for any suggestions.
A: There really is no magic age in which to separate your twins. (But may I say, it’s so sweet to think Mary offering a toy to Amy as a way to comfort her.) Every pair is different and some children show signs that they are ready for a bit more independence while others need that extra year or two of having their cotwins close by. It’s really up to the parents to try to read their children’s cues.
For instance, when my twins were in preschool together, one of my boys was a bit defiant at times (and at age 17, he still is), refusing to pick up his toys if he wasn’t quite ready to join circle time with the rest of the class. Yet when his cotwin saw that his defiant brother would be chided for not following the rules, he couldn’t bear it and would run to his rescue by cleaning up the toys himself. To make matters worse, the rescuer, I was told, often performed his act of mercy in secret before the teacher got wind of what was going on. (And yes, at age 17, he is still a people pleaser and rescuer.) To us, that was just one of several signs that it was time to separate our pair.
But my sons were age three and four at the time and not the tender age of 17 months as your girls are.
As you point out in your e-mail, your twins are about to undergo a major change in their lives by switching preschools, difficult for any child to process let alone for twins who are tightly bonded. Furthermore, your twins are very young; perhaps too young to fully understand your motivation behind the separation. If your gut is telling you that they are indeed too young to be without each other, I would recommend holding off a year or so. You are their mom and you know your kids best.
Yet I also sense from your e-mail that you want your girls to grow up to be autonomous individuals. You understand the need for your daughters to have independent lives. Another good mothering instinct on your part! But daycare is only a small portion of their day and they can begin the separation process at home with your gentle guidance. You can get them used to the idea of spending time apart by slowly weaning them from one another. For instance, on the weekends, take one girl out for a few hours to run errands or stop by the park for a quiet afternoon together. The following day (or week), switch and take the other daughter so she, too, gets alone time with mom sans twin. If your girls have grandparents close by, arrange for separate sleepovers as well. If you are short on time, even a quick stroll through the neighborhood with just one daughter is a step in the right direction. Any way in which you can ease your girls into time apart from each other will benefit them in the future; It just doesn’t have to be done overnight. If you start the process now, slowly and thoughtfully, by the time the girls reach kindergarten, they’ll view their time apart as normal and natural, just like any other two siblings.