Renee Zaldivar, a teacher, says that she and her twin brother were placed in the same kindergarten class per their mother’s request. “Neither one of us suffered from any separation anxiety when we went to kindergarten,” she recalls, and having her twin in the same room was comforting for both. From first grade on, however, they were in separate classes—a rough time for a while because she was without her parents and her twin for the first time.
Zaldivar was cautious and conservative in school and her brother was “more outgoing and easy to go astray.” She remembers assuming a motherly role trying to keep her twin brother to “stay on the straight and narrow, though he never listened.”
Tinglof feels that in boy/girl twins, since girls usually mature faster than boys do, it is not uncommon for girl twins to “mother” their twin brothers. She feels that separate classrooms as twins grow older may help the boy twin become more independent. Older girls who “mother” their twin brother may eventually resent the role of caretaker, so separation in upper grades may be beneficial for both. Tinglof cautions, however, that there is no “one size fits all” solution to placement of twins in school.
Differences in Achievement
Often identical twins have similar interests and aptitude. IQ scores for identicals usually only vary by a point or two. Fraternal twins, on the other hand, “can vary tremendously when it comes to academics, athletics, and even artistic abilities,” Tinglof says. Progress in school may be particularly highlighted in multiples and can lead to comparisons by teachers, parents, and by the students themselves. It can be hurtful to the twin who is less academically successful. Conversely, there can be feelings of guilt for the excelling twin as he or she is aware of the pain of the less achieving twin.
If one twin is significantly struggling in school, parents and teachers may consider grade retention. This decision has many implications, especially where twins are concerned. “Nothing calls attention to differences in twins more than when one repeats a grade,” says Tinglof. Parents should consider getting the struggling twin evaluated by a school psychologist to get a proper diagnosis before deciding on retention. If the student is merely behind in specific skills, perhaps tutoring may be all that is needed. In other cases, special education may be required. If retention is the only solution, parents should “strongly consider transferring the struggling twin to a different school so he’ll be out of range of unwanted comparisons,” Tinglof suggests.
“I always tell my twins that it’s okay to feel both jealously and pride toward each other when only one gets something that both have tried to obtain,” Tinglof says. She encourages her boys to support one another, and emphasizes that they are each an important member of the family unit. She cautions parents never to diminish the accomplishments of one twin to spare the feelings of the other. If one has a chance to be in a gifted or advanced program at school, for example, and the other does not, parents should take advantage of the opportunity for the achieving twin. Remind each child what he or she is good at and encourage each to excel in his or her own areas of interest.
All of the adult twins I interviewed saw their twin status in a positive light. They each felt a unique sense of pride and a bond with their co-twin that was different from their other siblings. They felt good about having their twin in the same grade for support and friendship. When parents and teachers recognize and are sensitive to the unique concerns of twins and other multiples, the school years are smoother for children who happen to be born together.
Louise Hajjar Diamond is a school guidance counselor, a freelance writer, and mother of two single-born children.
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