Getting back into the school routine after a more relaxed summer timetable can be challenging for both parents and kids. While many moms and dads look forward to having more structured time for their multiples, the school year demands that the whole family get back into a more rigid schedule—which has its pluses and minuses.
If your multiples are beginning kindergarten, this is an exciting and memorable time that requires a bit more focus and attention to the emotional details that accompany this momentous developmental milestone. As many parents of multiples are well aware, different school districts have varying policies about the placement of multiples. Some have strict regulations about separating them, and others will leave it up to the discretion of the family.
The first order of business is to find out what your school district’s policies are ahead of time so that you can amply prepare your children—especially if they have not had opportunities to be separated. It’s important to understand that the separation anxiety some twins experience is not so much about missing their sibling; rather, it has much more to do with the fact that they are dependent upon one another to feel secure and safe because they spend so much time together. Having their “security blanket” wrested away without explanation or preparation will naturally be traumatic and scary.
So with these ideas in mind, I want to share some advice and suggestions to help facilitate these back-to-school experiences and make them more enjoyable for your family.
Dress Your Multiples Differently
Whether your multiples are in the same classroom or separate ones, it will be very helpful to dress them differently or have distinguishing characteristics that make each one clearly identifiable, especially with identical twins. Without this distinction, teachers and other children will have a very hard time deciphering who is who. At times the default position is simply to refer to each child as “the twins.” Multiples want and need others to know their names; after the novelty of the confusion has worn off, many multiples feel frustrated and annoyed that they are not recognized singularly. Help them select different backpacks and lunch containers so that they feel special about their own belongings.
Educate Teachers about the Multiples’ Connection
Many educators perceive the twin relationship with preconceived notions and perceptions that cloud their capacities to evaluate each multiple as an individual. My sons’ high school counselor always was annoyed with me when I followed up to make sure that Jonny and David were in different classes. She told me that since twins are supposed to be best friends, she did not understand my concerns about my wanting them to have separate experiences. Be vigilant about making sure that the teacher understands your children’s different personalities and temperaments and is able to recognize each one by name.
Don’t Introduce Yourself as the Mother or Father of Twins
Introduce yourself as the mother of Jonny and David, for example—not the twins. You might be surprised to learn some parents of singletons have issues with twins in general—not specifically yours. They believe that twins do not want or need play dates because the twins have each other. They are concerned about having two children over and may not make an effort to get to know you. In the course of the relationship, you can make it clear that your twins would enjoy separate play dates because they are individuals as well as twins.
Watch Out for the Caretaking Syndrome
It’s entirely probable that one twin may have an easier time adjusting to the new school environment. While it is important that they have empathy for one another, it does not mean that the twin who is adjusting more quickly is responsible for helping his sibling feel more comfortable. The quickly adjusting twin may not want to be in a caretaking role after having the opportunity to experience being on his or her own. Parenting is an adult’s job, not the job of one’s twin.
Be Prepared for the Inevitable Comparisons and Disparities
It is just a matter of time until one child comes home and begins to talk about how he has a friend at school, or how she has made a terrific project, or how great his teacher is. This is a trying but important time for everyone to begin adjusting to a world where things are different, unequal, or unfair.
If you have any questions about preparing your multiples for kindergarten, please let me know.
The image in this post is in the public domain courtesy of Gerd Altmann.