Separating twins, triplets and other multiples into different classrooms can be emotional and difficult

Make an informed decision when separating multiple siblings into different classrooms as the school year begins.

Photo by Lisa Kolbe

While the number of births of twins, triplets and other multiples hold steady in this country according to Multiple Births Statistics – Multiples of America, the debate continues about when and if children should be separated into different classrooms in school. Since no two sets of multiples are the same and because family dynamics differ so much, there is not a simple answer that will fit all families.

Michigan State University Extension suggests families discuss their thoughts and concerns with their child’s current or most recent teacher as well as the teacher for the following school year. The teacher’s past experience with multiples as well as the time spent with your children the year prior can give you valuable insight as to how to move forward. Ultimately, this decision should be made by the personal preferences of the parents.

When meeting with teaching staff and school administrators, it can be helpful to inquire about the ability to reverse the decision at any time. This way you will know your options on making adjustments as the school year progresses.

Some parents feel multiples should be separated to encourage independence and individual development. Children may benefit by separation if they are competitive or hostile towards each other. Another benefit to separation is when teachers or peers, often without realizing it, lead one child to feel inadequate through comparisons. “Frank gets better grades and Charlie is the athlete and great at baseball.” Parents will also consider separating their children into different classrooms when multiples cause disruptive behavior in the classroom.

Experts agree parents should consider the individual child’s preference and ask whether they feel comfortable being split up or would rather stay together. If children are asked to step out of their comfort zone too soon, they may have a difficult time concentrating on their academics and wonder what their sibling is doing in the classroom next door.

Nancy Segal, an expert on twins and author of the book “Indivisible by Two,” says “it is an adjustment for any child to leave the security of home and parents, but cutting them off from their twin can add to their anxiety.” She believes twins never benefit from forced separation and says it should be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Photo by Tracy Trautner, MSU Extension

Ask your child’s teacher the following questions as a good starting point:

  • Are they doing OK socially?
  • Are they doing OK academically?
  • Are they listening well?
  • Are they acting out together?
  • Are they a distraction to each other at school?
  • Is one child extra competitive with his/her sibling(s)?
  • Has one child expressed inadequacy in comparison to his/her sibling(s)?

Multiples spend many hours together and it may surprise you that they appreciate each other more if they have a break from each other during the day. In the end, what is most important is they each have an opportunity to spread their wings and have their own space to grow as an individual. Children will let you know, in their own way, what is best for them.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2017 impact report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2017, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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