Dealing with separation as a parent of twins, is a little more complex than usual as the parents must part with each twin separately and also as a pair, as twins. This complexity is also applicable to the twins themselves. When they enter Kindergarten for the first time, they experience separation like all of the other children however there are additional aspects unique only to them.
In most cases it is only one parent that attends the first day of Kindergarten. Usually, one parent, one child. With twins, it’s one parent and two children who both need the parent in their own special way, often competing for his/her attention in a contrasting manner. For example, one screams and becomes quite clingy whereas the other sits happily with the other children. One adjusts quickly, the other not so quickly. Only a few days later as the second twin is finally adjusting, the first one changes his behavior and assumes the original position of the second twin.
At times, the competition between the twins is so intense that it is impossible for the parent to completely engage in a conducive manner. In order to discipline a child, a parent needs to be 100% present and support each child separately. This process of ‘emotional shuttling’ from one twin to another is counterproductive and not exactly empowering for the parent.
A solution to this problem is the Kindergarten staff themselves stepping in and reducing the burden involved in the separation by simply supporting the parent and preoccupying one of the children. This allows the other child and the parent to have the intimacy required for a gradual and successful release.
There are obvious advantages of being a twin and entering Kindergarten. They have each other and are best friends who support one another. A singleton child enters Kindergarten blindly, without the security of knowing anybody. However, such advantages need to be managed carefully. Despite their tender age, don’t be fooled by them as they know instinctively how to navigate with other authority figures both as twins and individuals. Don’t expect them to be ‘responsible’ for one another. At the end of the day, they are individuals and should be treated as such. In saying that, the team should be encouraged to reciprocate any affection that both twins offer together simultaneously. This is significant for their development and only strengthens and encourages their pure potentiality as individuals.
Despite the fact that some parents are not always comfortable with giving instructions to the educators, when you have twins it is extremely important to clearly communicate your requests and needs to those looking after your children. It must also be explained that you can at times be emotionally overwhelmed with the little ones due to the constant need to divide your attention and respond to both simultaneously. As a result, ‘school drop off’ often comes with more noise, delayed settling, additional time spent with the educators as you discuss each child individually, and you may also at times require ‘technical’ assistance with strollers and bags etc.
To make it easier for the staff, I prepared the following letter and distributed it amongst the staff at the Kindergarten.
Letter to kindergarten teacher
Our beautiful twins are of course two unique and very different children. Addressing each one separately helps them form their own personal identity, and also helps you the teacher to recognize each one’s unique individuality. Below are some helpful tips that will ultimately see my children flourish both as twins and as individuals.
- Learn to distinguish which twin is which. If they come dressed the same, it is important for the staff to identify physical characteristics and recognize the difference between the two.
- Devote time to each twin separately with regards to invitations, album pictures, parent/teacher interviews etc..
- Initiate separate activities for each twin. For example, if you are conducting a group activity, place the twins in separate groups so they learn to develop the skills required as an individual.
- Do not ask a twin to perform a task on behalf of the other.
- Avoid making comparisons in front of the twins.
- Be quick to identify any problems with their learning development.
Remember that the connection between twins is a very unique one and requires unique handling processes from those who act as not only their guardians but also their educators. When we respect their special connection and listen to their wishes both as a team and as individuals, they will feel the love and nurturing from those around them and thrive!