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Splitting Up Twins
Q: I am the mother of fraternal twin boys. They just turned 7 and are to be entering second grade. The older twin is an average student in school and very outspoken. He is reading and his teacher promoted him. The second-born is physically much smaller and is not doing as well in school. He receives resource help and is struggling with reading despite all of the extra help he has had with tutors. He is just not ready to read out loud and easily frustrates when we encourage him. The problem I have is that this son's teacher does not feel he is ready for second grade. We have been struggling with the issue of leaving one back and promoting the other. These boys are very dependent on each other and although they are in separate classes, find each other at lunch and look forward to being together. They have friends who are twins also who are being promoted and I just don't know what to do. The school says ultimately, I have final say in which grade my son enters. I am very concerned about the social and emotional issues with splitting up twins. I would appreciate your input with our dilemma.
A: You are correct in being concerned about the emotional and social implications of splitting up your twins. You also need to be concerned, however, with placing your younger son in a situation, which will continually frustrate him because he will be forever trying to "catch up" to the others in his class (and his brother). My guess is that if you asked him whether or not he would feel more comfortable repeating second grade that he would say no. But he might say yes, if he is reassured that all else in his life that provides him appreciation and security will remain the same. He just might need the pressure taken off at this time for things that he is not quite ready to master developmentally. Kids can be made to feel stupid, disappointing, and "less than" by not developing (physically, academically, and socially) at the "normal" pace.
I would not allow myself to be greatly influenced by what other parents of other twins have done. Make a list of all the possible positives and negatives of both advancement and retention. Consult with a child therapist who may be able to offer some significant input after a few consultations with your son. You know your son better than anyone. What decision would be healthiest for him in both the short term and the long term?
I would also recommend a superb parenting book -- The Joy of Twins, by Pamela Patrick Novotny.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.