Q: My 2-year-old twins are starting child care. The center is letting me choose whether they should be placed in the same classroom or not. They are each other's best friend, and tend to only play with one another at playgroups. I want them to make friends of their own. Should we have them placed in the same classroom or not?
A: How wonderful for you and your children. Most parents struggle with how to keep their kids from constantly fighting. The idea that they could be best friends often feels like a faraway dream!
You do raise an important question for the growing number of parents with twins—though I don’t think there is a clear-cut right or wrong answer. Like every parenting dilemma, there are pros and cons to the decisions we make. This is no exception. As you point out, the pros of having your children in separate classes is that they may be more likely to branch out and make new friends. This can be a very important benefit of being in child care. And as they grow, it is certainly beneficial for twins to have opportunities to separate and function independently from one other. This means learning how to form friendships and cope in new situations without depending on their twin to always be there.
However, the concern about separating your twins at this point is that it would be a huge, sudden change, presumably from being at home together all day to being apart for a large chunk of time. In addition, the transition to child care in and of itself is a major change that some children find scary or overwhelming. Having to deal with both separating from their twin for the first time and adjusting to the child care setting may simply be too much change at once.
The benefit of keeping your children together is that they will have the support and familiarity of having someone they know and love with them in this new setting which can make the transition much easier. At the same time, being in child care will significantly expand your children’s world. They will be exposed to all sorts of new activities and people to engage with which will help them learn to separate gradually over time. You can enlist the help of the teachers to help your children begin to branch out and develop new friendships. For example, when they see your children playing exclusively together, the teachers can invite other children to join in. This will help your twins to gradually form relationships with their classmates. As the year progresses, you can also ask the teachers to place your children in separate groups when they divide the class up for an activity.
Being a twin is special. It means that you always have someone there for you, for better or worse. So while they will quite naturally begin developing new friends, and learn to function independently, if your twins remain one another’s best friend all their lives—well, that is quite a gift.