What can families do?
There are many good guides available locally about how to prepare children for preschool and what makes a child ready for preschool. Skills such as knowing their name, their age, basic colors, drawing and counting skills, holding a crayon etc. are not specific to multiples. However, it may be important to assess these skills relative to their prematurity. There are also some more specific things for multiples. The start of school may be too late for parents to begin thinking about their multiple birth children developing “mature dependence”. An awareness of our model may help parents and professionals to reflect upon the relationship between the children and to instigate strategies to encourage “mature dependence” in readiness for school.
Some twins are so close that they seem like a couple or unit and may even respond to both names interchangeably. Separation is not necessarily linked to the development of individuality. Children are actually in school for a short time and most of their pre-school development is in the home. It is important to help multiples develop as individuals by:
- helping them to develop their own friends and interests
- arranging for them to have time away from their twin with separate outings and experiences
- making individual eye-contact with each child
- speaking to them as individuals and encouraging them to respond in complex sentences
- rewarding them for their individual achievements
- comparing their development with the peer group and not with each other
- presenting the children as individuals rather than as a unit
- addressing the children individually rather than as a group
- arranging opportunities for the children to play with their peers without their twin
- talking about the good things about being multiples and celebrating joint achievements
You may choose to talk to the preschool in terms of:
- Whether the caregivers have any experience of managing twins (Very few probably have experience of triplets or more.) Even if they have previous experience with multiples, let them know your own views on how you would prefer your multiples to be managed. A couple of bottom line requests could be made. For instance, that the children always be addressed by staff and other parents by their own names, and not as ‘the twins/triplets/ quadruplets/quintuplets/sexuplets’, or ‘twinny’ or other derivatives of their sibship. You could also ask that other children in the group be encouraged to use their names. If your twins are MZ(identical), it might help to give them name tags, or in some way color-code them, or have some other way in which teachers and caregivers can distinguish between them. Parents of multiples are very creative – so you will have many of your own ideas.
- The organization and routines in the setting. Routines are important for all of us, but especially for young children who find security in being able to anticipate what comes next in their day. Caring for multiples is demanding, and well-established routines both at home and in the pre-school setting, help multiples to organize themselves and to feel secure.
Are these multiples ready?
Starting school is a major step for all children, but for multiple birth children, there are issues that teachers and parents may need to take into consideration. The parent/teacher questionnaire we developed is a useful tool for finding out about the needs of multiple birth children when they start school. Use of the questionnaire helps teachers and parents to make decisions e.g. about separation based upon the assessment of the children both as individuals and as multiples.
And are the parents ready?
One set of quadruplets I know, who have an older brother, were enrolled in a preschool when they were 3 years old. Their mother commented to me that it was a very important milestone in their lives as a family, and that “It did them a world of good. They learned at an early age to socialize with peers, and their speech improved.” She also particularly enjoyed the fact that she could go back to work, which she enjoyed, and had missed.
Teachers and parents need to share information before multiples start school.
Click here to download: School Readiness Questionnaire (Word document)
Click here to download: School Readiness Questionnaire (PDF document)
References: See here