Child Caring

Fraternal twins, differing abilities and the descision to separate

[This letter has been condensed.]
Hello Mrs. Meltz,

I have almost 9 year old fraternal twins . They are in an ...International private school [here in Mexico], with a US curriculum....Carolina and Isabella are in the same grade and have always been in different classrooms (six classes of 20 students each in 3rd grade, it is a big school).

Isabella has been struggling since 1st grade. She has been having tutoring since first grade. We work with her during all the school breaks and vacations. However, her work ethics have always saved her. She works very hard. Her twin sister is an excellent student and does not struggle!!

We would like to stop this struggle and always pushing Isabella. We would like to have Isabella to be retained in 3rd year. However, what should we do with Carolina??
I can not think about all the problems that might cause to explain [to] them that they would be in a different grade... and separating them?? However, we are considering retaining also Carolina, even though her reading and writing is very advanced.

Should we retain a child that is excelling?

Thank you for your help.
From: Claudia, Monterrey, Mexico

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Dear Claudia,
Should you retain Isabella? Yes. Should you also retain Carolina? No.
That's the short answer.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. For Carolina, staying back will at some point feel like punishment to her. She will also likely become bored, unhappy and unmotivated. For Isabella, seeing her sister unhappy will make her feel responsible, guilty, and unhappy herself. You'll end up with even bigger problems on your hands.
2. A decision to keep twins together or not should always be based on the individuals, not the set, and fraternal twins, unlike identical twins, can be as different from each other as any other set of siblings. Whether you're forcing them to stay together or to separate, is artificial.
3. Each child knows better than you may realize what the other's strengths and weaknesses are. Explain this to them by saying simply, Each of you has different needs and different strengths. By separating you, we are making sure you each get what you each need." Tough as that may feel for you to do, and even if it is hard for them initially, it will feel right to them. Also, they will take their cues from you. If you don't make it a competition and you don't pass judgment, they likely won't either. You may also be pleasantly surprised to see that if they take it matter-of-factly, their friends will as well.