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Twins--Holding One Back: Good Enough Moms

Q: I have a concern regarding my 5-year-old twin grandchildren (a boy and a girl). The girl is more advanced in language and cognitive development than the boy is. The boy also has some difficulty paying attention. The father (my son-in-law) wants to hold both twins back from kindergarten because he fears the boy won't succeed, while the mom (my daughter) wants to go ahead and start both of them so that the girl won't be bored with kindergarten if she starts a year later. Both currently are in preschool and the preschool teacher thinks they both are ready to begin kindergarten, partly because she knows that the school they will attend is good at accommodating different levels of ability. I don't know what to do! I think they both should go ahead and start.

Grandma Betty: I think they should both start too. It's normal that the girl is a little ahead of the boy (in my opinion). As for the grandma's involvement, it's okay for her to give her opinion, but this decision should really be left up to the parents.

Erin: I'm not a child development expert, but I am a parent and I don't think the grandma should be involved in this decision. She should only give her opinion if her daughter and son-in-law ask for it. If the parents asked my opinion (and they didn't!), I'd be inclined to agree that the kids should go ahead and start school. I think it would be embarrassing for the son to be held back when his twin is started "on schedule," and I don't think it's fair to hold the girl back when she is clearly ready to start school. Holding the boy back would probably become an even bigger problem when he gets older. He could end up having behavior problems and other issues to compensate for being "behind" his twin. One suggestion I have would be to make sure they are not in the same classroom. That way the boy would not constantly be compared to his twin.

Marti: I want to reinforce what both Erin and Grandma Betty have said: it's the parents' decision and you, as the grandmother, should weigh in only if they ask you to. That said, if I were in the parents' place, I'd pay careful attention to what the children's preschool teacher says and also would look closely at how able the kindergarten is to accommodate children with different skills and behavior patterns. Also, depending on how far the boy lags behind and how serious his attention difficulties are compared to other kids his age, I'd stay alert to the possibility that at some point he may need to be assessed and perhaps provided with some special intervention. Holding a child back from starting school does not always solve the problem - and, especially in the case of twins, could actually lead to secondary problems, as Erin has mentioned.

All: It's nice that you are so concerned about your grandchildren, but you should probably be careful about giving too much advice and overstepping your bounds. Try being as supportive as possible of the decision your daughter and son-in-law make, even if it's not the one you would have chosen. Your grandchildren can only benefit from having another supportive person in their lives!

Marti Erickson, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist and director of the Harris Training Programs at the University of Minnesota. A well-known public speaker, writer, and media commentator, Marti also is the mother of two adult kids and three young grandchildren.

Erin Erickson Garner, Marti's daughter, is a writer and a specialist in maternal and child health. She currently is home with her two young children except for Sundays, when she and her mom co-host the Good Enough MomsTM radio show on WFMP-Radio, FM107.1 in the Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Betty Farrell, Marti's mom, lives in Houston, TX, and is known fondly as "Grandma Betty" to Erin and her kids.

Categories: Advice, Ideas & Stories, MomShare,

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