Parents of twins are constantly being asked "How do you tell them apart?" As multiples enter school, it becomes important for teachers, classmates and other non-family members to be able to identify each child, especially when they are in the same class. Not only does it enhance the individual child's self esteem to be recognized, but it also reduces stress for the teachers.
1. Clothes: Don't Match
Dressing twins alike is a divisive issue among the multiples community. Some do, some don't. Whatever your preference, consider refraining from the practice when your kids are in the care of outsiders. It makes it easier on everyone by providing an immediate visual clue.
2. Start Each Day The Right WayAs you enter class each day, greet the teacher and give him/her a clear indication of who is who as the day begins. There are plenty of ways to accomplish this in a subtle way without taking up too much of the teacher's time or making the twins feel uncomfortable. A quick comment distinguishing their clothing style can suffice. ("Molly's in blue today, while Polly's shirt is red.) Or, if the children can communicate sufficiently, have them say good morning using their names. ("Good morning, Mrs. Smith. I'm Molly!")
3. Dress CodeStarting at birth, many families elect to use a system of color coding for their multiples. (Mike=red, Luke=blue, etc.) Consistently selecting clothing and accessories in the assigned color not only helps distinguish the individual children, but also their belongings, such as pacifiers or toys. Dressing twins in a color code when they start school can make it easier on teachers, as well.
4. Name TagsAs a last resort, or perhaps in the earliest days of the school year, you may wish to consider identifying your twins with name tags. A simple label pinned to the back of their shirts readily identifies them to their class. Be sure to make the tags large enough for the teacher to read from across the room.
5. Physical CharacteristicsEven the most identical twins have some distinguishing characteristic. Many physical attributes are determined by environment, rather than genetics. Identify a telltale feature for each child, for example a freckle, mole, eyebrow arch or hair whorl. Avoid comparative features; people can't rely on them unless the twins remain together at all times.
6. Play A Name GameAssociate each child's name with an attribute that distinguishes him or her. For example, in our family, Meredith has longer hair, while Lauren's is somewhat shorter. We remind people of the phrase "Meredith=More Hair, Lauren=Less Hair" to help them remember the difference. Try to find a phrase that rhymes, uses alliteration, or otherwise sticks in the memory.
7. ShoesStart the year off on the right foot by choosing different shoe styles for your twins! It's a quick and easy way to distinguish them, especially when they get old enough to choose their own clothes and resist the other techniques mentioned here. This worked very effectively for my daughters throught preschool; their teachers could easily recognize them by their sneaker styles.
8. Guess!Reassure teachers and classmates that it is okay to mix up your multiples! It's going to happen from time to time, and most twins become accustomed to it. Certainly, it can be an annoyance, but it is preferable to the alternative of being ignored altogether. Encourage teachers to make a guess (they have a 50/50 chance of getting it right!) or to politely ask, "Are you Mark or Brian?"