Having your kids sharing a bedroom is sometimes a matter of choice, but it is often a matter of necessity. Room sharing can create a wonderful bond between siblings, though sometimes it can result in conflicts, disagreements and hostile situations.
We’ve compiled a top five list of questions to help you decide if sharing a bedroom is right for your children. Plus, some advice to keep the screaming, name-calling and hair-pulling to a minimum!
How old is too old?
There is no hard and fast rule for the age at which sharing a bedroom is no longer appropriate. It depends on the children: their personalities, developmental stage, age and gender. Two sisters may share a bedroom right into their teens and though they may fight for space and privacy, can essentially be quite happy in the situation. Then again, some siblings do not get along as well as others.
With siblings of different genders, however, privacy becomes more of an important issue. It isn’t advised to have boys and girls sharing a bedroom into their teens. Generally, once children reach school age they become more aware of the differences between genders, and it is often around this age that they become more self-aware and won’t want to change in front of one another. Once children reach puberty, their need for privacy and personal space becomes heightened and it is recommended that this is respected as much as possible.
How do you manage different bed times?
It isn’t fair to expect that an older sibling will have the same bedtime as their younger counterpart. In fact, enforcing this will cause the older sibling to feel resentful. It is important that both parties are kept to a bedtime that is age and developmentally appropriate, but this can be difficult when they share a room. You can treat the gap between the younger and older bedtimes as a special alone time for the older sibling, giving them an activity to do while you are putting the younger to sleep, such as reading, drawing, playing with puzzles or watching television. This gives the younger child time to fall asleep before the elder child goes to bed.
How can you give kids personal space when sharing a bedroom?
Children need to feel like they have their own space, even when sharing a room with their sibling. Small things like different bed covers and personal bedside cabinets and shelving will give them a sense of ownership of their part of the room. If you want to get really creative, you could paint the different parts of the room in different colours or use furniture to create a divide in the room.
It is also important to teach the sharing siblings about the importance of personal space. Treat their beds as their own private zone, and help them to understand that they need to ask permission from each other when they want to enter that zone in the same way that they need to ask before playing with each other’s toys. Help them to establish boundaries.
What about privacy?
When the children are young, they won’t typically be bothered by their privacy – or lack thereof! Though as they start to get older and more self-aware, this will begin to be more important to them. If and when it becomes an issue, this may be a sign to move away from sharing a bedroom. But if separating them is not a viable option, you can consider installing partitions behind which they can change, or else have them change in the bathroom, or separately in their bedroom. You will know what is best for your family, and when the right time to do it is.
What if my children fight?
Some siblings do fight. It may just be in their nature. If this is the case, and it is something you want to avoid. you may want to reconsider having them share a bedroom. With sharing a bedroom, conflicts are more likely to arise given the close quarters the children are sharing.
Children with similar personalities and traits may get along just fine, but those who are different may clash. A messy child might annoy a neat sibling, some children don’t react well when other kids handle their possessions, and many other petty squabbles that may irritate one or both children can pop up. You may need to step in and act as a peace keeper, and it will help if you lay ground rules from the beginning so that the children know what is and isn’t acceptable, and know what the repercussions will be if they do step outside the rules.
It all comes down to your children and how well they get along. Unfortunately, sometimes you can plan all you want and it still won’t work – and that isn’t your fault or the fault of the kids. With careful consideration and a bit of encouragement, you can help your children to share a room harmoniously – at least for the majority of the time! If you’re lucky they may learn to love sharing and never want to separate!