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Having kids share a room has lots of advantages. Learn some of the potential pitfalls and some tips to help keep everybody (including mom!) happy.
I’ll never forget the first night I put my six-month-old baby to sleep in the bedroom with his almost-three-year-old brother. On the one hand, I was grateful to have him out of my bedroom, where his every gurgle, sigh, and fart woke me up.
On the other hand, I was now worried about being awake with TWO tired kids in the middle of the night. I was afraid that they’d never be able to go to sleep at all. I imagined the toddler accidentally (or purposely ) hurting his baby brother.
I stayed glued to the baby monitor most of the night.
We made it through that first night, and we’ve never looked back. Having the boys share a bedroom for the last 5+ years has worked out great for our family. Of course, the experience hasn’t always been 100% rosy either.
So should your kids share a room? And how can you make the transition to room-sharing successful?
Read on to find out.
Why Is it good for siblings to share a room?
Your children will take up less space
No doubt about it, having your kids share bedrooms saves space in your home. What you do with all this extra space is up to you. Maybe you’d like to downsize to a smaller place. Perhaps you have a new addition to your family on the way and you need room for a nursery. Maybe you just want the extra room for a guest room, office, playroom, or exercise room. Regardless, putting the kids together gives you a lot of options.
Your children might bond
The fact that our kids share a room has definitely given our boys some extra bonding time. We hear all sorts of giggles and whispers every evening. They both say that they enjoy snuggling sometimes, and that they don’t feel afraid when they wake up at night because brother is there.
Your children become more adaptable
Even on the nights that my boys aren’t in love with the idea of sharing a room, I believe that it teaches them a lot about resilience and problem solving. We’ve had to get creative with night lights when one wanted them and one didn’t. At times we’ve argued over white noise machines, sides of the bed, and ceiling fans. The boys always come to a solution, though, and they’ll be well-prepared to adapt to life with future room mates or partners.
Having your kids share a room does open up some potential problems, though.
Potential problems with siblings sharing a room
They might keep each other awake
This, for our family, has been the biggest con against room-sharing.
Let’s face it, bedtime is not always an easy task with kiddos anyway, and putting two little bundles of energy with potentially different sleep schedules together can be…challenging.
Ours have trouble settling down at bedtime as they’re excited to talk and play together. Sometimes fights develop when one wants to go to sleep and feels like his brother is keeping him awake.
Our flexible homeschool schedule means that bedtimes don’t need to be too strict, but we’ve had to use some of the creative solutions I mention below from time-to-time to keep our kids from staying up all night.
They might not get along
Although the dream is that they’ll whisper secrets to each other in the dark, the truth is that sometimes siblings can have personality conflicts. Put two kids who don’t mix together every night to sleep, and it could make the relationship even more unhappy.
They might resent not having their own space
Particularly as kids get older, they tend to want more privacy. Sharing a room as you go through puberty could be problematic.
Having Kids Share a Room Could Potentially be Dangerous
The AAP recommends that babies should sleep in a bedroom with their parents for first six to twelve months of life in order to limit the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Even after this time, older siblings that are toddler age might throw a blanket, pillow, or stuffed animal in to “help the baby”. They might also climb into the crib to play.
It doesn’t happen often, but it is possible that kids could hurt each other when left alone in a room together all night.
How to make the transition to siblings sharing a room successful
Choose the right time
As I said above, make sure that your baby is out of the danger zone for SIDS before you put the children together. The transition will also be easier if both children are already sleeping through the night. (Although my older son is such a heavy sleeper, that he was never woken up by his brother’s nighttime crying).
If you are having older siblings share a room in preparation for a new baby, make the switch BEFORE the baby arrives. This way, there will be less resentment involving the new addition.
Know that no matter how well-planned your transition is, it could take 3-6 weeks before everyone is sleeping normally. It also could be just fine. Honestly, this was one of those things that I worried about and researched for months, but it was really easy when we finally did it.
Make sure each kid has his personal space
We’re currently traveling as a family, so sometimes my boys are in the same bed at night. They ALWAYS have a place just for their stuff, though. It might be something as simple as a drawer in the dresser, a side of the closet, or a little backpack under their bed. Older children might want a locking box for their treasures.
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If you’re in your space more long-term, you could get really creative with the way you share the space. Obviously, bunk beds would give each child his own private place to sleep. (You’ll just want to be sure that the kid in the top bunk is at least 6 years old. You might also consider a bed tent or a canopy, or even a room divider such as a well-placed bookcase, screen, or curtain.
Pinterest has loads of cute ideas for shared kids rooms. Take a look, and while you’re there, follow me!
Can Sibings of different genders share a bedroom?
Absolutely! No laws limit opposite gender siblings sharing a room. The benefits that we spoke of earlier regarding room-sharing apply here as well.
Between the ages of 8 and 10, children will become more aware of their bodies, and you might notice that your children no longer want to change in front of each other. You’ll need to be extra-sensitive to the idea of personal space for each child within the shared space and make sure each child has a private place to get dressed.
Honor sleep schedules
This is tricky, because many really young kids don’t quite have a reliable sleep schedule yet, or that sleep schedule is constantly changing.
You might have to play around here to see what works best. My kids have the same bedtime right now. We all do the bedtime routine together, and then it’s lights out. On the nights that they are really having trouble falling asleep, I’ll move one into our bedroom and move him back to his bed once he’s fallen asleep.
Remember, it’s ok for the kids to have different bedtimes. Separating them with as much as one hour will give the first child plenty of time to fall asleep. You can use that hour or so of time while one is falling asleep to snuggle or do a story with the other one.
Stay flexible and be willing to change a routine that isn’t working anymore.
A special note about nap times when kids share a room
My boys were both awful nappers, and we found that putting them together in a room at nap time didn’t work AT ALL. I put the baby down either in a Pack ’n’ Play or on the bed in my bedroom until he was done with naps. (Which, incidentally, was around 22 months. BOO!)
If you have trouble at nap time, remember you can get creative to utilize space. Don’t overlook areas such as bathrooms or closets that might make a nice, quiet sleeping spot for an afternoon nap.
Get some audio help
We love to bridge the gap between story time and sleep with relaxing music, soothing audio stories, or kids meditations.
How are you doing, Mama?
Really, I mean.
Manage different wake up times
It can be tricky when one child wakes up before the other. This is particularly a problem when one of your kids is a toddler. They seem to want everyone to get up to play with them when they get out of bed. We had great success with a toddler clock similar to this one. It turns green when it’s ok to get out of bed (and wake up your brother).
As the children get older, they will hopefully have more respect and empathy for the fact that someone else is sleeping. You can invest in headphones or book lights so the first to wake can listen to something or read quietly until everyone is up.
Set Boundaries for the Room
We discovered quickly that having toys in the room didn’t work so well with our boys. As soon as we shut the door and said goodnight, they were rifling through the toy bin. We quickly got rid of a bunch of toys, and found attractive storage in the living room for the rest.
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If you have the space, consider making the bedroom a place where only quiet activities happen. This way, everyone will have a quiet place to rest and decompress, older children will have a soothing spot to read or do homework, and keeping the bedroom tidy will be a breeze.
Decide together on rules
Work together with the kids to decide on the rules for the bedroom. You and your kids are likely to have ideas about noise, tidiness, sleep and wake times, etc. Giving the kids some input about what rules they’d like to have governing their space can help stop some conflicts before they begin.
Have a Back Up Plan (or Several) When Kids Share a Room
Although as I said above, you do need to allow some time for the transition, and you should also be flexible. Remember, what you chose for tonight is not what you have to choose tomorrow. What worked tonight might not work tomorrow. If tonight was a disaster, tomorrow night might be just fine.
Keep your possibilities open and adjust as needed.
Remember that although your children will likely have official beds in their bedroom, a child’s bed for the night might be the floor, a Pack ’n’ Play in the kitchen, the couch, or your bed.
That is ok.
You can try again tomorrow with another solution. There is no right or wrong way for your kids to share a room, only what works for your family.
Since that first night five years ago, we’ve had good nights and bad nights in our family. Ultimately, though, I couldn’t be more grateful that we decided to put our boys in a room together. (And I’m thankful that I don’t have to watch the baby monitor all night anymore!)