Our family currently consists of 5 children and a mix of girls and boys. In the history of growing our family, we have lived in a large 2,500 square foot house with 4 bedrooms and two kids, a 900 square foot apartment with only 2 bedrooms and up to 4 children, and now a large house with oddly few bedrooms. So when I say that I have experience with children learning to share a bedroom vs having their own space, I can honestly emphasize that I have seen it all.
- The two most important pieces of research consider before having your kids share a room
- The benefits of kids sharing a room
- Questions to consider before letting your kids have their own room or having them share a room:
- How to make sharing a room work
- Prepare your children for room sharing with a printable Conflict Resolution Chart!
The two most important pieces of research consider before having your kids share a room
- Only safe dependence can lead a young child to feeling independent.
- Individual child development plays a role in stimulus response in each of your kids
The Institute of Child Psychology affirms that “Children move naturally to autonomy when they feel safe and secure; dependence always precedes independence.” If you dive into Attachment Theory, then you will find that attachment is psychologically and physiologically normal.
It is a part of relationships, especially with a caregiver, but more holistically within a families and communities. For instance, my children develop attachment and relationship with each other, especially the younger children with the older ones, knowing they are good, safe, and trusted helpers. Similarly, within our community, our children understand the adults that are safe and that they have built relationships with whether it is the local librarian, friends’ parents, health providers, etc..
Ok, so why is this important in room sharing?
It’s two fold. The first is that a young child may still seek out mom or the parents’ bedroom. It’s a safe space and environment and they are seeking dependence on you as the parent to feel safe. It’s easy to get upset about a child coming to crawl in bed with you every night because you’re losing sleep or intimacy with a spouse, but if you reframe it to see their love and dependence on you, then this season of life might not feel so heavy.
Keep your babies and toddlers in or near your room for as long as they need you.Because in the long term, that attachment creates a sense of well-being, security, and — yes— even independence.
Secondly, a younger child sharing a room with an older child means you need to assess if the young sibling sees their older counterpart as being a safe helper.
If the answer is yes and there is security in the relationship, then go ahead and try out room sharing!
Now let’s talk about child development and external stimuli within the home.
One of my kids has an emotional trigger to too much noise. Honestly she is very much like me. She wants to retreat or get away to recharge. Some might simply label this introversion but it’s more than that. It absolutely is a physical response to the noise around her.
Similarly another child thrive on order while some of her siblings are overly disorganized, which can cause sibling relationship disturbances.
Finally, all children go through moments of regulation and disregulation and both are important in the development of their brain and security in who they are. So there might be ebbs in flows in terms of the needs within your home.
How do these three points point to child development and external stimuli?
Emotional well-being plays a role in room sharing. Some people may not have the option to give each of their children their own room (I know that we are one of those families). However, giving our children safe spaces to experience their own feelings, retreat, have their own stuff, or work uninterrupted is important in the development of our children. So if room sharing happens or if it’s not an option, we need to be pursing ways to feed the needs of the individual child.
Like safe dependence leads to independence, meeting the needs of the individual child helps then meet the goals of the family as a whole.
Like safe dependence leads to independence, meeting the needs of the individual child helps then meet the goals of the family as a whole. #parenting #largefamilies #raisingchildren via @karacarreroTweet
The benefits of kids sharing a room
Sharing a room with siblings can be an amazing experience for kids. They get to share their day and have someone to talk to about the things that may be hard to process alone. Of course, we want our children to discuss these things with us as the parent, but if we’re honest, then we know it won’t always happen.
Room-sharing can help strengthen the bond between two or more siblings, help children develop better sleeping habits, and make them feel more secure in their environment. Like all relationships though, there will be conflict, but it should not deter you if that’s your only concern. I personally believe that it’s more than likely only short-term conflict and shouldn’t trump the benefits of long-term unity within the family.
Schedules, bedtime routines, and improving sibling bonds can all be improved from sharing a room. The shared space also forces a certain level of respect and empathy for each others’ boundaries and personal spaces.
Questions to consider before letting your kids have their own room or having them share a room:
I believe in brainstorming before making any major family decisions or changes within our home. So here is some thought work you might do before taking the plunge.
- Do your children want bunk beds, twin mattresses, queen beds, or are they even wanting to share a bed?
- How much privacy does each child need?
- What is the age gap between the children?
- How often do they want privacy?
- What is your budget like?
- Do you have enough space in your house for another room? Can a non-bedroom be converted even into a small room or space?
- Do they have their own bathroom in the shared space?
- Who will be sharing a room?
- What special needs does each child have?
- When will each child get alone time if they share a room?
- What level of trust do you have for each child?
- Does one child need special supervision because of age, ability, or other?
- Why would separating the kids be a good idea? Why would it be a bad idea?
- What family circumstances dictate who can or cannot share a room and why?
How to make sharing a room work
After doing some brainstorming about what problems might arise and anticipating needs, you will be better off in the long run to make sharing a room successful for the whole family.
The two most important things are to set expectations and create a backup plan.
Even in our 900 square foot home, we had to make half of a 3-season porch a bedroom at one point to help one of our older kids get their own room and space for a few months. It wasn’t ideal, but that backup plan is just what we needed in the moment. And it was a reset for all of us even without a spare room.
How can you reduce sibling conflict when sharing a bedroom?
- First and foremost, help your children navigate conflict resolution. It will serve them as children and the rest of their lives, not just in having to share a bedroom.
- Help each child create a safe & cozy space within the shared kids’ room. They get to shoes their own bedding, decorations, and more as if it truly was in their own room — it’s just their own space instead.
- Set Limits and Boundaries — this needs to be done early on of before putting children together. Maybe they aren’t allowed to touch each other’s beds or maybe it’s about getting set individual time alone in the room. Refer to the brainstorming activity and figure out which limits and boundaries are important.
- Create a playroom or fun space outside of the room. This usually reduces conflict because there is less “stuff” in the space and creates the room more for sleeping, reading, or getting privacy or quiet time during the day.
- Create a family closet or dressing room. We have a tiny room or closet for this. This cuts down on overwhelming clothes clutter from having multiples in the same room but it also means that you can give each kiddo their own dresser drawers and privacy to get dressed one at a time in there or the bathroom.
Is bedtime or wake-time an issue with different age kids sharing the same space?
It’s usually not much of an issue unless one of your children is a very light sleeper. And in this case, that is the child that might need the later bedtime.
Room sharing definitely teaches about fairness. Sometimes it’s fair to have the same rules and bedtimes for each children or sometimes it’s fair for younger siblings to go to bed earlier, letting older siblings stay up, and sometimes it’s fair to assess needs regardless of age when learning to share a bedroom.
What if my children are different genders or there’s a big age gap? Should they share a bedroom?
Usually when children are very young gender is usually not much of an issue, but once they hit puberty a much larger conversation to have as a family. If you simply cannot provide separate bedrooms for children or at least same-sex siblings sharing spaces, then curtains from the ceiling or faux walls can be used to create safe boundaries and private space for opposite sex siblings.
Sometimes a big age gap is a blessing as outlined in the section about secure attachment. Evaluating the needs of the older child such as a space to do homework uninterrupted is equally as important as making sure that different bedtimes doesn’t lead to sleep regression in a younger sibling.
Are you transitioning a baby or adding a crib to a kids’ room?
It is recommended that a new baby stays in a parent’s room until 6-12 months old. This is especially important if you’re breastfeeding as it’s helpful for both mom and baby.
Having an older baby in with big kids requires talking to the other children before introducing someone new. Help them understand what to do during night wakings or if there’s a problem in the middle of the night (like gently helping their sibling get to mom).
Prepare your children for room sharing with a printable Conflict Resolution Chart!
Here’s a preview of this chart you can print out and put on your kids’ room door. I hope that it is helpful for your family in creating and maintaining family unity as your kids share a bedroom. Enter your email in the box below to get the printout.
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 5 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!