A few generations ago, homes were small, and children rarely had the luxury of a private bedroom. Today, though, many homes have enough bedrooms to accommodate everyone. You may be wondering if you should let each child have a private room or encourage siblings to share a bedroom. Every situation is different, and there's not one right answer. In many families, children share a room while they are young, but get a private room as they enter the teen years. Consider the ages and temperaments of your children when deciding.
Sharing a bedroom teaches valuable skills, such as sharing, communicating and working together, says Deborah Gilboa, a family care physician, parenting expert and author of "Teach Resilience: Raising Kids Who Can Launch." When kids share a bedroom, they might discuss how to decorate the room and what to put on the walls. They can even rearrange the furniture from time to time. If one child is a neat freak, while the other child takes a more casual approach to cleanliness, sparks will likely fly. Talk with your children about the situation and work together to come up with solutions. One child may learn to relax expectations a bit, while another child learns to take more responsibility. Learning to adapt to different personalities and approaches is part of life.
Busy families often rush from school to after-school activities. Then it's home to dinner, homework and bedtime. Kids may know their peers better than they know their own siblings. Sharing a bedroom naturally encourages bonding and communication.
When kids share a room, they get to know each other intimately. They understand one another's moods and preferences, and have time to share on a deep level. "Bedtime is a wonderful opportunity for siblings to talk," notes Gilboa. "They won't do this every night, but every once in a while the barriers go down, and they get some really excellent opportunities to help each other or get the perspective of a non-parent who still knows them well." Young children usually don't like sleeping alone. Sharing a room with a sibling can be very comforting.
As children approach the teenage years, they often long for privacy. Siblings who've enjoyed sharing a room for years may suddenly complain over their bedroom arrangement. Gilboa suggests older children earn the right to more privacy through increased responsibility and maturity. Once teens have their own rooms, encourage them to continue to build close relationships with their siblings. No squirreling away in their rooms for hours on end. "It's often completely incomprehensible to a teen that siblings will eventually all grow up to be adults and that strong relationships will matter," says Gilboa. It's up to parents to help children continue to nurture sibling bonds.
Younger children can get by with less privacy, but they do need their own space. Give each child a bookcase, box or private space for their personal belongings. Teach both children to respect the other one's privacy. Whether children share a room or not, they should learn to ask permission before borrowing and treat personal items with respect and care.
Some kids love sharing a room; other kids hate it. These preferences depend on many factors, including age, sex and personality, notes Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D., a child psychologist and associate clinical professor of psychology at UCLA. Kids of widely varying ages may have trouble sharing space because of differences in schedules, activities and personalities. A toddler who needs 12 hours of sleep per night, for example, probably won't fare well with a teenager who doesn't go to bed before midnight. "Sharing a bedroom can be a valuable learning experience," says Reznick, "but if you've got a spare room, let the kids offer their input when making the decision."