Not every home has the luxury of having one bedroom per child. That’s why room sharing is common for most kids. Sometimes, parents don’t have problems because the kids like being with each other at least for the moment, but there are times when a shared room becomes a frustration for the kids (and the parents) because of issues like fighting over space and toys.
Also, when kids grow older, they would need personal space for alone time. They could also have issues with sleep schedules and disrupting one another. If the siblings have different personalities and temperaments, sharing might lead to regular conflicts. Plus, they might have arguments over storage and closet space as well as their study or vanity area.
However, sharing a room has a lot of great advantages. It can foster a healthy and emotionally close relationship between the siblings. Siblings would have a lot of bonding time and develop companionship through whispered conversations at bedtime. While they are still young, they would be comforted to know someone is with them, easing those bedtime-related fears. They can also learn how to take responsibility for their own things and being careful of other person’s belongings.
So if you’re expecting a new baby and sleeping arrangements have to change you have to “adopt” nanna or Aunt Annie in your home or whatever your reason is, here are some tips on teaching your children to share and to keep them comfortable with sharing a room with their siblings:
1. Be a good model
Do you want to teach your children to share? Be a model of generosity and fairness. Yes, we are talking about sharing a room here, but you can persuade them to share if you are a sharing person yourself. Model sharing with neighbors and friends and other family members. Do your best to divide your time for each of your kids. The more they see you being fair and sharing they will learn to be more generous and fair with their own siblings.
2. Encourage a sharing atmosphere, but go easy on them
Don’t expect a two-year-old child to accept sharing easily. Observe that when they are playing with their toys, they play alongside others but not exactly with them. They are focused on what they want or need without thinking of what the other child wants or feels. But this attitude can be corrected as they grow older. It’s best to teach kids to share at the age of three to six years. Allot some time to play with them and teach them to take turns with toys. Encourage some group play to show them the value of sharing. The earlier they learn to share their toys, the more willing they can be to share their room, too.
3. Respect ownership
Expect selective sharing even at four to six years of age. It is normal for a child to reserve some precious possessions just for themselves while being generous with other things. Protect those things when the other siblings would try to snatch it and act as a referee. You may say, “This is Ben’s toy, you may play with it once he is ready to share. In the meantime, you can play with this one or this one.” Encourage trading, too. By respecting their rights to their own possessions, they would also learn to respect and not try to get others’, which is an important attitude when sharing a room.
4. Create a personal space for each one of them
When children are still young, they will most likely play around with each other and giggle at night together before bedtime. They have no sense of privacy yet. But when a child grows older, he or she might be bothered (oftentimes a lot) when they can’t have space and time all to themselves. To avoid fights and resentment between your children, consider providing two of everything, like two beds, two drawers, and two nightstands. You may use a divider between their allotted areas or turn pieces of furniture like a chest of drawers or wardrobe to divide the room. Or you can have the room painted with different color schemes or apply differently patterned wallpapers to serve as a visual “territorial mark.”
If space is a problem, consider buying bunk beds, loft beds or beds with drawers. They should each have at least a little space of their own within the shared room. Also, one of the biggest private areas of a child is his own bed. Teach them to ask permission from one another before sitting on each other’s beds to give them control over their own space.
5. Ensure that each child can have privacy
Privacy can become a problem, especially when a child gets older and shares a room with a sibling. A tall divider or a curtained area may provide privacy for changing, but not all households have the space for that. Set up specific boundaries for changing and privacy. Make them change in the bathroom or another private area.
6. Respect your child’s sleep schedule
Children sharing a room doesn’t always have to share a sleep schedule, especially if you are putting babies and toddlers/school children in one room. A baby might need to sleep earlier while your older child is still very alive and kicking, so don’t force him to sleep already, too. Put your baby to bed first, then spend some time with your other child on your room or in the living room so that the sleeping sibling would not be disturbed.
Meanwhile, children of the same age bracket should have the same bedtime. Expect some talking and playing around with each other before actually going to sleep. They may need some reminders to stop goofing off, but it is normal and healthy, too. A good thing to do is to send them to their rooms around 30 to 40 minutes before the time they actually need to be asleep.
7. Be firm and consistent
Stick to a bedtime schedule. Set limits, like no more noise during lights out. Consistency is the key to keeping your children on the bed in the same room.
8. Keep the bedroom a place for sleeping and changing only
School kids can have arguments regarding lights off when one has to pull out an all-nighter when one wants to sleep. If possible, place the study area on another part of the house like the den, alcove or attic, or you can let them use your office space in the home.
9. Avoid conflicts by setting up ground rules
Conflicts might rise up over sharing toys, clothes and other belongings. Set some rules like, “Always ask for permission of the owner before using a specific thing. If the owner is not around, ask mom,” or something like that. As with rules, tell them the consequences if they break them.
10. Talk to your children
If your children got haven’t shared a room before and a situation requires them to share now, it might be difficult. They could be hesitant at first (of course, they have enjoyed having their own room before), but help them understand the need to merge by explaining them your situation. Just be honest with your kids and ask them how they can be both comfortable with their new sleeping arrangement. Your household might get used to calling a room, for instance, Amy’s room, but make an effort to emphasize that the room is both of theirs now.