The Ups and Downs of Siblings Sharing a Room
By Lynne Reeves Griffin, RN, MEd
Some parents have no choice but to have siblings share a room, while others think room-sharing will foster a closer sibling relationship. Is room-sharing conducive to family harmony?
"She won't turn out the light!" "Hey, that's my side of the closet!"
Are you hearing these familiar sibling squabbles from children who share a room in your house?
Some parents have no choice but to have siblings share a room, while others consider room-sharing in an effort to foster a closer sibling relationship. Which is more conducive to family harmony?
Whether your primary motivation is space limitations or your own fond childhood memories, sharing a room with a brother or sister--like anything else in family life--has its ups and downs. Everyone has heard stories of sisters or brothers literally dividing a room in two, yet most siblings get along fairly well when sharing a bedroom. Here are some pros and cons to consider.
The most obvious benefit to putting siblings together is that sharing a bedroom encourages them to learn to negotiate a relationship both can be happy with. How to share or decorate the room teaches your children to co-operate towards a common goal. It may not always be peaceful negotiation, nontheless they are learning to combine forces to accomplish a task. You can play a key role in supervising how this partnership is fostered by creating the ground rules that your children use to make decisions.
Siblings can bring out the best in each other when they see each other's good behavior in action. Does your child who loves reading encourage it in your reluctant reader? Does the creativity in one child draw out the artist in another? The best each of your children has to offer is powerful role modeling for good behavior.
While parents site the goal of building relationships as their primary motivation for siblings sharing a bedroom, children say that the biggest plus is nighttime company. For children who worry at night or don't like to be alone, sharing a room with a brother or sister can calm a myriad of night-time fears.
And finally, some families enjoy the space gained by combining bedrooms. Even children will appreciate the extra space if it's used for a play or family room.
Although role modeling can be a real benefit at times, it can also turn into a double-edged sword. Does one child wake up often at night, creating a domino effect in the other child? Do delay bedtime tactics spur up a competition? ("I want a glass of water." "Can you take me to the bathroom?") The not-so-good bedtime behavior of one can clearly impact the other, making things difficult for you.
Some children can co-exist with each other effortlessly. But for children with opposite temperaments, sharing a room can create more conflict than you can handle. Is one child a noisy night owl? Is the other an early-to-bed, early-to-rise child? Is one child neat while the other is messy? Your children's temperament fit will be important considerations as you make family decisions about room-sharing.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to sharing a room with a brother or sister relates to issues of privacy. Older children care about having time alone as well as space to themselves. Loss of privacy when friends are over can be another source of conflict.
None of the downsides have to change your decision to put your children together. Just remember to factor each negative into a plan for making the room-sharing experience more positive. It can certainly make the bedtime routine easier when young children, especially same sex siblings, share a bedroom, but as your kids get older, the privacy issues can render sharing a bedroom particularly difficult. If your children are older, include them in the discussion about whether to share a room or strike out on their own. They know best whether or not their friendship can stand the test of close quarters. Sometimes a weekend sleepover in each other's rooms may be all either you (or they!) can handle.
Do any of your children share a room? How does it work out for you? Any tips?