Sharing a bedroom - how to help your children get along

Do your kids share a bedroom? Child psychologist Dr Martha Erickson offers her tips for helping them get the best out of the situation - as well as giving them the space they need.

When big families fill up small homes, children frequently have to share a bedroom. It can be a great opportunity for closeness between siblings, but you need to strike the right balance between encouraging them to share their space and giving them some rights over their own property.

One Supernanny reader asked us this question

Is it OK for my children to share a bedroom?

"We are considering moving in with my in-laws for a year to save some money. They have a three-bedroom house which means that my kids (a two-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl) would have to share a room – and possibly a bed. Is there any reason why either sharing a room or sharing a bed would be detrimental?"

Dr Erickson says…

At that young age, there is nothing inherently wrong with a brother and sister sharing a room. In fact, it’s a luxury that we even ask the question – the idea of a separate room for each child in the family is unheard of in many parts of the world.

Although there will not necessarily be any harm in having the children share a room, it makes sense to think about how you can make this new, temporary living arrangement work smoothly for you and your children. I’d suggest you start by asking yourself some questions.
First, how do the two children currently get along? Is their relationship relatively harmonious, or do they get into frequent conflicts? Since they apparently are used to having their own space in your current home, are they likely to squabble over sharing a room and a bed?

You also might want to think about their sleeping patterns. Will the nighttime twists and turns of a lively toddler disrupt your pre-schooler’s sleep? Or will the children’s different bedtime and morning schedules and routines interfere with each other?

If the answers to those questions lead you to anticipate problems, you might take some precautionary steps. For example, if you think sharing a bed will be difficult, consider purchasing an inexpensive inflatable bed or roll-away for one of the children.

And if you envision hassles over space and objects in the shared room, arrange the room so each child has his or her own area, maybe with a small throw rug marking each child’s special play space.

You might use sturdy laundry baskets for storing each child’s toys and clothes, allowing your children to choose baskets in a favourite color. These make it easy for them to find their own things in the morning and to help put toys away at the end of the day.

Who knows, after a year of living with your in-laws, your children may become so accustomed to sharing a room that they have trouble sleeping alone when you move into a place of your own!    

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