As a parent, you may have run out of bedrooms to house all your children in separately. Or you may be joining a growing number of parents who have decided sharing a bedroom is a positive value you’d like to teach your children. After all, how do you learn the skill of being able to share unless you are exposed to it?
Sharing A Bedroom
Children as young as three years of age are able to be taught the skills and value of sharing. Unless you actively seek to teach this, it is unlikely to occur by osmosis and chance. I’m sure you’ve come across some adult members of society who are poor sharers.
What Age Can Siblings Share A Bedroom?
Basically you can put siblings to share a room whenever you feel ready to do this and once they are able to self-settle. Ideally around 6 months plus. Sharing a room can help a toddler who feels lonely or who has separation anxiety. It models positive behaviours and teaches good life values. I’m sure many of you reading this will have shared a room with a sibling.
Introducing The Idea of Sharing a Bedroom
I recently did a phone consultation with a mum I’ve helped several times with both of her young children. One of these children is an extremely strong temperament. He dislikes changes in routine and can regress badly. Baby number three is on the way and mum would like her child number one and two to share a bedroom for many reasons.
- It teaches the skill of sharing
- Empathy for another’s needs
- It teaches negotiation skills
- Reduces jealousy
- Reduces loneliness
- Models positive sleep behaviours
- Helps with bedtime
- Help comfort a child who may suffer from nightmares or other bedtime related fears
- Teaching kids how to respect other people’s property
- Conflict Resolution
Child number one is just over 4 years of age and child number two is approaching two years of age. The family is moving house in two weeks and this will be implemented from the start of the home move. So how do you set the scene for this to be the norm?
Tips for Sharing a Bedroom
- Introduce the concept of sharing via bedtime books – I use storybooks to address many issues – examples include – Trace Moroney – The Feelings Series, Sharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson, This Room is Mine by Betty Ren Wright (an oldie and a goodie), Zoe’s Room by Bethany Deeny Murguia.
- Use examples of other children who share a bedroom and if possible show them pictures of what sharing a bedroom looks like.
- Get them to help set up the new bedroom with you so they feel involved.
- Make sure each child has their own personal space within the bedroom.
- Give each child their own lamp and bedside table
- Separate bedtimes for different age groups, this enables the younger child to get to sleep before the older child goes to bed. This reduces disruptions of talking and laughing. Separate out bedtimes by 30-60 minutes depending on the age of the children.
- Allow the older sibling to have several periods of alone time in the bedroom every day
- Trying to put them both down at the same time could mean that neither of them sleep! Do a bit of experimenting; you may find it easier to put the fussier one down first or the other way around.
- Expect disruptions and regressions as they both adjust to the new room sharing. When you change things they always get worse and escalate before they get better. It takes 7-10 days to change a routine.
- Introduce some simple house and sharing bedroom rules e.g. no talking after the lights go out, if one of them is asleep in the morning do not wake them, leave the room quietly and let them sleep a little longer.
- Start with bedtime first then day naps to follow.
- Remember the foods high in tryptophan and give a snack before bed eg cheese and crackers to promote getting to sleep.
- Keep the bedroom as a bedroom and a place for sleep and not a toy room. If possible have a separate place for toys or put them away before bedtime.
- Try and do bathtime together to encourage the concept of sharing.
- Use labelled praise for positive sharing behaviours.
- Stick to a positive bedtime routine that works for both children. Remember that routines create security.
- Sharing takes work and patience and you may need to be a referee at times. However, remember the referee needs to above all, be fair and reasonable to both children.