By Laura Richards
The topic of bedrooms is a hot one in our house because we have three bedrooms for four kids. So two kids need to share. Siblings sharing a bedroom isn’t always a rosy scenario. Thankfully, my 15- and 4-year-old have an amazingly close bond and share a room by choice. For now, it works.
Sharing bedrooms can be a challenge for many families. So, what if your teen must share with a younger (sometimes much younger) sibling?
Siblings Sharing a Bedroom
When it comes to siblings sharing a bedroom, “teens can be sensitive to issues regarding space and having to share,” says Dr. Jennifer Guttman, a clinical psychologist with practices in New York and Connecticut. It’s helpful to be understanding, while also having a mature conversation about the family’s needs. For example, I know it’s hard to share a room with your sister, but this is the space we have right now. “Reinforce for your teen the importance of being flexible in the situation and being a positive role model for a younger sibling,” adds Guttman.
It’s also important to explain to the younger sibling that teenagers need their space, suggests Dr. Guttman. She recommends parents ask the younger sibling to help out by letting the teen have some alone time in the room during agreed-upon times. Explain to both kids the importance of working together as a family to solve problems (including space issues).
At the same time, it’s extremely important that both siblings feel they have their own space—and parents can take steps to help children feel that way, even if they are, in fact, sharing a bedroom.
“When you’re growing up, especially when you are a teen, it is a wonderful thing to know your bedroom is yours and only yours,” says professional organizer Christina Giaquinto, owner of Christina Giaquinto Organizing. “Being free to decorate it as you want and truly create a space of your own is empowering.”
Tips for Siblings Sharing a Bedroom
Giaquinto shared some tips for siblings sharing a bedroom to be successful:
- Create two areas within the bedroom so each sibling has a space that is entirely their own.
- A shared bedroom shouldn’t have a uniform look. Allow both siblings to bring their personality to the décor in their area. If your 6-year-old loves dinosaurs, allow him to add that to the room. And if your 15-year-old loves the Yankees, let him put up a poster. This allows both children to express themselves creatively.
- Like Dr. Guttman suggests, organize times when each child has the room solo. For example, if your 15-year-old wants the room to do homework, listen to music, or hang out with a friend, organize a schedule from 3:00-5:00 p.m. to be your oldest son’s time in the bedroom.
- Within the shared areas, keep things neat, organized, and labeled. For example, one desk drawer can be for your older child’s homework and school papers, while another drawer is specifically for the younger one’s coloring books and crayons. This again creates an environment that is shared, but still has specific areas designated to each child.
Dr. Guttman stresses the importance of having discussions with kids about family and working together. Those conversations can make living in close quarters easier, while also promoting your children’s long-term relationship. “Siblings know each other longer than anyone else on the planet will know them,” notes Guttman.
It has worked for our family, and I hope it will work for yours, too.
We have implemented Dr. Guttman’s and Christina Giaquinto’s suggestions in our own family for our sons who share a room. My 15-year-old occupies one half of the bedroom with the 4-year-old on the other. Our 4-year-old has lots of stuffed animals that he keeps in his old infant Moses basket so they are contained and organized. My 15-year-old keeps his skateboard collection in a row along one wall. We’ve made it clear to both boys the importance of respecting each other’s things. This is really geared to the 4-year-old who is far more intrigued by his older brother’s cool stuff than the 15-year-old is with preschool toys! With good communication and respect, it can be a doable situation.
When I hear the two of them chatting in bed at night it warms my heart knowing they are forming an indelible brotherly bond.
Laura Richards is a freelance writer in the Boston area.