Growing up with five siblings, I never knew what it was like to not share a bedroom. So, when my second-born son was ready to sleep in a different room from my husband and I at 4-and-a-half-months-old, we decided to move him in with his 22-month-old brother — and never looked back. Sure, they've had their share of challenges: stealing toys and blankets, waking each other up occasionally, climbing on the window. But the sweet moments of morning cuddles, talking and singing to each other before they fall asleep, and playing together when they wake up just can't be beat! If you want your children to develop a closer bond, if you don't have a lot of space in your house, or if you are just wondering how to transition siblings to the same bedroom, then keep reading! POPSUGAR interviewed a psychiatrist and a licensed marriage and family therapist for tips on making this move as easy as possible.
How Do I Tell My Kids They'll Be Sharing a Room?
The best thing you can do is be honest. (This means no surprising kids after school with their stuff already moved to one room.) Start by giving your kids plenty of advanced warning. "Depending on the age and personality of your children, they may need more warning time before any changes in sleeping arrangement," Amber Trueblood, licensed marriage and family therapist and mother to four boys, told POPSUGAR. "Explain your reasoning and link it to benefits both for the family and your child. When telling siblings they'll be sharing a room, I'd recommend allowing each child to feel a sense of independence or control by allowing them to decide on a creative new layout for the room, posters for the walls, painting a chalk wall, or decorating with fun fairy lights."
Although my kids were just babies, we were very open with our almost 2-year-old about his little brother moving in and made sure to involve him on the day we set up the crib by asking questions like, "Which wall do you want your bed on?"
It can also help to have your kids make a list of all the positive things that come with sharing a room, said Leela R. Magavi, MD, psychiatrist and regional medical director for Community Psychiatry. "When children feel upset about sharing their room, it is helpful for them to refer back to this list and read it out loud," Dr. Magavi told POPSUGAR. "Parents should allow children to openly express their emotions about this change and to ask questions about it."
How Do I Best Set Up a Shared Room?
Try to make privacy a priority as much as you can in this shared space. Dr. Magavi recommends purchasing a white noise machine, which can help your kids feel like they have some privacy, or a canopy or bed tent to help separate spaces. She also suggested separating the room with a curtain or large bookshelf, if you can.
No matter what décor or storage options you go with, be sure to include your children in the decisions. Trueblood emphasized the importance of letting kids propose their own ideas for setting up the space, as it's a great way to foster independence and give them a sense of control. "Making sure the space is safe, conducive to sleep, and the décor reflects each child's interests is a great way to set up a fun and well-functioning shared bedroom," she said.
Since my kids are still little (2 and 3-and-a-half now), their room is designed with safety as the number one priority. But they are already asking for a "ladder bed," so we've been looking into getting bunk beds and possibly canopies when they are older. Additionally, they each got to pick out their own comforter (superheroes and Toy Story), and some pictures to hang on the wall to personalize it for them.
How Long Will It Take For My Kids to Adjust to Sharing a Room?
Depending on the children, their personalities, their ages, and their situation, the time it will take them to adjust will vary, according to our experts. "It could take weeks to months for some children to adjust to this change," Dr. Magavi said. "Adolescents and introverts tend to have more difficulty with such a transition."
Luckily, most children adapt to change quicker than adults, according to Trueblood. "Like any change, it's great to remind children (and ourselves) that even 'good' changes are rarely 100 percent perfect," Trueblood said. "When you move to a wonderful new house, you may miss your old neighbors, when you marry your dream partner, you may have an annoying sister-in-law, and when you get that coveted promotion, you might find yourself traveling more. Defining 'adjustment' is an important part of determining a successful move."
Should I Wait Until My Kids Are a Certain Age to Have Them Share a Room?
Children who sleep throughout the night and are more extroverted seem to fare better with sharing a room, according to Dr. Magavi. But really, age isn't the most important determinant — it depends on how well your kids get along. "Other than teens, who may appreciate more privacy, age is a less important factor than whether the siblings get along well with one another," said Trueblood. "Setting up general guidelines for respecting your new roommate's space, property, and privacy is a great starting place. Kids with different bedtimes or school schedules might have a trickier time sharing a bedroom."
How Can I Make the Transition to a Shared Room Successful?
"I advise families to construct ground rules for the individuals sharing the room," said Dr. Magavi. "Children can help create these ground rules as well, so they feel involved in the process. If siblings follow all the rules, they can achieve points and rewards. This positive reinforcement could maintain good behavior." And on top of all: Keep a positive attitude, even if you're nervous!
When my family moved to a bigger house, we decided to keep our kids in the same room. They love it! If you are patient, open, and encourage your children to be involved in the sharing-a-bedroom situation, they may discover how much they love it too.