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Siblings Sharing a Room

Should 4-Year-Olds Be Allowed to Share a Room?

Here's a post from our partners at BabyCenter! Every week, we bring you the best parenting and lifestyle stories from the experts at BabyCenter, including this post from Stacie Lewis about kids sharing a room.

My son is 15 months old. My daughter 3-and-a-half. No one would accuse them of uncontrollable sexual urges. But, after my post yesterday about the unexpected joys of them sharing a bedroom, I read comments on how brothers and sisters are kept apart, specifically for this reason. Even young children like mine.

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  • Jeanine wrote in: ". . . where I live siblings can't share a room if they are different genders. So if #2 is a girl I'll have to rethink what to do."
  • Katie Kimes: "I live in Cleveland, Ohio and CPS can get involved in room sharing of opposite sex kids if the oldest is over 5. Its a form of child neglect here."
  • And, this tweet I received from @sarahmanynames: "This is true for foster children in the US, even if they are siblings"

This really shocked me, especially the last one. But, I found examples, such as this policy in Arkansas, in regards to adopting and fostering children: "Children of opposite sexes will have their own separate bedrooms if either child is 4 years old or older, except for a mother in foster care with her child(ren)." And, countless other examples of people questioning the legality of children sharing rooms. (I couldn't find any law against it.)

Are we really so paranoid now that we don't trust 4-year-olds of the opposite sex?

The situation in which a child must be fostered is already a traumatic one. Should we separate siblings on top of that? Make them feel even more alone? I would question the merits of such a policy, especially as housing two or more siblings together is already a challenge. Under this policy, it must be the case that sometimes appropriate housing cannot be found, and that siblings are separated into different foster families because the requirement cannot be met.


Four-year-olds are one thing, perhaps, but teenagers are another. What will I do when my children hit puberty?

In my research for this post, I came across an old Dear Abby column. A mother wrote in to her about her two teenaged children, of the opposite sex, who share a room: "Many evenings, my husband and I have stood in the hallway and heard the children talking about their friends, teachers, relatives, even us; sharing ideas and discussing problems. When children share a bedroom, they learn to cooperate, share, and compromise."

Abby responded: "It's obvious that you are ignoring (or denying) the power of natural and very strong sexual urges in that period in the life of a normal teen-age boy and girl. To subject them to the nightly stress of such close private physical proximity is not only unfair to them, but also presents a greater risk of subjecting them to a potentially traumatic and incestuous experience."

This column would not be so out of place today. What a dark fear we have of our own children, if we subject them to the kind of paranoia that paints them as sexual predators in their own bedrooms. It says far more about us, the adults, than them.

Would you worry about your 4-year-old sharing a room? Your teenager?

More great reads from BabyCenter:
Making the transition to three kids
13 freaky challenges that make kids squeal
4 tips for a healthy nursery
Mom donates 86.8 gallons of breastmilk
Why kids get hit by cars

Source: Annie Schlechter for Incorporated
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