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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
MizBooks84 MizBooks84 4 years
God forbid children should share something.  Growing up there were three of us, two girls and one boy.  We shared a room for most of our childhood.  I was ten or eleven by the time we were financially sound enough to rent a three bedroom home.  We even shared the same king size bed.  There was nothing remotely "sexual" about it.  We had someone there every night to tell secrets to, to get in trouble with for not going to sleep (we liked to giggle and play), and who kept the monsters at bay after watching Stephen Kings' IT on ABC.
imhistory imhistory 4 years
When I first read this story, I thought....well, teens shouldn't share a room.  Then, I had to laugh.  My mom died when I was 13 and my 3 year old brother slept in my room because he was afraid.  No one thought a thing about it.  He continued to sleep in the other twin bed in my room until I went to college at 18.  It was always "my" room and he just came in to sleep at night.   Neither of us or my dad thought anything about it at all. Of course, we weren't two teenagers and I would still think that wouldn't be the best situation.
Sara3434039 Sara3434039 4 years
I grew up in foster care...I was separated from my brothers and placed into different homes simply because some homes take in only girls and some take in only boys. We lived apart all through our childhood because of this. I would not have minded at all sharing a room with my brothers if it meant I could still live with them. They were infants and I was 11....this should be criminal.
Andrea3433558 Andrea3433558 4 years
Oh for the love of reason!  Does ANYONE EVER LOOK AT OTHER CULTURES???? Generations living together. Enjoying each other. Sleeping in various rooms...gasp...with mixed genders. What about our Native American culture that shared on living arrangement and slept on mats. This can leave one only to surmise that the children heard their parents in the throes of marital 'bliss'. We have adopted internationally 3x. The requirements are INSANE. Did we jump through the hoops? Yes. Just like circus dogs as it is what it is and countries can make it as hard as they want to release their orphans to Americans. We have adopted from Russia, China, & Guatemala. The Chinese requirements were the worst. However, NONE of them had this rule about mixed gender sleeping arrangement - except China who required the child to have their own bedroom. (laws may have changed). However, a "bedroom" can be all sorts of things now, can't it? I wanted my son home. We rearranged the house for a bit so we met compliance. After awhile, he was bunking up with his brothers who he adored.If one thinks adopting internationally is difficult, try fostering. It's a load of "ridiculous". (yes. I'm a smidge bitter ;) We live in a state where....since we already have 5 kids (we have the 3 adoptions in addition to 2 'homemade' kiddos) we cannot foster. Apparently, we are not capable of handling additional children even though we have the resources. Sure, we'd have to (eyeroll) rearrange our home again but we'd be first in line to foster - if the state would allow us too.   Ultimately, it is a matter of forgetting what worked in times past. Grandparents mentoring the younger ones. Aunts/Uncles being there on the spur of the moment when Mom had to run out. Giving children the sense that they are part of something larger than themselves.Who they share a room with (as long as the roomie has no overt, diagnosised struggles...and..ppssttt....discovered genitals (solo) and puberty are NOT diagnosised issues...mercy) is about as important as who stirred the rice at dinner that night.   Andrea
dotdotdotty dotdotdotty 4 years
Sorry...but this is silly. There was a time in our history where entire families lived in one room.  Many cultures still do this.  I saw this all over Southern California when looking for a house to buy.  As the oldest of 4...we shared a room until we left for college.  Privacy was exclusive to the bathroom.  Understand about social services/fosters/etc...but it makes me sad that it is assumed that we cannot trust children. I would make a case that a child alone in a room is far more in risk than one in a room of that tends to be a child predator's dream.
austinmommyof4 austinmommyof4 4 years
I have to say that I think this is crazy.  I have four kids, the oldest and middle son share and my daughter and toddler share...whatever.  When my grandparents grew up all of the kids shared rooms.  This is unbelievable.
Jeannine3426878 Jeannine3426878 4 years
Yes. Growing up I shared a room with my 2 brothers and sister for the longest time (until our two older brothers moved out) Even when we did get our own boy/girl rooms one of us was almost always falling asleep in the other room. Nothing happened and I am not scared by it today.     My two youngest (6yr old and 3 yr old) share a room. Neither of them would sleep well alone. It got to the point where the 3yr old was so scared of her room alone she would hide under blankets and cry herself to sleep every night. Our solution was to have them share so if they wake up they see someone else in the room. They have stopped getting up every night (sometime 2-3 times) They also talk and chat with each while falling asleep. I will put them in separate rooms when they are ready (which I think will be soon with oldest)
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