Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Should Children Share a Bedroom?

By Christina VanGinkel

What happens, when you have kids, as in plural, and a move to a new home means you suddenly have an extra bedroom? Should that room mean someone no longer has to share a bedroom, or should that room be put to some other use? What if you have a spare room, but you find yourself adding a new family member, should that spare room be given up so the new family member has a space of their own? On the other hand, what if someone, such as an older child, moves out and there is suddenly extra space? Should that now empty room be offered to a child that is currently sharing with another sibling?

These are just some examples of how the question on sharing a room could suddenly come up, and questions such as these can be tough to sort out. Often, there is no right or wrong answer that someone can give you, as the answer must come from the adults who run the household, as they are the only ones who know the actual needs and possible uses that such a room could provide.

However, when I was asked recently what my opinion was on kids sharing a bedroom to either free up an existing room, or to keep a room in a new house free for some other use, I had no problem giving my opinion. There are always exceptions to any rule, but for the most part, I see no reason that siblings should not share a room. Kids of the same gender can share a bedroom indefinitely, even if there is a noticeable age gap between them. With siblings that are of the opposite gender, sharing until a few years before they reach puberty is also fine, though once they do, they should be in a room of their own, or with another sibling of their own gender.

Growing up in a large family, I shared a room with my sister for years. When two of our older brothers moved out and we were able to each have our own room, we continued to find ourselves staying in each other's rooms all the time, as we missed the camaraderie that comes with sharing with a sibling something as basic as a bedroom. Not long after moving us each into our own room, our mother moved us back together. She then claimed the room as her own domain, where she then set up her sewing machine and a little table, and chair, where she could go and have a quiet cup of coffee, sew, or just close the door to all of us kids who still lived at home.

No, kids do not always get along, but when they share something like a bedroom, they learn to respect each other's belongings, and they also learn a lot about each other. Boundaries are set, and just as often broken, but a learning process of respect for others and understanding exactly what boundaries are, is something that is learned.

Unless there is some underlying tension from one of the children, such as an illness or a behavior that needs professional help dealing with, kids will benefit from sharing a room much more than they would ever be hurt by it.

The other advantage is what an extra room can mean to a family. If a parent works at home, it could be put to use as office space, or it could be claimed as a private room much like my mother claimed the room in our home. If you have several young children, the room could better be put to use as a toy room or family room of sorts, where toys, television, and video games can be kept, leaving your living room as more of a room for entertaining guests without having to worry about sweeping up a pile of Lego's when guests stop by unannounced.

If you have the opportunity to gain space by having your kids share a room, do not let anyone talk you out of it. Kids have been sharing rooms for eternity, and will continue to do so. For once, let them go with the crowd, and tell them everybody shares, so you just want them to be like everybody else for once!

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