For children, sharing a room with a sibling can be a hugely enjoyable experience; shared secrets, giggles and midnight feasts, but for some who may not get along so well, tensions can run high and tempers can be short in a confined space. This has further complications when siblings have a larger age gap; bedtime and sleep can be disrupted, leading to tiredness and the inevitable, and undesirable grumpy side effects that come with that. Privacy also becomes all the more important to children as they age, and they may resent having to share their space with a younger sibling.
So what age should siblings stop sharing a bedroom?
What the experts say:
There is no UK law in place defining the age that siblings should stop sharing a bedroom, even if they are the opposite sex. For those who are homeowners or renting privately, the present guidelines are that once a child reaches the age of 10-years-old, they should not room share with a sibling of the opposite sex.
However, according to child and family therapist Emily Kircher-Morris, developmental changes, not just age, provide a better indicator around when it may be time to look at separating siblings: “There isn’t a specific age cut-off that requires that opposite-sex children sleep in separate rooms. Parents should monitor where their children are developmentally and make decisions from there. But, by the time children reach puberty, it will be much more difficult for them to feel comfortable sharing a room and the need for privacy and space should be respected as much as possible.”
As helpful as the above guidelines are, each family situation is different and for whatever reason your household may not be able to accommodate separate rooms for siblings, including opposite sex siblings. In such situations the advice of child psychologist Susan Bartell is useful; “Ideally, children would move out of shared rooms with a sibling of the opposite sex by age six, but not every family has that option. In that case, set up some boundaries, have them change in the bathroom, or be flexible with your own room as another place to change”.
If your children must share their bedroom space, try to create other areas in the house where they can have their own personal space and privacy. Puberty can be a challenging time for both children and parents, but if you are able to define some clear boundaries between siblings who room share during these turbulent years, then it may just be a happier experience for everyone.
Here are some tips on how you could encourage boundaries and create privacy for siblings who share a bedroom from Nathalie Davis, the senior kids bed buyer at kids bed specialist, Cuckooland:
I regularly have many conversations with potential customers around children’s sleeping schedules, patterns, habits and issues that arise at bedtime. A dilemma that is often discussed, is around children sharing a bedroom and how to make this as stress and problem-free as possible. Anyone who has shared a bedroom with a sibling or survived the slightly more colourful experience of a roommate at university knows that occupying the same space with another person naturally comes with its many challenges. These points will look into some of the problems and questions that parents face, offer some solutions to these and advice around the best ways to go about it.
- Stay Organised & Tidy
We all know that most children aren’t naturally tidy, most kid’s bedrooms are littered with a whole variety of objects, some easier to identify than others! Articles of clothing (your guess is as good as mine as to whether they are clean, dirty or somewhere in-between) and soggy towels discounted to the corner of the room. However, if you can encourage them to keep their bedroom tidy, they may just get along a little better! Perhaps they could dedicate a time each week to have a clean-up, they could even come up with a schedule to share the jobs and get working together for the same benefit.
- Sometimes Less is More
We’re all guilty of accumulating way more stuff than we need! When you’re sharing a bedroom it’s best to try not to fill it to the brim with useless stuff, consider space saving ideas such as having a laptop rather than a desktop computer and perhaps try to share certain items such as books. Make use of shelves so you utilise wall space rather than floor space. Try a corkboard for important certificates and documents (and for favourite achievements why not frame them and hang them up?) and bin the rest (or put them in a box in the attic if you’re a hoarder or can’t bear to part with them).
- Consider the Furniture
There’s some brilliant kids’ bedroom furniture on the market today, with loads of storage solutions that will make room sharing more appealing. You could consider using screens to create separate areas and increase privacy and of course always choose beds, desks and wardrobes that provide plenty of flexible storage options. Some beds, and it’s very much on trend now, are designed with a stronger yet less bulky frame to accommodate very smart storage compartments – it’s quite incredible how much you can stash away and how much floor space you can free up with some clever and adaptable kids beds.
- Noise Cancelling Headphones
An essential… and not just for the kids! Help to prevent endless arguments over music battles by treating the kids to some noise cancelling headphones, this way they can listen to their favourite music or watch the latest episode on Netflix without bothering each other.
Hopefully with a few respectful boundaries in place, you will be well on your way to creating an enjoyable shared space that your developing children will feel comfortable in as they grow older with each other.