Our home is small for seven people — we have three bedrooms in the house and a little studio bedroom in the garden, which means our kids have to share bedrooms. But even when we lived in a bigger house in London, we still opted to have our kids share rooms, and the kids were keen to share too. I do really believe in the benefits of sharing, but of course as our kids have gotten older and have started craving their independence and alone time, the bedroom sharing has gotten trickier.
Our two eldest boys have always shared a room until last year when, at 16, our eldest asked if he could sleep in the studio. Admittedly, it broke my heart a tiny bit (end of an era!), but obviously we understood his need for more personal space and privacy. Now our number two and number three, Quin (15) and Ivy (13), share a bedroom, and Marlow (9) and Wilkie (5) share a room with bunk beds. This arrangement works okay for now, as Quin and Ivy, despite being different genders, have similar tastes and interests, listen to similar music, and mostly get along well. And the younger ones are happy sleeping in the bunks. In an ideal situation, Quin and Ivy would probably each have their own rooms now, but of course we don’t have the space in our house, and I can also see the benefits of them sharing.
I thought I’d share some thoughts and experiences with you in case you’re also working out sleeping arrangements in your home:
- Like I said above, our two eldest boys have always shared a bedroom. From the time our second son was 6 months old, he slept in a cot in the same room as his big brother, who slept in a little toddler bed next to him. I remember worrying about the eldest waking if the baby cried in the night, but that was never an issue; in fact I think our eldest slept better knowing his brother was in the room with him. Eventually, we had two little toddler beds in the room, and we’d read stories to them at the same time and put them to bed at the same time, and they both slept really well like that. When we moved into a bigger house a few years later, we gave the boys the choice of having their own rooms or sharing, and they both chose to share. We used to read them books and put them to bed around 7pm. We told them they didn’t have to go to sleep straight away, but they had to be quiet in their room. We used to hear them in their room giggling and playing, and usually by 8pm they’d both be asleep. I swear they played better in that hour of ‘secret’ play time than any other time of the day, and I was always really grateful they had that bonding time together; I felt it really made them feel like a little team — boys versus parents.
- Our girls, Ivy and Marlow, also shared a room from the time Marlow was 6 months old. Again, we moved Marlow’s cot into Ivy’s room, and they slept in the same room. This arrangement worked for them; I think it really helped that Ivy has always been a really good and deep sleeper — she would sleep through when Marlow would cry in the night. Since then, we’ve had Wilkie and I have experienced what it’s like to have a very light sleeper. Knowing him, I’m not sure if he would have been able to sleep through a baby’s cries, so it’s a good thing he’s the youngest. :)
- I’ve always felt that when kids share a room, they learn to be a bit more flexible in terms of sleep. Things like travelling become easier because kids are used to sharing a room or a bed, and they’re not as fussy about noise or other disturbances. We definitely found that when we travelled on our gap year, the kids were really flexible about where and how they slept.
- Now, with Ivy and Quin sharing a room, they are learning some important life lessons like compromising and sharing. They take turns making the bed, they take turns vacuuming their room, they discuss which art and decorations should go up, etc. I also think it’s been good for Ivy, who can sometimes be messy, to share a room with Quin who likes things tidy because it’s forced her to be respectful of Quin and to keep things tidier. It’s also been good for Quin to learn to be a bit more tolerant. After all, these lessons of compromise and tolerance are good lessons for a future of co-existing with other humans.
- In my research for the Tweens & Teens course, I did learn from experts that privacy and autonomy over their space becomes really important in adolescence. If your child is really asking for his or her own space, it is important for us to acknowledge their needs and try to accomodate them. We are lucky that Quin and Ivy aren’t too desperate for their own rooms. (I also know that Easton will probably go to university after high school, so this will free up the studio bedroom, and it won’t be long before Quin or Ivy can sleep out there.) I guess, in a big family, these sorts of compromises and privileges in stages become somewhat normalised.
- Marlow and Wilkie being in bunks has worked well because Marlow can decorate her top bunk and her little shelf, so she feels like she has her own space. It’s actually a nice (and somewhat private) space up there for her — we often find her during the daytime reading or playing up in the top bunk. In the evenings, I often find Marlow in Wilkie’s bed, reading him an extra bedtime book, which is really sweet, and of course good for them both to be reading/listening. I also think Wilkie finds comfort knowing he has his sister in the room at night (though, admittedly, he often still ends up in our bed… which is a topic for another day!).
Anyway, these are our experiences, and hopefully it’s helpful to hear what has worked and what hasn’t for our family. Of course, each child is different and everyone’s circumstances are different too, so as with so many topics of parenting I urge you to do what’s best for you and your family. 🖤
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