In previous posts, we have discussed childhood bedtimes: the importance of a regular bedtime and the physical and emotional effects of not having a set bedtime. We have also discussed some ways to achieve a regular bedtime and a sufficient amount of sleep for your children. However, a new problem can arise when siblings share a bedroom.
Setting a Regular Bedtime
The primary concern is how to have a regular, set bedtime when your children share a bedtime and are different ages with different sleep habits and requirements. It is not going to work if you try to force your older child to go to bed the same time as your younger child. To do so will only create resentment in your older child. Moreover, if they have the same bedtime, they will be tempted to play and talk, instead of sleep.
The solution is different bedtimes. Your younger child can be put to bed first. This gives your older child some special pre-bed activity time reading or doing some other quiet activity. Then, when your younger child is asleep, it is bedtime for your older child.
You may discover that bedtime is the easiest problem to address when siblings share a room. Some other areas, which need addressing, are the need for personal space, and privacy.
Your children may accept the idea of sharing space, but they probably have some toys and other items they want to keep as their own. The best way to deal with this is to provide a special place for your children to keep their own possessions. If you are able to do so, provide separate night stands, dressers and closet areas. If this is not possible, separate the drawers in the dresser and other furniture so each child has their own. It is also a good idea to make children ask permission to use each other’s toys and other items.
If the difference in age means that your younger child cannot understand the rules, provide a place for your older child’s possessions the younger child cannot reach. One mother provided a locking trunk with a key for her older child’s Legos. It also works to have two different toy boxes. You can also designate certain toys for sharing.
Sometimes space is at such a premium that siblings of the opposite sex must share a room. This can become a problem as they get older. It is best to have children of the opposite sex have their own room by six years old, but not every family can do so. Again, setting up consistent boundaries is imperative. Children can change at different times; in a different area, such as the bathroom or in the parent’s room; or in a curtained area or walk-in closet.
Conflicts and Arguments
Again, the key is being proactive. Set up rules and explain the consequences if your children break them. Also, make sure that your children understand that you, as a parent, have the last word when conflicts and argument arise.
When your children are informed they will now share a room, you can make the transition easier by how your handle it. Emphasize that the room belongs to both of them. You may wish to have them help with re-decorating the room – choosing paint color and theme, new bedspreads – and organizing the space.
Tips and Hits
• If you have enough space in your home, consider having the bedroom only for sleeping, with a play area elsewhere in the home.
• If having your older child’s belongings safe is really a problem, help your older child pack away breakables until your baby or toddler is old enough to understand boundaries.