PARENTS

Is It OK For My Children To Share A Bedroom?

17/10/2014 10:17 | Updated 20 May 2015

Is it ok for my kids to share a bedroom?

Until the arrival of my third child - a sister to two brothers - I hadn't really given much thought to whether my kids each needed a bedroom of their own.

My sons have shared a bedroom since the youngest was born, necessitated by the fact that we rented a two bedroom flat in London at the time.

The notion of moving to a three bedroom property was preposterous; about as far out of our reach as our hope of ever having any disposable income left after forking out for the rent each month.

When we moved out of London our sons continued to share a room. Even though we had enough space for the children to have their own bedrooms by then, it didn't seem to occur to the boys to go their separate ways.

They loved having one another for company (and mischief) at bedtime, and I appreciated the ease of a dedicated 'spare' bedroom for when friends and relatives came to visit.

Then out of the blue one day my eldest son started asking if he could make the spare room into a bedroom of his own. There was no big conflict that led to his desire to escape the tyranny of sharing a bedroom with his little brother. He just wanted a room of his own, decorated to his taste, without having to share.

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​Given that he'd been sharing everything from his bedroom to his toys since before he was two years old, it seemed a pretty reasonable request.

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Except it coincided with the arrival of our third child, who happened to be a girl, thus scuppering his plan to take up occupancy of the spare bedroom.

Suddenly the space that he had set his sights on was needed for the baby. And yes, I'll admit that I was reluctant to spell that out for fear that it might give him a reason to resent his little sister.

But gradually he took up squatter's rights, slinking off to sleep in the spare bed most nights and leaving carefully-selected possessions strategically located in there as if to mark out the territory as his own, lest anyone else lay claim to it.

Then his younger brother, clearly a bit disgruntled at suddenly finding himself the sole occupant of a room big enough for two, suddenly started begging to share his room with the baby. Which is how we ended up with our somewhat unconventional sleeping arrangements of the eldest child in a room of his own, while our youngest son currently shares with his baby sister.

I'm under no illusion that this arrangement will last for very long - I suspect the novelty of sharing a bedroom with your little sister might wear off once she's no longer confined to a cot, and when that day comes my sons might have no choice but to bunk up together again.

Either that, or we'll have to kiss goodbye to the family room/office. As a home-based freelance writer, that's not a prospect that I look forward to.

But this seems to be a prevalent issue in many modern family homes. And while I don't relish the prospect of losing a dedicated space in which to work, I realise that I'm fortunate to have that option if push - quite literally - comes to shove.

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Yet my friend Victoria, a mother of two, thinks it's rash to prioritise bedrooms over other kinds of family space.

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She says she'll actively encourage her daughters to continue sharing a bedroom for as long as possible, regardless of how many rooms may be available.

"I intend the girls to share until they're teenagers, ideally," she says. "There's more to rooms than using them for sleeping in! What about guests and work, or other interests like a library or a sewing room?"

"Much of life is about sharing space," agrees Ernie, father of two grown-up children. "So what better place to learn than at home?"

Of course, same-sex siblings sharing a bedroom is not the same as brothers and sisters sharing their space, and a significant age gap between siblings can complicate things further.

While sisters sharing a room or brothers bunking up together is an arrangement that can theoretically work indefinitely - not to mention strengthen the sibling bond and create endless opportunity for fun and laughter after lights-out, siblings of the opposite sex sharing a bedroom takes on an altogether different hue, and indeed seems frowned upon after children reach a certain age.

That's a scenario that mum of two Liz is familiar with. Her seven-year-old son and three-year-old daughter currently share a bedroom, and while Liz sees no feasible way of changing that for the foreseeable future, she's not convinced that it's as much of a problem as others have suggested.

"It's not the ideal situation at all, but presently it's ok because the children aren't yet old enough to have issues like needing personal space," Liz explains.

"But I do sometimes worry about what will happen over the next four years or so. Then again, these are first world problems.

"It's a modern social norm that children have separate bedrooms, as if that's their right, whereas 40 plus years ago and in less fortunate countries today siblings and whole families share bedrooms without obvious dire consequences."

It's a sobering thought, and one that makes me question my readiness to consider sacrificing my work space in the future purely so that my kids can each have a bedroom to call their own.

In our house, the jury is still out as to whether giving children a bedroom of their own is a necessity or a luxury. Still, as my eldest son has so expertly demonstrated, children have a creative knack for occupying the space they need when they need it. So I suspect that my days of writing in the relative peace and quiet of a dedicated office space - most definitely a luxury - are well and truly numbered.

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