Get the tips you need to successfully have your kids share rooms. You can have your kids share a bedroom and still sleep well!
Room sharing can be quite nerve-wracking! This is especially true for any parent who has a high value on sleep. We believe sleep is super important for the development and growth of our children.
Room sharing has the potential to disrupt good sleep, and that makes it scary.
Naturally, whenever parents are about to embark on room sharing, they want to know the good tips! What can you do to make this as successful as possible?!? Here are 9 tips to follow.
My first tip is to have the right children share. This is assuming you have some sort of choice.
When we first started room sharing at our house (summer of 2012), we had Kaitlyn and McKenna share. This made sense because they were both girls and our oldest is a boy.
Here is the problem. 3 year old McKenna was not a compatible person for sharing at the time.
Things started off fine, but long term they did not go so well. At the time, McKenna spent 20-30 minutes at night singing herself to sleep. No problem when you are alone, but a problem when your sister is two feet away from you.
She also is a party girl. Slumber party every night!
There were other problems. McKenna needs more sleep than Kaitlyn, but naturally, she would wake in the morning when Kaitlyn woke up, which led to grumpy McKenna.
With Kaitlyn starting kindergarten soon, I didn’t want her tired every morning.
One morning, she said to me, “Mommy, I am so tired! I just want to sleep but McKenna won’t let me.”
McKenna obviously was not ready to share a room with someone. We moved Kaitlyn in with Brayden. It was a non-issue then!
If you have a choice in the matter, make these considerations–these are in order of importance for me:
- I would recommend you choose two children who are on similar schedules. Brayden and Kaitlyn were both in elementary school, so they both needed to be up at the same time. McKenna could sleep in some in the mornings (and did–she slept 1-1.5 hours later than they did). Bedtime is not critical because you can stagger bedtime, but morning wake-up time is harder to have different. Now, if you have no choice, you can align morning wake up times to match and just make bedtime earlier for one child if she needs more sleep.
- Choose your two best listeners. Which two children are better at obeying? This makes all the difference in room sharing. Brayden and Kaitlyn were great at following the rules, so they made easy room sharers.
- Choose children who won’t play with each other as much. Many people will do the oldest and third share a room or second and fourth. Children who are right by each other in birth order are often good playmates. This can make for “party time” instead of sleep time. Obviously my oldest two do just fine sharing. That is why I list it below the “best listeners” part.
- Consider gender. This is last on my list, though initially I had it first. At some point–at some age–gender will move up the list of importance. Right now, it is low for us. Even when children get old enough to want to be modest when changing clothes and need privacy, clothes can be changed in the closet or in the bathroom. Opposite-sex siblings can definitely share if needed, though by the time they are teenagers, they will want their own rooms if not sooner.
I will add that the day did come when Kaitlyn and McKenna successfully shared a room. Kaitlyn and Brayden shared for about 3 years before Brayden requested he have his own bedroom.
McKenna was 3 years older and able to successfully share with Kaitlyn and follow the boundaries required to share a room.
Prepare them Mentally
I have found such great power in preparing children before big changes occur.
When I want them to be out of diapers, we make a date on the calendar and count down to it.
When I want them to share a room, I let them know ahead of time so they can think about it and we can talk about it. Talk about what that will mean, what rules will be, and what expectations will be.
Some children will need that time to prepare themselves for change. This gives them time to think what that will mean and ask the questions they need. It can also help them be really excited about it.
Prepare the Room
As we approached sharing a room, I prepared it to be a shared room. I wanted both people to feel like it was a shared space and not that it was a space that belonged to one or the other.
I changed photos to reflect both people. I changed decorations that had one child’s name to be for both. I moved clothes and toys around. We somtimes painted the room.
We made sure there was enough storage so they could have their stuff in the room.
Sharing a room can be a big transition and making the room a reflection of both people sharing can help increase the excitement.
Seeing these things helped get everyone excited.
Create an Optimal Sleep Environment
A good sleep environment is important no matter if you share or not. A tricky thing with sharing is creating the optimal environment for two different people.
And anyone who is married knows that well!
When my girls shared, I had one who liked her room warm and one who liked it cold. I had one who was fine with the sun in the morning and one who needed black-out curtains.
So figure out how to work the environment for both people. One might need some extra blankets on the bed, and one might need fewer blankets to help reach the best temperature for both.
While one might be fine with some sun, if one needs blackout curtains, that will probably work for both roommates.
Have some white noise! A white noise machine is so great for sharing. Then you don’t hear every little noise the other person in the room makes.
This is really great for nighttime sleep. It helps block the noise of the other when they night snore, cry, or talk in their sleep. It will help muffle if one gets up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night time.
If you stagger bedtime, a sound machine will help so the sleeping child won’t wake up when the other one comes in.
Another consideration is what type of bed set-up to do. I highly recommend bunk beds. So highly. That or a loft bed.
When the girls initially shared, they were on a twin bed with a trundle. So each morning we were taking everything but sheets off of one bed and stacking them on the other bed and putting the trundle away. I didn’t love that. Or like it.
Plus I think it made it easy for McKenna to party. She was able to look over at her sister right there and want to play.
It can be hard for toddlers to want to sleep when one of their favorite friends is right there.
With Brayden and Kaitlyn, we did bunk beds. Yes! That is the way to go.
Bunk beds make it harder to see and hear each other. There are downsides–obviously if you have a younger child on top, that can be concerning for falling. It can also be annoying if you have a potty-training child on a top bunk and there is an accident. So bunk beds aren’t necessarily a perfect situation, but for us, it was ideal.
A nice thing about our bunk bed were that each bed had bookshelves in the bed, so they had a part of the room that was their own space. They had personal space to store some items that were their very own.
If you do not have bunk beds, there are still things you can do. If you have a baby or infant sharing a room, they will need to sleep in a crib and a bunk bed will not be an option. You can put up a screen between the beds so they cannot see each other to part. You could even hang a sheet from the ceiling temporarily.
Set up your bedtime routines to work for both of the kids in the room. You might be able to do a lot together. You might need to keep them pretty separate.
Typically kids of different ages have different sleep schedules. That will mean they have different bedtimes. Put one to bed earlier than the other one (typically the younger child will go to bed before the older child). Give the younger one time to fall asleep before sending the older kid in.
If your room-sharing children still take naps, do not have children take naps in a shared room. Set the older child up in an extra space in the house for nap time. That could be your bedroom or a guest room. If you have a playroom, you could set the baby up in a bassinet or pack and play for naptime.
Daytime sleep does not have to be in the child’s bedroom.
If your child is old enough they are having rest time instead of nap time, you can do that on the couch in the family room or even on a blanket in a room somewhere.
Have a short list of rules that cover what is expected at bed time. Here are some rules we have:
- Never wake a sleeping sibling (morning or night)
- Stay in bed (until the designated time)
- Use your whisper voice
And we later had to make rules like “no stealing Kaitlyn’s blanket.”
Keep the rules simple so they are easy to remember.
Along with your rules, you need Consequences. For us, if McKenna didn’t obey the rules, she had to sleep in a different room that night. This was devastating to her. And eventually we just moved Kaitlyn out all together. Think of a consequence for your children that will be meaningful to them.
This might be a loss of a privilege, loss of screen time…whatever works for your child.
You can also conversely try a positive focus and do a sticker chart that they get to fill in each time they follow the rules.
Many people have a “no talking after lights out” type of rule. Some find it works well to have the children go to bed 10-30 minutes before they want the child actually going to sleep.
During this time, the children can read and talk quietly, Then they turn lights out and no more talking. Part of the fun of sharing a room is some bonding time through conversation and this is a great way to get the best of both worlds.
Make the Change When Sleep Can Be Lost
Don’t make the change in the middle of a school week or work week. Don’t make the change right before your family vacation when you want everyone to start out well-rested.
We made the change in the summer.
You could do a weekend if you were sure things would be relatively smooth. You need to be able to handle the potential issues that arise only focusing on those issues, not stressing out about having to get up for work the next morning or worrying about how this will affect her obedience at great-aunt Martha’s house next week.
If you find bedtime to be an issue, try staggering bedtimes. Put the child down first who falls asleep the fastest. Then put the other child down. Just be sure the one down first is not a super light sleeper. Brinley is a super light sleeper–just opening her door wakes her up instantly. So when we are vacationing, we can’t put her down first. We put McKenna down first since she is a very heavy sleeper. You can yell her name and get not even a stir from her.
Do you have tips? And for reader tips given in the past, see this post.
This post originally appeared on this blog in September 2013