Should siblings share a room?
by Paula Statman

QUESTION:  I have two girls (7 and 5).  I’d like them to share a bedroom, but they want their own rooms. Are there advantages to separating them?

For some reason this topic makes parents come out punching.  In one corner, representing the “Separate Them If You Can Afford It!” team are parents who grew up with a tyrannical older sibling who ran the roost or a sloppy sib who never picked up a sock.  The upshot is that they were miserable and welcomed the chance to have their own room when they became teenagers. 

In the other corner, representing the “Little House on the Prairie” team are parents who wax poetic about sibling bonding, gaining important social skills, and having had a brother or sister to protect them from monsters under the bed.

I will referee these opposing teams and share my own recommendations.  I will also try to remain objective and not tell you about the time my sister coated my drawer handles with petroleum jelly.

First, there is no question that pairing siblings in a bedroom gives them a head start on negotiating skills.  If you go this route, you will need to be involved in teaching and monitoring this process, including setting the ground rules for how decisions get made.  When their negotiations are harmonious, your daughters will enjoy the fruits of their combined labor, such as a designing a wall mural, for example.  They will also learn how to respect each other’s belongings, as well as share certain items.

Second, before you decide that sharing a room is the way to go, take time to discuss the following questions with them or your partner:

  1. Will the girls be safe together?  Do fights escalate easily and require adult intervention? 
  2. Is one sibling more dominant? Will this dynamic likely increase if they share a room?
  3. ow competitive are they?  (If there is intense competition they may be better off in separate rooms.)
  4. Do they follow your rules when they are together or do they cause more mischief than you can handle? 
  5. Is one child always blaming the other for misplaced or lost items?  If so, it may be beneficial for that daughter to have her own space to learn to manage her belongings.

If you are satisfied with the answers to the above questions and feel that a shared bedroom would be the best solution, help your daughters’ transition to living together by designing both common and private spaces in their room.  That will give them the message that their cooperation is expected but their individuality is valued.

In general, two girls close in age are natural roommates.  But at each age and stage, you would be wise to consider their individual needs.  At least on an annual basis discuss how the arrangement is working.  Don’t be afraid to make adjustments or abort the plan, if it becomes unbearable for them or you.  Most importantly, hide the petroleum jelly or give them each a jar. 


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