Sharing bedrooms is a reality for many local families with young children, and experts are saying that bunking up with a sibling can even benefit children socially and emotionally. Malia Jacobson, ParentMap editor and author of the book Ready, Set, Sleep, shares how to make a shared bedroom work.

Malia, what are some reasons kids share bedrooms?

Well, the idea of each child having his or her own bedroom is a fairly recent phenomenon in history. Around the world it s really the norm for people to share habitats and space.
Most of the families we spoke to for the article have kids in shared bedrooms because of space constraints. They just don t have enough bedrooms for each child to have their own.
This is also linked to the slow economy and real estate market: families are staying put in smaller homes as their family grows, or postponing their remodeling plans that might have enabled them to add more bedrooms.

Can kids really benefit from sharing bedrooms?

Absolutely! Shared bedrooms can promote empathy, social understanding, and close sibling bonds.

This was also echoed by experts and parents interviewed for the article. Though they initially put kids in a shared room out of necessity, they were thrilled at the positive impact on their children s sibling relationship and the closeness fostered by sharing space.
Kids also learn to compromise and resolve conflict. After a fight with their sibling, kids can t retreat to their own bedrooms and slam the door shut. They have to learn to work out their differences and move forward.

You specialize in writing about children s sleep topics. So can a shared bedroom help children sleep?

Yes, it can the caveat is that there may be an initial adjustment period.

For some kids, sleeping near a sibling can take some getting used to, especially if one sibling is an infant who still wakes at night. But it can definitely be done. And in most cases, the older sibling quickly learns to sleep right through the younger child s awakenings.
For parents, having young kids in a shared bedroom actually makes bedtime easier, because so many aspects of the bedtime routine can be combined. You re not carrying out two or three separate bedtime routines in different bedrooms around the house.
And some anxious children are very comforted by the presence of a sibling in the bedroom, and they ll actually sleep better knowing a loved one is in the room.

How can local families make shared bedrooms work at home?

There are a few steps parents can take to smooth the bumps when transitioning kids to a shared room.

Validate Feelings. Before moving kids to a shared room, invite them to share feelings about the transition. Let children know that the new sleeping arrangement might feel strange at first and bring up lots of feelings for them.
Prepare The Room. Before transitioning moving a sibling into a child s bedroom, physically prepare the bedroom for its new inhabitant. Moving a crib or bed into the room in advance helps the older child get excited about the new arrangement.
Create Sacred Space. Give each child a private space within a shared bedroom, whether it s their own bed, a bookshelf, or a bulletin board. Let each child help decorate their private space, and designate it off-limits to sibs.
Pick Cool-Down Spots. Designate cool-down places in other rooms in the house where kids can take a solo break without their sib.

For more on this and other topics. go to the ParentMap website.

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