Four years ago long after she was supposed to be asleep in her own room I’d find my toddler snuggled outside of her sister’s bedroom door. She didn’t mind the cold tile floor. She just wanted to be close to her big sister.
The feeling was mutual. After they woke up from nap time my preschooler got cozy in her baby sister’s bed where they read stories to one another.
It didn’t take long for them to ask me if they could sleep in the same room. I loved the bond growing between the two, and we happily set up their new room together, leaving the empty room as a playroom for everyone to enjoy together.
The initial transition went well, and for over three years the girls were both happy sharing a bedroom. But that’s been changing over the past year.
Bickering has become more commonplace than I’m comfortable with.
Special treasures and personal belongings are getting stuffed under beds to be safe from sibling hands (although I don’t think either one of them has ever actually taken anything from the other).
Giggles and story telling at bedtime have been replaced with grumbles and SHHHHHs.
And although they are playing together nicely in the morning, they are often too distracted by their own silliness to get ready for school on time.
For months I’ve debated whether to move them to separate rooms or not. I’ve referred back to my dog-eared copy of Siblings without Rivalry and scanned over lessons in Positive Parenting Solutions (affiliate links). I’ve even asked for input from friends and other parents.
I’ve wondered whether this is just a phase they need to work though.
I’ve considered whether they’re arguing more because they never really have time alone.
I’ve wished I had any experience with siblings living in my home so that I could figure out what is going on with these two.
So like any Type A, over-thinker I sat down and put my mental tennis match onto paper with a pro-con list. This is how I saw it before making any decisions. I realize now that some of these were misconceptions.
Pros of Having Separate Bedrooms
With separate bedrooms each child will have her own space where she can do what she likes without worrying about touching or messing up anyone else’s stuff. Often my youngest child doesn’t do things she’d like to do for fear of upsetting her older sister.
In their own rooms each child can put her own special touch into her own space, allowing her unique personality to shine through. When the girls were younger they liked nearly all of the same things or didn’t have a strong opinion on others. As they get a little older I feel like separate rooms allow them to let their personalities shine through a bit more with the things they choose to keep and how they choose to decorate.
In separate rooms each child is free to be who she wants to be–messy or neat, loud or quiet, etc–without bothering the other (as long as mom can handle it!). I personally have one child who prefers to play in complete silence while the other likes to hear music or makes her own with humming or tapping while she plays. For now they are both relatively neat, but we’ll see if that changes as they get older or not.
Nighttime snuggles and quiet chats are part our routine before bed. When we can do this in separate rooms the girls can feel more comfortable talking about difficulties or private matters, perhaps some that relate to their sibling, without the other overhearing.
Bedtime itself is also another pro in my opinion. In our house the girls are very different when it comes to their sleep patterns. One is a night owl. The other is a morning person who falls asleep quickly at night. One likes to have a light on in a silent room. The other prefers music and no light. And it doesn’t take much to realize this is a recipe for frustration on everyone’s part. In their own rooms the girls can fall asleep according to their own preferences…and with much less bickering.
And on the opposite side of that is morning time. As I mentioned before the girls get along well in the morning…so well that they are known to put on silly clothes, dance around, make faces at each other…anything BUT get dressed for school quickly. While my momma heart secretly loves to overhear these giggles, it can lead to nagging as we get closer and closer to being late for school. My hope is that with the girls in their own rooms they would get dressed more quickly and then quite possibly have real time to play before we need to head out the door for school.
The final pro is having a place to go. As the girls get older I’m realizing there are times when they just need to be alone, to sit in silence, to decompress. Sometimes it’s about something a friend has done. Sometimes it’s a sibling. And sometimes it’s me. Whatever the reason, they need to be able to sit uninterrupted until they are ready to talk or go on with their day. In a shared bedroom that isn’t always an option.
Cons of Having Separate Bedrooms
My biggest concern about separating the girls was a fear that they would not choose to spend a lot of time together if they had their own rooms to go to. I anticipated slammed doors and shouts of “keep out.” And I thought feelings would be hurt on both sides.
I was also worried that the girls would miss the comfort of having someone in the room with them as they drifted off to sleep. I thought this would lead to a whole slough of bedtime issues.
Although those two concerns weighed heavily on my mind, they were the only two that I really felt were cons. We were lucky to have a playroom, so we had the space to make the transition.
I had also read online that kids who share a room are more likely to get along and learn how to share. While I do think that would be a good thing, I’m not entirely convinced it’s true so I didn’t include it in my list.
I wish I could say I made the final decision, because after looking at my pro-con list it was clear that I was moving toward separate bedrooms.
However, it was the girls who yet again made the decision. Just like they did four years ago, they decided it was time to move.
To be honest one was a little more excited than the other, but they were both in favor of having their own space. So one Saturday morning we set to work dividing one room into two. We were all a little nostalgic, and there were a few teary-eyed moments, but you know what?
Since that day I haven’t regretted it one bit!
And I don’t think they have either!
Not only have we witnessed the pros I anticipated, I’m also happy to say I was completely wrong about the cons too.
After a couple of quick door slams and the beginning of some “keep outs”, we established guidelines for how we treat one another. We practiced asking for permission to enter another person’s bedroom, and we discussed ways to politely say no if we don’t want to play right then. Although I’m sure we’ll have to give reminders about this in the future, for now it has worked better than I ever anticipated.
And I’ve even noticed them inviting each other over to play more often. I think they are actually playing more together now than when they shared a room.
During the first couple nights they slept alone I popped in a couple of extra times to check on them, but overall there have been no real changes to how they fall asleep at night. My early riser now drifts off quickly without the light or chattering of her sister. And my night owl can doodle, look at books, and sing–or whatever helps her settle into sleep–without bothering anybody.
So that’s our experience so far! Just another adventure on this parenting journey!
Do your kids share a bedroom?
Have you made the decision to separate kids’ bedrooms? How did it go?