Having children share a bedroom may create lasting values of cooperation and compromise, provided they don’t drive each other — and their parents — crazy in the process.
“Sharing willingly is an important life skill, and in our ‘me’ generation, that is not something that is encouraged,” says one expert.
In nearly two-thirds of homes with two children under age 18, kids share a room, according to the Chicago Tribune. This is creating an interesting new parenting trend: Even when they have the space to give them separate sleeping arrangements, moms and dads are instead having their kids bunk together.
“I have one son who cannot room with my other kids because he is older and completely annoyed by them, but my three younger kids love to room together,” says one New York mom. “We have enough space for almost everyone to have their own room, but we just converted one room into an office, because it seems this will stick for the long term.”
Before turning that extra room into a home gym or a cozy library, though, remember that not all combinations of kids will work as roomies.
“There are a few things for parents to consider — the space in the room, the ages and genders of the kids involved, and the different personalities of the kids,” Cedarhurst, New York, child psychologist Fred Zelinger told LifeZette. “The decision has to be made very thoughtfully and carefully.”
Zelinger points out that there are advantages and disadvantages to every type of living arrangement, but putting kids together that aren’t a good fit could lead to trouble.
“I like to say that some kids have rubber for skin — everything bounces off them,” he said. “Some kids, however, are porous, and everything gets in. So examine the personalities at play before you make room changes.”
John Brubaker of Hampton, Iowa, agrees. “My brother Jeff and I shared a room growing up, and I guess during the lulls in between him beating me up we got along okay,” he said with a laugh. “I used to lock him out of the bedroom and play the song ‘Convoy’ at decibel level 10 — he got me pretty good for that.”
Brubaker said that even with all the fights, when his brother moved out for college, he missed him. “That;s how siblings make memories — the fighting and the laughs,” he explained.
The new bunking trend with the smaller set is leaving many American bedrooms empty, even as house sizes grow. In 2014, the median size of a single-family home had increased from 1995 by 550 square feet — to 2,500 square feet — and 46 percent of new single-family homes had four bedrooms or more, the Tribune reports.
If kids do fit together well as roommates, there are a lot of important values to be gained from learning to live together, Zelinger said.
Kids rooming together necessitates constant communication and planning between siblings — with the upside being midnight giggles and whispered confidences.
“The ability to communicate over a shared space, the ability to have a dialogue with someone whenever you feel like it, are both positives to this arrangement,” said Zelinger. “Sharing willingly is an important life skill, and in our ‘me’ generation, that is not something that is encouraged. How do we responsively work with each other, and how do we learn to compromise?” he said. “A child learns to say, ‘I have to go to bed at 7, you’re going to bed at 9 — how will we coordinate that?'”
Zelinger grew up in an attached house in Queens with six other people. “We had a small powder room on the bottom floor, and one bathroom upstairs for all the bedrooms. And everyone learned to coordinate — occasionally we’d have a scuffle if someone was in the bathroom too long, but even those are teaching moments.”
Kids rooming together necessitates constant communication and planning between siblings — with the upside being midnight giggles, whispered confidences, and reading-by-flashlight parties.
“I roomed with my little brother when I was 10 and he was a baby,” one 27-year-old Millbury, Massachusetts, man told LifeZette. “I remember him staring at me from his crib while I was trying to read my ‘Goosebumps’ book, and then throwing stuffed animals at me until he got my attention.” He laughed. “He emptied that crib every night!”
Perhaps a shared bedroom is a nod back to a simpler time, when spontaneous moments of sibling connection were more common.
“For many years urban life was all about apartments and small attached homes, and a lot of people got a real sense of neighborhood,” said Zelinger. “Historically we were tribes — people were meant to learn to live together. That gets lost in the isolation, the space, and the impersonal nature of much of modern life.”