Two kids, one bedroom: what should we know?
December 9, 2011 12:51 PM   Subscribe

Right now, our 3-and-a-half-year old has her own room, and our one-year-old sleeps in Mommy & Daddy's bedroom. Next week, we're moving the baby into the toddler's room. What can we do to make the transition as painless as possible? How can we make this necessity into a positive experience for our kids? Are we crazy for even considering this? If your children share a bedroom (or if you shared a bedroom as a child), I'd love to hear your advice, warnings, opinions, and anything else you think I should hear.
posted by yankeefog to Human Relations (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Disclaimer: I'm a twin.

My sister and I shared not only a room, but a bed when we were little. It was a constant turf war - "here's the dividing line on the sheets, no-one crosses this line!".

My sister's eldest two girls now share a room, due to a too-small house and a too-large family. It is also a war, as one is as neat as a pin and the other one gives Oscar Madison a run for his money.

While kids are little, sharing a room is not so bad, although you may have some reciprocal waking-up in the middle of the night when one cries and wakes the other one up. But as they get older, and want more independence and privacy, this is not going to be tenable. Your nearly-four-year-old will probably not want to share too many toys with the younger sibling.

The best I can suggest, if there's really no other way, is to establish a strict bedtime routine, and keep toys and books and whatever in a communal area, preferably out of the bedroom. That way, there is no fighting over "he touched my stuff! Moooooommmm!" right before bed, and the kids know what to expect.
posted by LN at 1:00 PM on December 9, 2011

I have a 3-year-old boy and 1-year-old girl who share a room, and have done so since the younger was 3 or 4 mos old.

How are they at going to sleep? We put them both down at the same time, with the same routine (stories, songs, lights out). As it stands my daughter will go right to sleep, but we have to stay around for my son to fall asleep often for up to an hour - that's just the kids temperaments, however.

3 year old has been in a bed for about a year. We had to go through a stage of him getting up and causing trouble for a while. Now he rarely hassles his sister, although sometimes I think he wakes her up in the morning. Sister is still in a crib, which we moved into the room a week or more before she actually started sleep in it. Between a bed, a crib, and a couch for Papi to sleep on, the room is pretty crowded!

The older child has never protested or complained about his sister moving in. We are careful to always refer to it as "the kids' room". There have been no turf wars (yet). A couple times the younger one hit the light switch when the other was sleeping until we got creative on re-arranging furniture.

Younger child still very often wakes up between 2 and 3 AM and ends up in our bed - she can yell her head off for 5 minutes and not wake her sibling, however, we haven't let her go as long as we otherwise would out of concern of waking his brother. This is really the biggest hassle of the whole thing, she sleeps in our bed more than we would otherwise do out of deference to waking her brother.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:05 PM on December 9, 2011

I shared a room for years. My kids have shared a room since the youngest was around a year old.

Talk to your older child about the change. Talk about where you plan to put the crib/bed. Find a way to make this exciting. Can you put a new light, wall decals or something in your older child's area? Can you ask them to help pick out new blankets that will match for both beds?

If possible, leave the bed in the room for a day or two before the change. If you are using a crib, of course, that is probably way too difficult.

BTW, if you are using a crib, the sheet fear of having to reassemble it will keep you committed to this for some time! :)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:16 PM on December 9, 2011

From the perspective of a grown-up that shared a room as a child: I don't remember recognizing the idea that I might have my own room until I was probably in 2nd grade. It was not at all a big deal to me (other than my sister liked to talk and would sometimes chat when I wanted to sleep).

But, I did end up hanging out in the dining room, living room, etc and common spaces a lot more than kids with their own rooms I'd imagine. I played in my room as a kid but it wasn't really 'my retreat' per se (that was a specific reading chair in the living room).

ps. When the kids are old enough to want to decorate, make sure both kids have input. It's less impt the room matches, and more impt both kids get to have 'their stuff'. Me and my sister tried to compromise and I don't think either of us liked the result as much.
posted by ejaned8 at 1:53 PM on December 9, 2011

My daughters, age 3 and 6, share a room, and have ever since the younger daughter (Matilda) started sleeping in a crib. There have been long periods when we put Matilda to bed in our bedroom and then moved her, and usually she is put to bed first and her sister gets to read for a while before she has to go to bed. So far it hasn't been too problematic.
posted by leahwrenn at 2:19 PM on December 9, 2011

I think the important thing is that each child (when they're old enough to care) has space they can claim as their own, to retreat to, to customize, etc. This doesn't have to be a bedroom, it could be a corner of the den or something. But everyone needs a place to get away.
posted by Chris4d at 2:21 PM on December 9, 2011

I think that the toddler is probably too young to really care (or even recognize) that she is "losing" her own space. As the first born in my family, I don't actually remember the time before I shared a room with my brother, even though we didn't start sharing a room until the next brother came along (so I would have already been 5 or 6 when I had to "give up" my own room).

What I do remember is that sharing a room with my brother was rarely an inconvenience and was often pretty awesome because we could do stupid things like jump back and forth between our beds. We'd make blanket bridges between the two beds for our toys to cross over (it was always treacherous, what with the dinosaurs waiting in the valley for when GI Joe's tank would inevitably prove too heavy for the bridge). And we would often make blanket forts in the middle of the room, between the beds, as well.

Obviously, it is important for siblings to eventually get their own space (ideally their own bedroom, especially if they are not of the same sex), but I have mostly fond memories of sharing a brother with my brother when we were kids. I don't think the transition will be particularly painful for your eldest and she may even enjoy sharing a room with her younger sibiling, especially when baby gets old enough that they can play together.
posted by asnider at 2:47 PM on December 9, 2011

All I have to say about this is be prepared for needing to make a big change (i.e. moving if the kids need their own rooms) when they get older. My brother basically moved into my room with me when he was born; I was four. (He might have stayed in my parents room at some point as an infant, but if so it was not significant enough for me to remember.) It was alright, I suppose, but we fought a lot as kids, and not having our own space was a pretty big detriment to family life when we were growing up. Eventually, I was ten year old girl, which is VASTLY different from a six year old boy. About the time I was going to hit puberty within another year or so, my brother decided it would be funny to throw his dirty underwear at me from across the room, and my parents decided a move might be worth it.

It was SO much better having our different rooms in our new apartment. (I had a lock on my door! I could lock him out! He couldn't bother me anymore!) Not being stuck around each other all the time eventually allowed for us to grow closer, as well. I'm not saying this is what every pair of siblings would be like, but it's worth considering for the future.
posted by Emms at 4:17 PM on December 9, 2011

I shared a bedroom with my two brothers my entire life until age 18. My FOUR sisters shared ONE bedroom. Yes there were 9 of us in a 3-bedroom house.

There was no alternative so we accepted it. Your kids are in a luxurious situation compared to me and my family. They're moreover way, way, way too young to have entitled notions of privacy.

Also- you're the parents. I really don't see how this is an issue, at all.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 4:37 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

My kids, ages nine and five, share a bedroom. They love it, usually. They like to talk at night and keep each other up and drive me insane. They're both very sound sleepers once they're finally asleep, so it's never been a problem when one of them has been noisy during the night because of nightmares or what have you.

We moved them in together at about the same age yours are. They thought it was fun and exciting to share a room.

They use the bedroom only for sleeping -- their toys, books, etc. are in the rest of the house -- which might make things easier.

The older kid is very modest, so he either changes in the bathroom or kicks his little sister out of the bedroom which causes screaming and drama and fuss. Your children might not be such delicate little dears as mine.

We're looking for a larger house so each kid can have their own room eventually, but for now it's A-OK from their point of view.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:12 PM on December 9, 2011

> There have been long periods when we put Matilda to bed in our bedroom and then moved her

Oh, we did that, too. Sometimes the older kid would keep the younger one up way too late, or they'd fighting. It works, usually.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:13 PM on December 9, 2011

On the subject of crib reassembly-- moving-side cribs are very dangerous, and associated with dozens of child deaths.

If you don't have absolute confidence that you have located all the allen wrenches and springs and god knows what else-- make the crib fixed-wall!!!

The crib mattress should fit very tightly all around, you should not be able to fit your full hand between crib and mattress.

Thank you, that is all.
posted by ohshenandoah at 6:10 PM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I shared a room with my younger sister from when I was about 7 (and she was moving into a "big girl bed") until I was about 12.

It was fine for the first few years - lots of fun, even! But I wish I'd moved to my own room sooner. Early puberty is awkward enough without having to share space with your kid sister!
posted by bubukaba at 6:19 PM on December 9, 2011

My wife, who raised 5 kids, said it's not a problem, go for it.
posted by tomswift at 8:12 PM on December 9, 2011

We just did this a couple months ago with the same age kids, and it has worked out great.
It meant we had to change our bedtime routine so we were a bit worried.

We used to read and sing to each girl right before bed and was worried that we would wake up the sleeping one if we continued like that.

Here's what we did.

We gave our oldest a big girl bed and also talked up that she was going to be the big sister and have her little sister move in to the room.

We got her used to her big girl bed and then told her that in a couple days we would move her sister in.

We put the youngest to bed first, reading and singing and having her fall asleep.

We then read books to the oldest either in our room of the living room. We sing if she wants, but since we changed she doesn't need the songs as much as she used to.
We read a couple books, go pee, read one more and then quietly bring her to bed.

It's all worked out great (besides the normal wake ups we had before)
The oldest hasn't worked the youngest up to play which was our concern and they mostly keep to themselves at night.

It all worked much better than we expected. As with many things kids related it all worked best when we 'faked it until we maked it', meaning we assumed it was going to work and that it was a natural thing to do, and the oldest played along with expectations.

My wife and I also talked about what we expected so we presented a confident and united front.

Good luck and enjoy your room back!
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:00 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I shared a room with my brother until I was about 8-9. He's 1.5 yrs younger than I am. It never really was a problem. We fought a lot when we shared and we still fought a lot after we each had a room. We got read one bedtime story and were in bed at the same time as far as I recall. I have no recollection at all of when my brother moved into the room with me.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:12 AM on December 10, 2011

We did this, at about the same ages: our oldest was a little older, maybe almost 4 when we did the transition. It's totally doable. They're boy and girl, so we likely won't have them share forever, probably just until the oldest is 8 or so.

Tips for the transition: Talk to them about it, but not in a "is this OK?" way, more of a "this is what's going to happen, let's make it OK" way. Work with your oldest especially. Our kids really get along, as they both seemed to regard it all as an awesome adventure, most of the issues had to do with convincing them to stop talking to each other and settling down.

We have them on the same sleep schedule, so that works pretty well. We combine the putting to bed rituals. We have had to work on the oldest in terms of waking the youngest up -- unfortunately he's not a great sleeper, so that can happen. If the youngest is really being loud and awful, we let the oldest sleep in our bed until he settles down (which she regards as a great treat).

Oh and yeah, get a fixed side crib. At this point I don't know of a drop-side that hasn't been recalled for safety reasons. If you have an IKEA near you their fixed cribs side are fine, and some can be converted to a toddler bed.
posted by feckless at 9:05 AM on December 10, 2011

When my daughter was born she, my partner, myself and my partner's three year old son all slept together on one (very big) mattress on the floor. Everyone had a great night's sleep, especially my partner since when my daughter needed feeding my partner just rolled over, gave the baby her breast and fell back to sleep while baby fed to her heart's content - No need for my daughter to signal her need by crying, no-one needing to get up out of bed, no miserable disturbed life. It was so easy. And our three year old also slept perfectly. Maybe I should add that though I'm English my partner was Vietnamese and we lived in Vietnam so there was no 'socially unacceptable' element. I probaby don't need to add this, but be sure to do what is best for you all, not what your neighbours/society think is best.
posted by nickji at 9:09 AM on December 10, 2011

Sharing a room is fine* to a certain age. If they're opposite sex kids, I would have them in their own rooms by the time the oldest is going through puberty.

*I'm one of five kids and the only girl. Most of the time I had to share a room with my younger brother and my older brothers had to share. At one time my oldest brother shared with my younger brother and myself. We were poor and could only afford small houses/apartments. There were, of course, fights and arguments which will happen whether rooms are shared or not, but in general it worked out.
posted by deborah at 10:01 PM on December 11, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody! That's really helpful.

The big move takes place tonight. We've talked about it with the toddler and she seems to accept it.

I'll report back on how it goes (unless it goes horribly and I'm too sleep deprived to post.)

PS: Don't worry about the crib! We don't need to disassemble it; we're just sliding it out of our bedroom and down the hall to our daughter's room the children's room. One of the benefits of living in a small flat.
posted by yankeefog at 11:16 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: Bedtime was pretty easy. The toddler and the baby took turns waking each other up for about 45 minutes, and then everybody was asleep.

The baby woke up at 1AM, and took about 45 minutes to get back to sleep. Then he was up for good at 5:40AM, much earlier than his usual wake-up time.

The good news: The toddler slept through it all.

The bad news: We didn't.

But on the balance, it's a promising beginning, and it looks like this will work out.

Thanks again, everybody!
posted by yankeefog at 4:23 AM on December 14, 2011

Response by poster: I'm back sixth months later, for one last followup.

The kids have been sharing the room since December, and after maybe two weeks of transition, it worked out VERY well. Occasionally they will keep each other up when it's bedtime, but they've both gotten very good at sleeping through each other's wakeups.

In fact, I think, on the balance, they're both sleeping better than they were before we moved them into the same room. That's no doubt partly because they're both older-- but I think they both feel more secure and less lonely with some company.
posted by yankeefog at 5:54 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

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