In many houses up and down the UK many siblings share a bedroom. Sometimes it’s a matter of choice and sometimes it’s a question of not having enough space for each child to have a room of their own.
Sharing a bedroom can be a lovely bonding experience for siblings and they get to spend all kinds of precious moments together. However it can also lead to more squabbles over space and toys and parents sometimes end up tearing their hair out as one child constantly disturbs the sleep of another.
What does the government say?
The topic of sharing bedrooms was thrown into the spotlight when the Bedroom Tax was introduced in 2013. This ruling meant that anyone living in council homes or housing associations would receive reduced housing benefits if they have one or more spare bedrooms.
Under this new law children in these homes are expected to share a room until the age of 10. Same sex siblings are expected to share a room until age 16. It therefore seemed to be widely accepted that for children, sharing a room was OK.
In a separate government plan, a new proposal was put forward where planning laws were to be changed to assist with new developments. This was an attempt to boost the building of new houses.
Commenting on this proposal, the Education Secretary at the time, Michael Gove, then threw a spanner in the works when he made a comment in support of this proposal. He said:
There are children, poor children, who do not have a room of their own in which to do their homework, in which to read, in which to fulfil their potential. Nick Boles’ planning reforms will make it easier for more homes of a larger size to be built. That’s why when people oppose these planning reforms I think they’re standing in the way of helping our children.
His comment suggests that Gove believes all children need a bedroom of their own in order to fulfil their potential. This belief is at odds with the Bedroom Tax and the suggestion at its core that it is OK, indeed expected, that siblings share a bedroom.
Government aside, what do real families think? Should all children have a bedroom of their own or does sharing a bedroom actually teach children some valuable life skills?
Take a look at the pros and cons of bedroom sharing:
The pros of children sharing a bedroom
It teaches valuable life skills
Siblings who share a bedroom learn key skills about cooperation and patience. By sharing their space they have to learn how to consider the needs of their siblings.
They have to negotiate and make compromises as they learn how to share successfully.
It encourages collaborative play
Children spend a lot of time playing in their rooms. When this space is shared with a sibling then they are often and naturally thrown together and will have more opportunities for collaborative play together.
It creates security
Many siblings feel safer when they sleep in the same bedroom. There is always someone by them when they are scared of the dark or when they have a worry.
Just hearing a sibling sleeping in the room when a child wakes can be a very soothing sound and their presence nearby creates a real feeling of security.
It encourages a stronger sibling bond
All the giggling in bed before (or after) light’s out, all the whispered secrets in the dark, all the chats in the early morning hours, all encourage a strong sibling bond.
If they share a bedroom your children get to share these magical moments and seem to become a much closer team of two.
It teaches respect
By having to share a bedroom your children also learn the importance of respecting one another.
Whether it’s respecting each other’s personal space, each other’s possessions or each other’s privacy.
Cons of sharing a bedroom
Different sleeping schedules
Depending on how close your children are in age, they could have very different sleeping schedules. Both might go to bed and wake at different times.
Even if you have built good routines for your children some kids naturally wake earlier than others and they can end up waking up their brother or sister.
When siblings share a bedroom it’s harder to accommodate these variations in sleeping times.
When one child can’t sleep, the other is disturbed too
If one child can’t sleep then it can disturb the other. This could happen at bedtime in which case it means both children end up sleeping late. Or if it happens in the middle of the night, both children can have a disturbed night’s sleep.
If one child wakes early then they will almost certainly wake their sibling up to play, depriving them of some much-needed slumber.
Lack of ownership over their own space
When your child has their own room they may be more likely to respect and value it as an important corner of the home to call their own.
If your child has to share a bedroom then they might feel less invested in it as their own space and less likely to respect it and keep it tidy and organised.
No place to share with friends
When your child has a friend over to the house to play, they don’t have their own special space to play or chat or giggle.
If they share a bedroom with a sibling then he or she might feel they have the right to burst in and interrupt the play and arguments ensue.
A clash of personalities
Each child has their own unique personality and style. One may be noisy and impulsive, the other quiet and orderly.
If your children share a bedroom then it is harder to find a space where two very different characters can find their own space that meets their own needs. Having them close to each other all the time can mean sibling squabbles increase.
Different aged children have different needs
Sharing a bedroom can be tricky if your children are not very close in age. As each grows up they have different needs.
Older children need more privacy and more space of their own and this is tricky if they share a bedroom.
Different sexes have different needs
If your children are different sexes then sharing a bedroom can be more problematic, especially as your children grow older. Boys and girls need more privacy in their tweenage and teenage years, when they start going through awkward changes and want their own space to talk with friends.
This privacy is hard to come by if they have to share a bedroom. There is no legal requirement for siblings of a different gender to have their own bedroom but the NSPCC website states:
We would not advise that children of the opposite sex over the age of 10 share a room.
When deciding whether or not children share a bedroom there is no ‘better’ way, there is only what is right for you.
Always remember that what works for you and your family is all that matters and that may be different than what works for another.
If you want your kids to be sharing a room take a look at our article 7 tips to making sibling bedroom sharing a success.