Expert Advice

Is sharing a bedroom good for your kids?

They might protest, but having your kids share a room teaches them that sharing is caring.

Last night I was jolted awake at 2.30am by the sound of my teenage daughters fighting. The 14-year-old, spurred by revenge, had woken out of the blue and decided to enrage her older sister by shining a torch in her face.
The evening before, the older sister had unplugged Ms 14's laptop (which was charging) to use the hairdryer, then refused to plug the laptop back in because the wall socket was, technically speaking, on her side of the room.
In the digital age we live in, this was clearly going to be grounds for war.
For the most part the two get on well but on this cold, dark night you wouldn't have thought so. I was forced to get up and in the small hours that followed, while they quickly fell back to sleep, I was left pondering, 'does sharing a room suck as much as my daughters say it does?'
Obviously I never had to share a room, but I'd always thought it looked like fun.
And according to parenting expert Jackie Riach from Triple P Positive Parenting New Zealand, it can be, as well as offering valuable life lessons.
For little ones, sharing a room can promote bonding between siblings and give a great sense of comfort. Now that I think about it, my girls were always good sleepers. Were they each reassured by the sound of the other's breathing if they woke in the night? A few years earlier we lived in a house that had been big enough for them to have their own rooms but after only one night apart, they had asked to be put back together.
In some cultures it is practiced that entire families share their sleeping space. And on a practical level, many families simply don't have the space for each child to have a bedroom.
But some pairings or groupings work better than others. Siblings close in age can be more compatible because they share similar sleeping schedules; siblings of the same gender may feel more comfortable together as they begin to mature.
While sharing a room means less privacy and more potential for interruptions to sleep and study, it also teaches tolerance, how to rub along next to others and how to share. Sibling roomies get to sharpen their negotiation skills and recognise the value in compromise and respecting others' boundaries.
This is not to say children who have their own room don't learn all of these things too, Riach is quick to point out. But roommates possibly get more practice at honing some of these life skills.
What can tend to happen though, Riach warns, is that as children get older and become more independent they crave more privacy.
"As they come into their own it's also natural for them to want to have the space around them reflect who they are," says Riach.

Here are some guidelines you can set with your kids to help them get the most out of their shared space: