Room sharing. It’s when more than one person shares a bedroom. It could be parents sharing with a child or siblings sharing a room. Sometimes we room share because we want to, like having your newborn camp out in your bedroom for a few months. And sometimes we room share out of necessity, like when you have a 2 bedroom house or apartment and have 2 or more children. Either way, sharing a room with someone can feel like an impossible feat (like having to put up with your snoring husband), though it can certainly be done. Let’s talk about how you get two of your children to share a room.
It can be difficult for two younger children to share a room, especially if one or both are not sleeping well. It’s also hard to have children with different sleep schedules share a room. For instance, if you have your 9 month and your 6 year old together, they’re not likely to be going to bed or waking up at the same time. Or if you have a 4 month old and a 2 year old together, there will likely be a lot of night wakings for the baby that will disturb your toddler. And they would also have different nap schedules, which could throw them both off too.
If you have twins sharing a room like mine do, well that can be both a blessing and a curse. Two older kids sharing? Great! Two younger babies or toddlers sharing? Um, not-so-great. I recall them waking each other up at night (yes, twins can disturb each other at night) as babies, and then jumping on their beds, talking to each other, waking each other up, and all the other shenanigans that went on when my twins were toddlers. It can be pretty hard to convince two 2 year olds that they really don’t want to play around with their twin, but instead they really want to lay down and go to sleep. Yeah, not happening. Even now as 7 year olds, they have slightly different sleep needs and one is still waking the other up to chat in the morning!
So now that I’ve scared you into not wanting your kids to ever share a room, let me assure you that it can be a good thing and it can work out well. It can be a good thing when you have a child who’s afraid to sleep alone or is currently room sharing with you and you’d like them out. It’s much easier to convince that child to go if they have somewhere else equally as fun to go to! So here are 4 things you can do to help the situation….
1) Have a room monitor – As they get older, you’ll sometimes find that one child has become the room monitor. It’s usually the oldest sibling, or in the case of twins it will be the one who tends to tattle more or be your “mommy pleaser”. The oldest may tell her little sister that she needs to lay down and be quiet, and it will actually work! Little sisters tend to listen to their big sisters much better than they do to their parents. Getting the oldest child’s buy-in can be super helpful!
2) Use rewards – Both children would love some motivation in the form of a small treat (can be food, an activity, or a toy) every morning if they’ve done a good job. This works great when you’re first transitioning your kids together. Just like with potty training, you’re not going to continue to do this every night for the rest of their lives. You just want to do it for a week or two tops. Having a chart can be helpful because it shows them that the prizes stop at this point, and most kids love charts they can fill out themselves.
3) Use consequences – Going along with rewards is consequences. We want to reward our kids for doing a great job, but we have to be realistic and realize that they’re not always going to be perfect. Whenever you’re asking your child to do something, you need to have both rewards and consequences. It’s kind of like, “If you stay in your bed all night, then you get an ice pop tomorrow! But if you keep getting out of your bed tonight, then there will be no sweet treats tomorrow or I’m going to take away your lovey for a time out tonight.” What you offer as a reward and a consequence will depend on each child. I would expect them both to be different for each child, based on what motivates that particular child.
And when I say “consequences”, I’m not talking about a physical punishment. I just mean that there needs to be another motivating factor used for when the reward just isn’t appealing enough. It’s not that the treat you promised tomorrow morning isn’t good enough, but it’s just not motivating enough in the heat of the moment at night to get the behavior to stop. For older kids, it could be something you’re taking away the next morning like they’re phone, gaming system, or TV privileges. For younger kids, it might be no fun activity, no sweet treats, or you may need to temporarily take away their lovey. Yes, you read that right! You might need to take away their favorite animal or buddy for a minute or two to catch their attention. Most kids won’t like that and then they’re more open to cooperating with you.
4) Introduce some white noise into the room – Sharing a room with anyone is hard, because we all toss and turn and make some noises at night. Some kids will be up crying for feedings, being scared, needing to use the potty, not feeling well, or just need mom or dad. And some will even sleep walk, sleep talk, or have night terrors (all things that the child will not remember in the morning and has no control over). Those things are all very disruptive to the other child. No one wants two crabby kids the next day, so it’s helpful to avoid two wake ups whenever possible. Having a white noise machine, a fan, or any other kind of consistent noise on all night is a great way to drown out any background noises like I just mentioned, as well as other inside and outside noises that you can’t control (ie neighbor’s dog barking, trash pick up, fireworks, dad getting up for work early, etc). Ideally, you would keep the kids at separate ends of their bedroom if possible and have the noise machine in the middle of both children so they are less likely to hear each other. Of course if your kids are sharing bunk beds, there is no “in the middle”, so just do your best with placement.
Now if they’re both pretty young, and one or more doesn’t sleep independently through the night yet, you might want to hold off on putting the kids in the same room until that happens. If they started off in life that way, then that’s one thing because they know no other way. But if it’s a new thing you want to make sure that this is going to be a positive change and not cause more sleepless nights for everyone. And of course if you need some help getting 2 happy, well-rest kiddos, you can always contact me for help! Remember, I offer free 15min phone calls, so can chat about how we can make this work best for everyone. Happy room sharing!