When musician Kari Lee needed a music room in her
house, she and her husband moved their son into a bedroom with his
two sisters. When the Leahy boy/girl twins were born, their parents
felt it would be easier to have them in the same room. Even first
lady Michelle Obama shared a room with her brother, Craig Robinson,
while growing up.
Fifty years ago, sharing a room was common. Then it went
out of fashion. Today, due to the economy or just a desire to
downsize and live smarter, kids are starting to share rooms again.
And sometimes those siblings are brother and a sister, either by
necessity or choice.
Many parents have fond memories of sharing a room. Or, at
the very least they recognize the value of the lessons they learned
"Sharing a room helps kids learn to interact with other
people, how to share and respect private space," says Dr. Mark
Sharp, a clinical psychologist in Oak Brook. "All of this has to be
worked out at some level when you share a room, and those are all
useful life skills."
Other parents find that when brothers and sisters share a
room, the squabbling is much less than between the same-sex
"There is usually more competitiveness and rivalry with
same-sex siblings," explains James J. Crist, author of Siblings, You're Stuck with Each Other, So Stick
Together! "Siblings of the opposite sex just don't breed that
same conflict. It's the same way that girls in the classroom can
The Lee children range in age from 7 to 12. "We're trying
to make use of the space in our house the best we can. We have one
huge bedroom that fits three full-size beds and still leaves plenty
of room," Lee says. They bought floor-to-ceiling bookshelves to
allow each child to have their own space and are considering
painting one of the walls a color for each of them.
Many parents find kids actually spend so little time in
their rooms that it's not much of an issue.
Rory Leahy of Clarendon Hills has boy/girl twins who
shared a room until fourth grade. "It wasn't like they made it a
social space. They get along really well and it was a nice
experience for them."
Sharp recommends parents work with their kids to set up an
expectation of personal space and privacy. "Kids may want to help
determine those rules, to decide what is theirs and what is
shared," he says.
Eventually some special accommodations need to be made,
particularly as kids approach puberty. This doesn't mean they need
to be split up. For the Lee family, this involves rotating the
morning and evening routines. "My kids usually get dressed
individually in the bathrooms after a shower. Or they rotate
brushing their teeth and changing in the morning," she
Crist agrees. "The one issue that gets problematic as they
get older is the sense of modesty," he says. Often a simple
adjustment is all that's needed.
"Once they are aware of the differences, they just
shouldn't undress in front of each other. Use the room for sleep
and play. If parents are concerned, have a rule of leaving the door
open," Crist says.
It's always important to talk to kids directly and see how
they feel about it. If parents set ground rules and discuss privacy
and boundary issues in advance, they're much less likely to see
Brothers and sisters who share a room receive a lifelong
lesson in how the opposite sex thinks and acts. They learn how boys
and girls are different and how they are the same. They're not
nearly as prone to stealing each other's toys and are more likely
to be protective of each other.
Sharp says they also are more likely to have a healthier
attitude towards the opposite sex. "By sharing a room, they're more
open to a different dimension of gender relationships. They're more
comfortable with the other gender."
Above all, sharing a room can forge a closeness like
nothing else. "I love hearing them talk to each other," Lee says.
"They talk about everything at night when the lights are out. I
really think if they were by themselves it would be a different
Laura Amann is a freelance writer living in Elmhurst and the mother of three girls and one boy. Her son and daughter choose to share a room.
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