There will probably come a time in your life when you must face one of parenting’s greatest challenges: Moving your children into a shared bedroom.
I know…terrifying, right?
There are many reasons you might be be embarking on this challenge. Perhaps it’s because you’re about to welcome a new baby to the family and need to free up nursery space, or maybe you’re hoping a shared bedroom will lead to a more positive sibling relationship.
Whatever the reason, this sibling-bedroom-transition can feel daunting.
- Will they be so excited to share a room that it will take longer for them to fall asleep at night?
- Will the noisy sleeper wake the light sleeper in the middle of the night?
- Will the early riser wake the late sleeper in the mornings?
- Will they resent not having their own space?
- How on earth are naps going to work out?
The hardest part of this adventure is that there is no single strategy that will work for all families. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news… but don’t click away just yet!
It’s true there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every family is unique and every child responds to different things, so you need to find the right approach for your particular family needs.
However, there are a few universal “no-nos” when it comes to the shared bedroom transition. Let’s talk about the bad ideas you should avoid in order to ensure you have a (relatively) smooth transition.
Sibling Bedroom Bad Idea #1:
Need for Personal Space
One hurdle for transitioning your children to a shared bedroom is that each child no longer has her own space… at least not in the way they did when they had their own bedrooms. This may be especially significant if you have an older child that has gotten used to having her own private space away from younger siblings.
Sibling Bedroom Solution: Make sure each child has his own space.
You can do this a few different ways. One option is to create two identical sides. If the room layout allows, set up the furniture with a bed, nightstand, and dresser on one side and a mirror-image on the other. This makes it so each sibling feels like she has her own space within the shared room.
Another option is to involve them in the decorating of the room. Perhaps you let each pick out her own bedding or artwork above her bed. Helping personalize her part of the room will help your child feel a bit more ownership over the space.
If you need some inspiration for cute bedding and artwork that both kid and Mom are happy with, take a look at these kid-friendly-but-not-tacky options below.
- This forest themed bedding is perfect for your little adventurer.
- Let your little one blast off to sleep with this space themed bedding set.
- This floral themed bedding is so cute you may even want it for your own bed!
- Inspire some girl power with this “Little and Fierce” art print.
- Your car enthusiast will love having this car park art print hanging on his wall. (You can even surprise him with a matching throw blanket!)
- This alphabet art print would be a wonderful addition to any kids’ room!
- Encourage a love of animals and other cultures with this beautiful cartoon animal map art print.
If personal space is still a struggle, consider creating a rule where neither sibling is allowed in the other’s bed. This can help each sibling feel like she has a space that is only hers and gives her some privacy back. If you like to read stories in bed as part of the bedtime routine, consider setting up a comfy reading corner like a soft canopy or a teepee tent for shared special reading time.
Of course, there will be an adjustment period while your children get used to sharing a bedroom. Pay attention to her ever-changing personal space needs, and you’ll help ease this transition.
Sibling Bedroom Bad Idea #2:
Overlooking the Sound Machine
It may be tempting to create a quiet, un-fun atmosphere to encourage sleeping (especially if your children are late-night talkers!), but a too-quiet room may actually make it harder for your little ones to sleep.
Sibling Bedroom Solution: Pull out the white noise machine!
White noise is going to be your best friend during this transition. You probably relied on the white noise machine when your children were infants to soothe them to sleep at night. Now its biggest benefit is going to be drowning out any extra sibling noise. (If you need an upgrade from the infant days, this is a popular one!)
You know your kids can make a lot of noise when they go to sleep because you probably hear at least one of the following every night:
- Talking or singing to themselves
- Calling out for a drink of water or a blanket repositioning (one of my favorite milestones is when they finally figure out how to pull blankets back over themselves!)
- Rustling of blankets from all the tossing and turning
- Knocking toys onto the floor
- Banging into the wall with an elbow or knee
… the list goes on.
If your little one is used to sleeping in a room by himself, all those noises from across the room (or the bunk above) are going to keep him awake.
A white noise machine creates a constant level of soothing noise which makes the sudden bursts of sibling noise less likely to disturb him.
Tip: If one child keeps leaving the room and waking the other even with the sound machine, focus on eliminating the noises from the door. Use WD-40 on the door hinges and pick up a Latchy Catchy to silence the doorknob latch.
Sibling Bedroom Bad Idea #3:
Overlooking the Bedtime Routine
With the (hopefully minor) upheaval that comes with this bedroom transition, it’s understandable that things can get lost in the shuffle. Some nights you may be tempted to just get them in bed at whatever cost. But, just like when they were younger, your bedtime routine might make or break your success here.
Sibling Bedroom Solution: Make sure the bedtime routine is working for everyone.
As with any transition, you want to keep everything else as consistent as possible. If you always read three stories before lights out, keep reading three stories before lights out even in the new room.
Of course, you may need to make a few adjustments. Maybe you were reading three stories with each kid separately before tucking them in. If that was the case, try doing one set of bedtime stories, but bumping the total up to four stories and letting each child pick two.
Also, if you are currently putting children to bed at separate times (maybe the younger goes to bed earlier than the older), I would suggest doing this the same way for a period of time. Having them go to sleep at the same time will introduce other challenges, so it’s best to stick with just one transition at a time.
If you’re still struggling with determining the best bedtime routine for your child, get in touch with our Certified Gentle Sleep Coaches who can work with you to determine a personalized sleep plan perfect for your family.
Sibling Bedroom Bad Idea #4:
You’re focused on the brewing bedtime battle, but don’t let that focus cause you to overlook naptime!
Sibling Bedroom Solution: Have a plan for naptime.
For many kids, a shared bedroom at naptime will prove to be more difficult than at bedtime. It may be harder to calm down in the middle of the day when it’s still bright outside and they can see all their fun toys.
(Tip: These blackout shades fit inside the window frame, so you can still hang decorative curtains!)
If you anticipate your little ones having this sort of trouble at naptime, consider some options available to you:
- Stagger their naps. Let one sibling fall asleep first before quietly bringing in the other.
- Consider utilizing another space. Could an older sibling spend nap time in the spare bedroom or could a pack ‘n play be set up in mom and dad’s room for the younger?
- Invest in an OK to Wake clock. This uses lights to communicate when it’s okay for your non-clock reader to know when it’s okay to get out of bed!
Of course, naptime could work out just fine. But better to be prepared than surprised, right?
Sibling Bedroom Bad Idea #5:
Overlooking Your Backup Plan
Yes, the ultimate goal is both kids in bed in the same room at the same time, but let’s be honest and admit that you may not get there on the first try. If trying to force the ideal bedtime situation is resulting in cranky children, stressed and angry parents, and a tense bedtime routine… it’s simply not worth it!
Sibling Bedtime Solution: Admit when it’s not working and boldly try something else.
Like I mentioned earlier, different strategies work for different children. If trying to get both kids in bed at the same time is just.not.working, then switch to Plan B for a few months and try again.
Maybe your Plan B looks like one of the following:
- Stagger their bedtimes. Enjoy the extra cuddles and one-on-one time with one child after the other goes to bed. (This works best with a younger sibling who doesn’t yet realize it’s “not fair” for the older one to stay up later!) Once the earlier-to-bed child is asleep, quietly bring your other child to bed,tuck him in, and remind him he needs to be extra quiet now!
- Separate your children at bedtime. Let the deeper-sleeper fall asleep in Mom and Dad’s bed and then, later in the evening, gently move him back to his own bed.
I know that splitting them up at bedtime is the opposite direction from your ultimate goal.
But your first goal should be a stress-free (okay, minimal-stress) bedtime routine that results in sleeping children. If that’s not happening with the current plan, it’s okay to try something else for a few months.
We had our two boys fall asleep in separate bedrooms for months while they were transitioning to a shared bedroom. When we decided to have them both start the night in the same room, I was nervous, but they transitioned just fine. Yes, there are nights they stay up way too late talking to each other, but I actually love the special bond that’s forming between them.
How About a Good Idea?
Ditch Your Expectations
Embark on the shared bedroom adventure with realistic (read: low) expectations.
Kids are unpredictable. Sure, you’ve googled all the best methods, you’ve purchased new bedding to get your kids excited, and you’ve created an impeccable routine… and your kids still might resist this transition with all of their might (which we know is a lot).
Remember to give your kids (and yourself!) grace during this transition. It won’t be easy the first night. It probably won’t be easy the first week. But they’ll learn to adapt to this new situation, and you’ll learn the best strategies to help them get there.
Like with all sleeping-related milestones, you’ll get through it. A little consistency and a good plan goes a LONG way in making a happy sibling bedroom transition!
And eventually… *yawn* …eventually everyone will be getting a good night’s sleep.
Have You Read These Yet?
- The Best Ways to Help Your Jack-in-the-Box Sleeper Stay in Bed
- How to Make The Preschool Age Your Best One Yet
- Save Your Quiet Time! How to Rescue It from the Dreaded Dropped Nap
- 5 Quick Ways to Melt Away the Stress of Motherhood
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Kim is an American expat living in the Cayman Islands with her husband of six years and their two rambunctious little boys. She spends her days chasing her children around the park with sunscreen and avoiding the mound of laundry that needs to be folded (at least it’s clean!). Click here to learn more about Kim.