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The Virtues of Bedroom-Sharing

Bert and Ernie, Laverne and Shirley, the Veggie Tales’ French Peas and I have something in common. We are veterans of sharing a room with someone else.

As the oldest of five children living in 1,400 square feet, I was destined to grow up sharing a room. Today, my husband and I have three young boys sharing one bedroom, usually quite peacefully.

In the current tight times, one way for a family to hold down costs is to live in a smaller, less expensive home with a little less space. A roommate setup can also free up a room for other activities — a media center, a family library with comfy chairs and desks for studying or a playroom.

One immense benefit of siblings rooming together is the camaraderie that results. There is great joy in hearing your little ones giggle together after “lights out.” Sure there are squabbles, but life is full of disagreements. When you consider future roommate situations, such as college and marriage, it’s good for kids to learn to share a room.

Problems and Solutions

Two big challenges when kids share a room tend to be how to curb the mess and how to keep the peace, especially when habits and tastes are different. Here are some techniques that can help.

Give each kid his own keepsake box for special possessions. Limit its size. Regularly sort through the treasures together to make room for new items. Remember, what you see as junk might be valuable to your child.

Establish a chore system. Often, roommate squabbles flare up over whose mess it is and who’s going to clean it up. Assign tasks and responsibilities such as stripping the bed sheets, vacuuming, dusting and taking dirty clothes to the laundry room. Regularly rotate the jobs. Offer assistance where needed. Make each child responsible for making his own bed, depositing dirty clothes in the hamper and putting clean clothes away.

Teach the value of accommodation. One of our boys has spring allergies made worse by the ceiling fan and open windows. His older brothers cooperate and leave the fan off. Part of being in a family is learning to accommodate the needs of others.

Listen to your children when they are struggling with each other. Be attentive to each perspective and encourage problem-solving skills. Offer solutions and let them choose a course of action, when appropriate. Don’t hesitate to lay down the rules of the home when necessary. Demonstrate patience throughout.

Make a quiet retreat spot for each kid. Especially as they grow older and desire occasional solitude, a place to read or think without the presence of a pesky sibling can be helpful on rough days. Designate a cozy corner of the basement or a sunny window seat for each child as her special place to be.

Present opportunities for the roomies to “bond.” Creative projects can help seal the relationship. Encourage your kids to create posters and signs for their door and room and to choose some of the décor together. Create a nickname for the room or for the pair of siblings. Reveal the fun in sharing a room and a slice of life.

As parents, we are watching with fascination as our children grow and learn to live considerately and peacefully with someone of a different temperament. I’ll bet your sons- and daughters-in-law will thank you later!

Jessica Fisher is a freelance writer.

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