Can a Brother and Sister Share a Bedroom?
A frequently asked subject in custody cases is whether it is illegal for a brother and sister to share a bedroom. No, is the quick response. In no jurisdiction is it prohibited for opposite-sex siblings to share a bedroom. This is true for children of all ages, including newborns, toddlers, and teens.
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Can a brother and sister share a bedroom?
It’s pleasant for siblings to share a bedroom when they’re young. Pillow battles! The shadow puppets perform! Many parents think that this benign arrangement can’t last forever if the siblings are boys and girls. Parents disagree on how soon opposite-sex siblings require separate bedrooms, with others declaring, “Hey, I shared a room with my brothers and sisters till college and I didn’t mind one bit!” Still, if you’re a parent who is curious about how early the discomfort can begin, here’s an expert’s opinion.
“Boys and girls grow conscious of their gender and physical distinctions as early as three years old and begin to socially separate from the opposite sex as early as five to seven years old,” explains Kate Roberts, PhD, a therapist and contributor to EmpoweringParents.com. “To respect their individual growth process, it is ideal to provide them with separate living space, including beds, as early as age 6 or 7. This gives individuals the opportunity to develop naturally comfortable with their bodies and explore themselves without feeling self-conscious in the company of the opposing sex.”
This isn’t just her opinion; it stems from famed psychotherapist Eric Erickson’s considerable study on the phases of psychosocial development in children. It also comes from the numerous children Roberts encounters in her profession. “I’ve heard from opposite-sex siblings in this scenario that it’s quite uncomfortable,” Roberts adds. “It starts around the age of 6 or 7, and it’s certainly around the age of 8.” The same is true with twins. “Even if they are twins, they are still separate genders, and that must be honored,” Roberts adds.
Because children aren’t always skilled at expressing their want for seclusion from family members, strive to be sympathetic to their pleas for isolation. “Signs to watch for include when one of them locks the bathroom or bedroom door when changing or requests the other to remain out,” says Mark Loewen, a licensed professional counselor at LaunchPadCounseling.com. If your living accommodations are cramped and you’re unwilling to upgrade or relocate, try putting up a partition so that both parties may enjoy some solitude.
At what age should children be required by law to have their own room?
While it is not against the law, the NSPCC recommends that girls and boys above the age of ten have their own beds, even if they are siblings or step-siblings. There is a law in effect that states that sharing a room with children over the age of ten of the opposite sex is deemed overcrowded and that they should have their own rooms. Overcrowding law often applies to rental property or housing managed by a housing association, since they have restrictions in place to prevent too many people from residing in one dwelling.
Bedroom Sharing Regulations
Parents may not allow opposite sex children to share a bedroom in two situations:
- Foster Parents – Foster parents are often barred from having opposite-sex children share a bedroom when a foster kid is put in their house. In order to pass a home study, they must exhibit separate sleeping rooms for opposite-sex siblings.
- Court Orders – If a custody court orders that opposite-sex siblings not share a bedroom, parents are obligated to comply.
Otherwise, parents are not prohibited from allowing opposite-sex siblings to share a bedroom. If a parent has reason to be worried about the appropriateness of the bedroom sharing arrangement, given the age or conduct of a kid or children, the parent should evaluate the children’s safety and best interests when choosing whether or not the arrangement should continue.
Most families are periodically forced to share bedrooms, whether it’s a single bedroom in a hotel room or a shared sleeping arrangement when visiting a relative’s home. Aside from the economic concerns, a full prohibition on opposite-sex sleep sharing would make many family holidays far more difficult and expensive.
When Will a Court Disallow Bedroom Sharing?
The fundamental reason that siblings share beds in most houses is economic. Their parents can only afford a specific size house or apartment, and there aren’t enough bedrooms for each child to have an own room. Child custody issues are resolved in the best interests of the children, not the parents’ money. Parents must offer a secure and acceptable environment for their children, but not one defined by an ideal that is beyond their financial capabilities.
Nonetheless, a court may take the children’s safety into account. If a parent objects to bedroom sharing, the court may examine circumstances indicating that the arrangement endangers a kid. For example, if the kid shares a bedroom with a sibling or step-sibling who has a history of inappropriate sexual activity with other children, or if the children have been discovered playing “doctor” with each other, a court may rule that continuing to share a bedroom is an unsuitable arrangement.
When a kid is old enough to express a custodial choice and that preference is filed to the court, a bedroom-sharing arrangement may have an impact on the child’s claimed preference. That is, while sharing a bedroom at a parent’s house may not have a direct influence on the custody arrangement established by a court, if a kid has strong views about the arrangement, the child’s choice may still come into play.
Factors to Look for When Deciding If They Should Separate the Kids
It is crucial that the kids are kept apart if there is any suspicion that one of them is behaving sexually aggressively. Children may have trouble understanding the distinct boundaries associated with privacy if one or both of them have ever experienced sexual abuse.
Families will profit by taking a child’s expressed privacy concerns seriously and cooperating to come up with a suitable response.
The Consequences If the Kids Are Not Separated Early Enough
Some families might benefit greatly from having their kids share a bedroom for the majority of their formative years. It’s possible that the kids will get along better and feel more at ease sharing their belongings. Other forms of solace for siblings include sharing a bed with a brother or sister.
Having a place where kids can feel at ease with their bodies as they transition into puberty is crucial. A child who struggles with body image issues might feel uneasy or unsure about their appearance, and sharing a room with another child might make them feel even more self-conscious.
Encourage Boundaries and Create Privacy for Siblings Who Share a Bedroom
Here are a few tips on how you could encourage boundaries and create privacy for siblings who share a bedroom:
- Stay organised & tidy – we all know that most children aren’t naturally tidy, most kid’s bedroom’s are littered with a whole variety of objects, some more easy to identify than others! Clothing items—whether clean, dirty, or somewhere in between—soggy towels left out carelessly, apple cores that have turned a questionable shade of brown, and so on. They might get along a little bit better if you can help them keep their bedroom organized, though. They might set aside a certain period of time each week for cleaning; they might even devise a schedule to divide the tasks.
- Sometimes less is more – we’re all guilty of accumulating way more stuff than we need! When you share a bedroom, it’s best to avoid stuffing the place to the gills. Instead, think about space-saving options like using a laptop instead of a desktop computer and possibly attempting to share some items, like books.
- Consider the furniture – we’ll be taking a closer look at this in another article, but there’s some brilliant kid’s bedroom furniture that will make room sharing more appealing. You could consider using screens to create separate areas and increase privacy and of course provide plenty of useful storage, jump over to Cuckooland for inspiration for versatile kids storage solutions
- Noise cancelling headphones – essential… and not just for the kids! Give the kids some noise-canceling headphones to help stop endless arguments over music battles. This way, they can each watch the newest Netflix episode or listen to their favorite music without disturbing the other, and you can crank up your 80s ballads without being called a dinosaur!