I’ve written quite a bit about parents and babies co-sleeping. But what happens when you have two children who must share a room? Many parents worry that their children will fall into bad sleep habits, or wonder if they’ll have more trouble sleep coaching multiple children if they choose to room share. While these concerns are valid, there are a few things that you can do to ensure that your children have a positive room sharing experience.
Before you put your children in a room together, consider why you need to make this transition. Perhaps there is a new baby on the way, or you’re moving to a new house, a new state, or a new country. Keep in mind that large life changes can be a challenge for young children (and even adults) to process.
It’s important that before you move the siblings into one room, you’ll need to ensure that both are exhibiting positive sleep hygiene, which means that you may want to consider sleep coaching first, if it’s at all an option.
Sleep Coach Your Children Separately
This is perhaps the best advice that I can give you. I have found (in multiple instances) that often, one child is an amazing sleeper, and the other has some sleep issues. Attempting to sleep coach them together can be problematic, especially if there is a bit of an age difference. If you have the ability to, consider separating them so that you can focus on the more challenging child. This will prevent the child who doesn’t sleep well from waking the one who does (and risking creating a bad sleep association); not to mention the stress that parents feel to quiet the awake child so that they don’t wake the good sleeper. That type of stress usually ends up in us doing things that we know we shouldn’t, such as returning to a known sleep crutch out of desperation.
A note from The Sleep Lady: If you rush to comfort and quiet the poor sleeper in an effort to quiet them before they wake the other sibling, you are only prolonging and encouraging the night wakings. Basically, you are teaching them that if they scream and holler, mom comes running to pick up the lovey, or give a cuddle. Babies and toddlers are smart! Stick to your guns, and don’t give in to their demands.
If you find that you are unable to sleep coach separately, consider a ‘divide and conquer’ approach. If you have another parent available, consider each taking a child, and approaching individual sleep coaching one-on-one.
Have a Conversation
If at all possible, have a conversation with both children together about room sharing. Explain why they will be sharing a room, and consider talking about what a privilege it is to be able to share. Be sure to stress the importance of having good sleep manners when sharing a room as well.
Many families find that having individual sleep manners charts for their children to be helpful as a visual reminder of how to use their good sleep manners.
Take Personal Space into Account
Think about this: when your children share a room, suddenly they have no privacy. Try to create a personal space for each child, if room allows. If you’re in a cramped space, be sure that you talk about respecting each other’s items, and space. This is especially true for older children.
This can also apply to alarms, white noise machines and the like. If one of your children is an exceptionally light sleeper, consider putting a white noise machine next to their bed.
Do Not Change Your Children’s Individual Sleep Schedules
This really only comes into play when you have children with truly different sleep schedules due to a large age gap.
If you need to, consider staggering bedtimes so that one child goes to bed and is asleep before you put the other child in bed (usually the older child).
To ensure that both children get adequate sleep, consider separating them at naptime. This especially applies if one child needs a longer nap, or you have an older child who only naps occasionally. Because daytime sleep is so different than nighttime sleep, you may find that your children aren’t as willing to nap in the same room that they are willing to sleep in (especially if you notice that they are distracting each other).
Give it Time
You may find that at first, your children are constantly waking each other at the slightest noise. You’ll be happy to know that your children will quickly become accustomed to sharing a room, and soon, your son’s protest when he has to retrieve his lovey from the corner of the crib won’t even phase your other child.
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
If your children have just transitioned into room sharing, be prepared for some testing. All children are constantly testing the limits (sometimes it seems like that’s all they do), and it’s no different with new sleeping arrangements. Stick to the rules, follow the plan, and you’ll get there. Just remain consistent in your expectations and nighttime rules. Your kids will get the message.
photo credit: tanya_little via photopin cc
At what age did your children begin to share a room? What helped ease the transition for your family?