When we first bought our house, we naively envisioned that our babies would grow into toddlers that would share a room, no problem! It’s not that we don’t have other bedrooms, it’s just that we needed an office, as we both work from home, and at the time part of my work required having a studio to create my products in.
We’re the type of folk who entertain quite a bit and having a spare room for overnight guests was important to us.
That meant our soon-to-be (then), toddlers were destined to share a bedroom. Not for the weak. Our desires, revolving around having our kids share a room, weren’t completely selfish either. I grew up sharing a room with my siblings and I believe it taught me a thing or two about being less self-entitled and definitely contributed to the bond between my sisters and I.
There are many other advantages that come from kids sharing a bedroom. Some that I have noticed with my own, and experienced when I was a kid, are that learning assertiveness comes naturally. Respect for personal space and articles of clothing and toys/books was a natural side-effect. I see it happening with my two as well. I watch how it fosters the development of my kids’ sensitivity to each others’ needs (being quiet when one is asleep before the other), and a growing respect for personal boundaries.
Here are some of my own personal tips and techniques that worked for my family in our quest to obtain a status of successful sibling bedroom sharing:
1. Create a Harmonious Space
As in, make sure they both have their own space. If your toddlers are into co-sleeping, go for a big double bed for a while, but make sure they have their own special blankets and pillows. If not, get them their own separate, cute little toddler beds or invest in a quality bunk bed, designed specifically for toddlers. Give them each their own bins with their names on them for a few choice toys that are just for them. They don’t need to share everything. Make the idea of sharing a room appealing to both of them! Make sure the space is safe and that they can’t get into too much trouble or harm one another while they are in there on their own. If your budget allows for it, invest in a digital/video style monitor so that when you’re kicking back on the patio with a cold one 2 floors down, you can see what’s going on when they try to wake/torture each-other any way they can. (Because oh, that will happen.)
2. Stick To Sleep Schedules
Even if they go down at night or for naps at different times. Ours do and we honour that. For a long while we bathed them together and read stories afterward to Abby first, giving her some one on one time each night (plus, she was into different books than her bro), while Wyndham had quiet time. After 7pm in our house it’s books or puzzles, that’s it. After we got his sister down, it was Wyndham’s turn for stories and cuddles. One last potty trip, teeth-brushing and off to bed. Usually Abby was fast asleep by the time Wyndham came in and for the most part he respected her sleep and kept things quiet. However, sometimes it was an all out gong-show. (More on that in the next tip.) However, over the past two weeks we’ve progressed into reading them stories together (Abby’s interests/tastes have advanced to be more on the same page as her bro), and putting them down at them same (earlier!) time in preparation for the school year. People, this has been life changing. The night before last we fed them an early dinner first and enjoyed a candlelight dinner at 8pm together with our kids sleeping. In bed. Already. Since we had done so much work in the previous months to just get them to sleep in the same room peacefully, we’ve experienced hardly a hiccup.
3. Consistency is KEY
You should just expect a bumpy start. As is hard. Hard on your bum, hard on your nerves. Either myself or the mister would camp out outside their bedroom door every night to keep on top of Wyndham’s (LOUD) antics. At first it was just him. Kicking the wall, trying to climb UP THE WALL, singing at the top of his lungs, going over to his sister’s bed and covering her with stuffed animals and spreading her duvet on top of her with all of that. Getting right up in her face and asking her if she was asleep, repeatedly. Ah, yea, she obviously didn’t stay asleep long with that going on. Then it would be party time; time to play and dance, wild rumpus style. According to them. There were a few tough nights where this would go on until well after 10pm! Like it was a game. They knew it and we knew that they were trying to play us. Push our buttons. (Plus, they probably did just want to play.) But we stuck with it and tried (sometimes failing), to remain calm and as kind as possible, yet stern. Reporting in to say, that yes, the consistency paid off and we are no longer enjoying our evenings sitting in the hallway by their bedroom door.
4. The Naptime Debacle
Naps were always harder than bedtime – they generally are the older your toddler gets, whether they are sharing a room or not. They just don’t want to miss out on the fun of the day by taking a nap. Especially on the weekends. This is a battle I don’t even entertain. I put them down in separate rooms. I’ve got stuff to do on the weekends in the afternoon, like clean, catch up on work, finish a project, garden and/or chill out and have a beer.
5. Expect Change
As in be prepared for the sleep regressions and changes in sleep patterns. I wish I could tell you that, once you’re in a good zone, things will stay that way, because I know you’ve worked hard to get there. The thing with toddlers is that they constantly switch things up on you. It’s just how things are. For example, my two are currently crawling into bed with us in the middle of the night and we’re wondering how to put that to an end.
6. Give Them Responsibility
We’re in a pretty darn cute stage right now wherein Wyndham has fully attached himself to the role of being the doting big brother. If you have two siblings born close in age, enlist the help of the older sibling to help with the bedtime routine. Wyndham enjoys reading his sister books and tucking her in at night. Sometimes he even sings her a couple of songs with me.
7. Remember It Gets Easier
There is light at the end of the tunnel! As with all challenges in parenting, the more we stick with it and as our children grow, things get better. They learn, we learn from them and it’s on to the next big challenge.
Do your young, close-in-age toddler siblings share a room? How did you do it?!
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