When kids want their own room to grow
OLIVIA Meadows is 10 years old and ready for her own room. She has told her parents she would be willing to live in a converted closet rather than continue to share a room with her seven-year-old sister.
Her sister Grace does not welcome the prospect of losing her older sister, whom she looks up to. She is even less impressed with the idea of sharing her room with her three-year-old brother Jacob, who currently occupies the closet Olivia is eyeing.
There was a time when sharing a room with a sibling was the norm. In the days when houses and budgets were smaller than they are today and families tended to be larger, children routinely got to know their brothers and sisters, whether they liked it or not.
Most parents today want each child to have his or her own bedroom. But that can be difficult when bigger houses are too expensive for many homebuyers.
And some parents don’t think a room for every kid is the best strategy for a child’s development. They think parents do their children a disservice by giving them their independence too early.
Learning to live together is a character-building experience, says Allison Meadows, mother of Olivia, Grace and Jacob. The girls have been together three years now and we respect that Olivia is now older, wants to stay up later and needs her own space.
Until now, sharing a room has been a good experience for the two. They read, listen to the same music and play with each other.
To soften the blow, Allison has talked to Grace about the positive aspects of the change. She has explained that it is a chance for Grace to switch roles. Instead of big sister Olivia reading to Grace, Grace can now assume the responsibility of the big sister as she, in turn, reads to her younger brother.
Allison says the suggestion of playing the role of the older sibling appears to appeal to Grace.
Teaching children how to share is important for some parents. For them, the lesson of how to live together is the glue that forms bonds between siblings at an early age.
It’s not simply about space, says Nazli Khosravi, the mother of Cordelia, 6, and Orla, 3½. There will always be debate over the pros and cons, but I am a firm believer that living together teaches the children how to share. Children will also have the comfort of knowing there’s always somebody there.
Some children just don’t like being alone. For them, sharing a room with a sibling can calm myriad nighttime anxieties.
She says that although her children have completely different personalities, they manage to co-exist because she and her husband set boundaries for the girls.
Despite their differences, they still manage to find common ground, Khosravi says.
Some psychologists say most people would choose to endure a lack of space if they could have some privacy instead.
It’s not density, per se, that people miss, says Robert Gifford, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Victoria. When given a choice, people generally will choose a smaller, private space over a shared, larger space.
He says the social atmosphere of a home will determine how the occupants get along with sharing. If the atmosphere is positive, it will magnify the positive aspects of living in that house.
While some children share a room because their homes are small, others in larger houses share because their parents believe it’s a positive life experience for children.
Aliza Hunter’s two young children, Jeremy, 3½, and Tavia, 18 months, have separate rooms, but it’s not the preferred choice.
Lately, Jeremy has been crying out in his sleep. When the two siblings shared a room, the noise would awaken Tavia — and her parents, of course. To ensure that everybody can get a full night’s sleep, the children sleep in the two downstairs bedrooms in the twostorey house.
“While we are glad we have the option, we would still prefer to have them upstairs (in an adjoining bedroom) with us,” says Hunter. She expects the children will share a room once Jeremy outgrows his nighttime cries.
When they are together, they are excited to see each other. They have their own time to hang out.
Making a room appealing to two children of different ages, or twins, can sometimes be challenging but possible, say interior designers specializing in children’s rooms.
Parents need to remember to recognize their children as individuals, says Michelle Kohl, co-owner of Sam & Oliver Designs.
It’s about defining personal space. She recommends using complementary colours with similar, but not matching, furniture to give each child a sense of individuality. They should be of similar size and weight, but age-appropriate to the child.
— Canwest News Service
Alison Meadows with daughters Olivia, 10, and Grace, 7, and son Jacob, 3. The girls have been sharing a room for the past three
years, but now big sister Olivia wants her own space.