When should children stop sharing a bedroom?

When should children stop sharing rooms?
When should children stop sharing rooms? Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

My six-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son share a bedroom in our rental house. They've been sharing since we moved in three years ago, and neither remembers things any other way.

I asked my daughter recently if she'd like her own room next time we move. She thought for a moment before offering her considered response that she would, but only because her brother hogs their shared bedside table.

My daughter can be quite needy at times, and I often hear my son chatting to her after lights out, helping her calm down and get ready for sleep. He's a wonderful older brother (as long as his friends aren't around to witness it).

For now I'm delighted that my kids can provide that support for one another, and studies have shown children can benefit socially from sharing a room (feeling secure and included, and reducing anxiety). I also see it creating a bond between my children that wouldn't be there if they had their own space.

But I'm aware this can't go on forever.

One of them – I assume it will be my son, purely because he's older and sometimes finds his younger sister a touch annoying – will reach a point where they'd like their own space.

Child counsellor Emily Kircher-Morris told Healthline there is no "correct" age for children to move to their own rooms.

"Often, once children are in school, they begin to become aware of the need for modesty and may feel uncomfortable changing in front of an opposite-gender sibling," she says.

"However, accommodations can be made for this, and kids can change in other areas or at separate times."

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This hasn't been an issue for my children yet. They're confirmed nudists – they eat, read and watch TV nude – and they really don't care who sees them. Kircher-Morris says by the time children hit puberty, though, things will be very different.

"[When they reach puberty] it will be much more difficult for them to feel comfortable sharing a room, and the need for privacy and space should be respected as much as possible."

Of course, sometimes it's not possible or practical to give each child their own room. If you don't have the room to spare, Kircher-Morris says you may just need to get creative.

"Children can be given their own specified space to keep clothes and toys in the bedroom," she says. "Providing an alternative space to change clothes, like the bathroom, or a schedule for the bedroom, can also help children learn the boundaries that are appropriate for privacy between genders."

Kircher-Morris says dealing with step-siblings can be different, depending on when they started sharing. If they were quite young, they can be treated just as regular siblings because in practical terms, that's exactly what they are.

If step-siblings have come together later, the dynamics of their relationship can be different, and therefore it may be wise to give them their space sooner rather than later.

And if children don't want to be apart? First, ask yourself if you really need to separate them. But if you do, Kircher-Morris suggests emphasising the benefits of having your own space.

"By taking time to create a space that is special for the children, parents can help children to feel excited about the change and give them some ownership over the new space."

There's something I find delightful about hearing my children chattering to each other after light's out, so I'm in no hurry to split them just yet. Hopefully that bond will last them a lifetime.