Would you — or do you — have your children share a room?
Sometimes room-sharing is a choice, and other times, it’s a necessity. After all, not every home has one bedroom per kid.
But whether by choice or necessity, similar issues may arise when you set up roommates of the non-rent-paying variety. How can kids get alone time? What if they have different bedtimes? What if they fight over toys or space?
We spoke to two parenting experts (who also happen to be parents themselves) to figure out what having a sibling as a roommate means for your child, and how you can make sharing a bedroom a great experience for everyone.
Why sharing a room can be a good thing
Jessica McMaken, founder of parenting consulting site Razbelly and mom of three, has found that her two older children, ages 4 and 7, like sharing a room. “When the baby gets older, they’ll probably all three share a room,” she predicts.
Dr. Susan Bartell, child psychologist, mom of three and author of “The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask,” explains that the reason most kids like to share rooms is because, for many kids, sharing is about inclusion rather than space. Parents expect that kids want space — and when they reach a certain age, they probably do — but many children just want to be together.
That doesn’t mean it’s always smooth sailing. The below issues are common with children who share rooms. Find out why, and how you can solve them.
Issue No. 1: Bedtime
If your children are different ages, you shouldn’t force the older child to go to bed at the same time as her younger sibling, says Bartell. She adds that children should be allowed to go to bed when it’s developmentally appropriate. “Otherwise, older children will become resentful.”
The Solution: McMaken explains that when her children first shared a room, the problem with a shared bedtime was that they were constantly talking and playing instead of sleeping. She got around this barrier by giving the children different bedtimes: While she and her husband put one of the younger children to sleep, her son has “by himself” time until his own bedtime, when he reads a story with his dad in the living room and then heads to bed across the room from his sleeping sister.
For children of the same age, or who should have the same bedtime, Big City Moms recommends sleep aids such as a truly dark room (using blackout shades) and a white noise machine to minimize distractions.
Issue No. 2: Personal space
While many kids like to share space, they don’t always want to share all their stuff. Bartell points out that when there aren’t doors to define a child’s own space and possessions, things can get tricky.
The Solution: “Each child should have a little space of his or her own within the larger room,” Bartell recommends. This can be as small as a shelf or drawer, or as big as separate dressers and night tables. She adds that one of the biggest private areas is a child’s bed. “I would recommend having children ask permission to sit on each other’s beds to give them control over their own space. It’s just like asking before entering a room.”
But what if one of the sharers is too young to understand about asking for permission? In that case, Bartell says it’s the parents’ job to help the older child figure out a solution: Build shelves up high where the baby can’t reach, or offer the child space in another room to store his precious things. If it’s really a problem, help the older child pack away his breakables to be unpacked when the baby is old enough to understand boundaries. “He’ll understand that he’s being respected, and that you’re doing what you can to help him,” she explains.
Issue No. 3: Privacy
Especially when a child shares a bedroom with a sibling of the opposite sex, privacy can become a problem as they get older. “Ideally, children would move out of shared rooms with a sibling of the opposite sex by age 6,” explains Bartell, “but not every family has that option.”
The Solution: Bartell recommends setting up explicit boundaries around changing and privacy. “Have them change in the bathroom, or be flexible with your own room as another place to change. I know one family who even set up a curtained area, like hospital curtains, for changing,” she recalls.
Issue No. 4: Conflict
While conflicts over sharing toys or clothes will happen with any siblings, the forced proximity of a shared room makes those conflicts even more commonplace. Bartell points out that many of the conflicts revolve around infringements on personal space, like touching or borrowing something that belongs to the other person. “Another thing I often see is a neat child being blamed for a messy room, although the sibling is the messy one. It sounds like a minor thing, but children find it very upsetting.”
The Solution: Set up rules and consequences for breaking those rules as soon as possible. “Tell your children explicitly what the rules are and what will happen if they break them,” explains Bartell. “The consequences depend on your household, but they should be something that matters to the child, which means different children can have different consequences.”
For instance, Bartell recounts the story of a family she once worked with: Two little girls shared a room and established that they must ask the other’s permission before touching anything that didn’t belong to them, whether or not the owner was around. One day, one of the girls needed the other’s book when the other wasn’t there, so she asked the mom for permission (who gave it). When the owner of the book came back later, her mom explained why she had given permission, and conflict was avoided.
Issue No. 5: Transition
If your children haven’t shared a room from infancy, merging two kids into one room can be a challenge. McMaken experienced this with her own kids: When her youngest son was born, she moved her older daughter and son into what used to be just her son’s room.
The Solution: ”We made a real effort to emphasize that the room was both of theirs now,” remembers McMaken. “I realized that my daughter referred to her new shared bedroom as ‘Henry’s room,’ because we all still called it that. We changed our language and redecorated the room — just a coat of paint and a new bedspread, but it made the room feel like a new space that belonged to both of them.”
If you’re merging rooms because you’re downsizing your home (Smaller houses can be nice! We talked about that here.), Bartell recommends being both honest about the situation (“We’re moving to a smaller home because we need to — now we’ll have more money for other things”) and creative (“I want to make sure you’re comfortable in your new room. How can we do that?”) about the situation.
If you’re transitioning the other way — from one room to separate rooms — Bartell cautions that many kids might not want to stop sharing. In that case, set up the new bedroom as simply a place to play, but leave the beds in one room. “When they get older, probably around age 8 or 9, they’ll want to split up. It will happen organically.”
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This post originally appeared on LearnVest.com on Aug. 17 and was written by Libby Kane. It is republished here with permission from LearnVest.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.
When it comes to weight gain, we blame our genes, our metabolism, and wrong foods that taste so right. But maybe our kitchens are to blame. Here’s why.
Dieters beware: Your dream kitchen remodel may be your biggest nightmare. Experts say that big and attractive kitchens contribute to big and unattractive waistlines.
Just shoot us now.
“If a kitchen gets you there and keeps you there, you’re going to increase your consumption,” says Mark Blegen, an associate professor at St. Catherine University in Minnesota, who studies why people eat. “Even if you add only 10 extra calories a day, you’re going to gain weight over the long term.”
You mean remodeling a small and dreary kitchen into a big and fabulous one is hazardous to our health?
“Getting people to think that this kitchen may be causing me to gain weight is a huge shift,” Blegen says. “But if people want to take an honest look at their weight, they ought to take a look at every aspect of their environment.”
Weight management depends on many things — genetics, metabolism, running shoes that live under your bed. But calories-in and calories-out also depend on increasing and decreasing barriers to food. Kitchen size, design, storage, and appliances all erect or destroy those physical and psychological barriers. Here’s how.
Kitchen-great room combos: As big kitchens multitask as family rooms, homework centers, and offices, we spend more time around food. “If it’s right there in front of you, odds are you’ll want to consume it,” Blegen says. In fact, a seminal study on eating and environment found that moving a candy bowl 6 feet away from eaters reduced their consumption by 50%. It’s hard to move food away from you in a kitchen.
Traditional design: Kitchen designers are slaves to minimizing the distance between a kitchen’s sink, stove and refrigerator — its “work triangle.” But researcher Brian Wansink says the smaller the triangle, the more we’re eating when we’re supposed to prepping.
Too-handy storage: Kitchen storage puts you within reaching distance of calories. Walk-in pantries are the worst, because they encourage buying in bulk and stockpiling. Not only does stockpiling put you within steps of huge quantities of food, but the cost of buying and storing that bargain 10-lb. bag of Jasmine rice puts pressure on you to eat it. You can’t win for losing.
Tempting refrigerators: Upscale, glass-front refrigerators bring you face-to-face with last night’s leftovers, which call to you like sirens. And placing the fridge next to the eating nook makes it easier — and more likely — to grab a second helping.
Open-shelf cabinets: They remove that last, slim barrier between you and food — the cabinet door. “The more visible and the more convenient the food is in cupboards, the more likely you are to take it,” says Wansink, author of “Mindless Eating.” Take a look at his video, which shows how kitchens sabotage your diet.
Forget counting calories — follow the HouseLogic diet
OK, count calories if you want. But you’ll eat fewer if you keep these kitchen makeover tips in mind.
Remodeling your kitchen? Give it the lean treatment
If your kitchen is tempting you to overeat, bite the bullet (no calories in that) and plan a remodel — keeping these strategies in mind.
Size the kitchen with food preparation, not munching, in mind. Instead of building an eat-in kitchen, devote space to prep islands, professional ranges, double ovens, and a couple of dishwashers. Then eat in a separate room, which reduces your temptation for seconds.
Place the refrigerator away from the kitchen entrance so you’re not tempted to graze the moment you enter the room. Also, choose smaller refrigerators with bottom freezers, which require you to stoop to scoop that ice cream. And take those vegetables out of the crisper and put them on a center shelf, where they stare you in the face each time you open the fridge door.
Install cabinets with solid doors. If you like the look of glass, opt for opaque or antique glass that hides contents.
Avoid walk-in pantries that can store bushels of food. Instead, choose smaller cabinetry with pull-out shelves that reveals all the healthful food they will contain. (We live in hope.)
Keep televisions, iPads, and other distractions out of the kitchen. The less you focus on the food you’re eating, the more you’ll eat.
Install bright lights, which discourage eating. Researchers don’t know exactly why harsh lighting means less eating. Perhaps we spend less time in places with annoying lighting. So use task lighting to help in food prep, save you money on dimmers, and keep lights bright.
Kitchen tweaks: No remodel planned? No problem
If you’ve already built the kitchen of your dreams or you’re not planning a full-scale remodel soon, a little reorganizing can help you cut calories.
If you already have open shelves, place dishware and pots there, not food. If you must put food where you can see it, store it in opaque containers.
Remove stools from around your prep island. You burn more calories standing than sitting, and eventually you’ll move to more comfortable spaces away from food.
Store fattening foods in a garage freezer or refrigerator; you’ll think twice about dessert if you must walk to the garage to get it. And if you do indulge, you’ll burn a few calories fetching those sweets.
Opt for one or two of the remodeling tips we noted above if you want to do a little more than reorganize but less than a full-on remodel.
What part of your kitchen encourages you to eat? Would you give it up to lose a few pounds?