So you have dreams that your children will share a bedroom one day and they will have happy memories of chatting to each other in the middle of the night and giggles at bedtimes, maybe even share a bed and fall asleep hugging each other…but then reality comes and you just wonder if it is the right thing to do and then when is the right time to do it.
You may have no choice and your children have to share a room. Whatever the reason for moving siblings together there are a few things you may like to ensure are in place before the big move.
First of all you want to ensure your children are good sleepers. You need to be confident that they will not keep each other awake for hours or multiple times in the night.
If either of your children do not settle to sleep easily and wake in the night or early morning it is best to address this first, Of course if this is something you are not sure how to address then I can help you there. I provide solutions and support for children aged 5 months to 4 years.
Your children need to have separate beds. They are entitled to their own space of course and also it reduces the potential of them disturbing each other and as they get older messing about with the covers and pillows!
Is There A Right Age To Move Siblings Together?
Again this comes down to whether your children can actually sleep well at night. That may be when one is 6 months or it may be when they are 3 years old. I have supported parents though this transition many times and those babies have been around 7-10 months moving in with their sibling who is closer to 2.5/3 years old. It went beautifully and without any issues.
You do not want to do it when number 3 has just arrived so make the move well before baby arrives. This will give time to get used to the new adventure and also not raise attention to the fact a new baby has arrived and we are being “shoved in together ” to make space for a new person that will turn family life upside down for a while anyway!
So now let’s look at the pros and cons for siblings sharing a room.
· It can be fun for them and cement a bond
· It can help with learning how to share, boundaries and social skills
· It can help and encourage skills on conflict and sibling arguments
· Their sleep may be affected if they are not on the same schedule and one can wake the other at bedtime or early morning
· Over excitement at bedtimes can prolong bedtime and falling asleep
· They may argue and fight over how to arrange the room and not help each other tidy up
· At some point they will need separate bedrooms as they get older and bigger
So now you have made the decision to move your children in together what next?
Prepare Them For It Mentally!
Perhaps it is something you have talked about for months but if not start talking about it perhaps 2-3 weeks prior to it happening. Explain that they will both have their own beds, their own space and how fun it will be to share a room. They can dream together!
The elder sibling may feel the pressure they have to look after the baby so explain and show them the baby monitor (remember children are visual and like to see what is happening/going to happen) you have a monitor and you can see and hear what is going on and it is mummy and daddy’s job to look after you both. You must explain that if your brother/sister wakes in the night you must roll over and close your eyes, mummy or daddy will see to your brother/sister.
Then Prepare Aesthetically
Are you able to move the siblings cot into the bedroom before baby goes in? It can be helpful for older child to actually see what is happing and how it will look like, they can help build it, put the sheet on, the sleep bag in. if the children are older get them involved with choosing beds, talking about how to arrange the room.
Make Sure The Beds Fit In The Bedroom!
Is that a single bed and cot or perhaps bunk beds or twin beds? May be a king floor bed. Think if your children want to have a cosy corner for themselves, maybe you can put a curtain rail up in the ceiling and it can act as a sort of partition and this will give privacy to an older sibling who may feel they want their own space but a separate room is not possible.
If you have bunk beds is it a given who goes on top? Safe sleep comes into this. It is recommended children under 6 years should not sleep in a top bunk. Please do your research first on safe sleep. The Lullaby Trust can advise further.
It is important that the siblings know not to put blankets /toys or climb in or out of their little siblings cot. Also explain jumping on the beds/cots can cause the bed to break and they can fall and hurt themselves
Consistency at Bedtime
Have a consistent bedtime, ensure it is calm and enjoyable for all. No one wants the added stress at the end of a long day! If one child goes to bed later than the other you may want to pop a red lamp in the bedroom so they can see what they are doing at bedtime and where all their teddies are! You can get a red light torch for them so if they need to go to the loo in the night they do not have to put on a bright light and wake their sibling. Staggering bedtimes can be helpful especially if there is a circus at bedtime!
Your eldest may like to “help” put baby to bed so bear this in mind and try to keep it all calm and swift.
Consistency in the Morning
You may need to get an alarm clock to wake your children or you may need to get an “okay to wake” clock to keep them in their bedroom and quiet until it is time to get up. Whatever it may be, be consistent with it. If one does wake earlier than the other that okay to wake clock can help them understand to stay quiet until the green light goes off.
My favourite "okay to wake" clocks are
The drive to sleep in the day is much lower and you may find siblings do not nap well together so having a separate space for them may be needed. Think out the box so if you have a travel cot perhaps it can go in your bedroom or a large bathroom for nap time. As long as it is dark and quiet, win!
Twins and Multiples
Safety first here so please follow guidelines from The Lullaby Trust. Twins and multiples need and must have their own sleep space. When parents are ready for them to move out to their own room twins and multiples are normally kept together. They are in tune with each other and surprisingly do not seem to disturb each other.
I have worked with families of multiples and one of the questions parents ask me is should they be separated while sleep training? I always keep them together. Not yet have I had to separate them and that included 14 month old twins when one was ready to start the day at 4.30am every day! It would have to be very exceptional circumstances in which I would suggest or advise to separate twins or multiples.
Just Go For It! Don’t Be Scared
Don’t overthink it, don’t fear the new future of sleep! Just go for it. Often it is us parents who are more nervous and concerned and the children don’t even blink an eye about the move! As long as everyone so sleeping well, prepared for some twists in the path at bedtimes perhaps just enjoy it and you will see it will all work out and be a lovely experience!
If you have any questions of concerns about your child’s sleep and would like to talk it through with someone who has a fresh eye and experience you can click on the link here to book in your free sleep assessment call.
Peaceful nights to you all,
Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant
(The links in this article are affiliate links. If you choose to buy I will earn a few extra pennies from the sale. It will be of no extra cost to you. Thank you)