And Sherry Hayes from Large Family Mothering has agreed to share in answering this topic with me on her blog as well, another great addition to our "Large Family matters" co-writing projects. Because we both care deeply about large family matters; and because large family matters. *smile*
- Why is sharing bedrooms valuable?
- Setting up the bedrooms
- What about all their stuff?
- Going to sleep
- Nap times
- Ages of children and how that plays in
- Do we have boys and girls together in rooms?
- Who should clean the room?
- Handling sickness
- Different personalities?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Why is sharing rooms valuable?
Ten years ago when we were about to have our third baby we were living in a 2-bedroom apartment, which meant that the 3 kids were going to be sharing a bedroom...I knew that they - and we - would never sleep again. *laugh* But I was so wrong. I believed what friends told me. But children learn great character by sharing a bedroom and we've since learned that it is very good for them to do so. The kids were so fine sharing that bedroom, and they slept great.
Then we moved in to our first house (our current house), and we have a girls bedroom and a boys bedroom. Our two daughters slept in one room, and our little son in the other - and he was so lonely! Without his sisters he was sure they were having a party in there and he was not invited. *chuckle* Poor guy. But the rooms are tiny, and we had room for him to be in his own room, so it never occurred to me to have him be in their room with them for a while until he had another brother to sleep with. So he slept alone.
Then the Lord gave us another girl - which only meant the "girl party" just increased. *sigh* Poor Brandon was still alone. *laugh* When the Lord finally gave us another little son Brandon was so excited! But then he was very disillusioned when he learned that his little brother wouldn't be sleeping in the boys room for quite a while still. Brandon would say, "So...when exactly does Riley get to sleep with me??" But the Lord would then give Brandon second brother, and then a third brother - making that 4 brothers total in the boys room, and Brandon was so, so happy. *beam*
When siblings share a bedroom there are great benefits for the children's lives, from what we've been taught and from our own experience. Of course that's easy to say, and it sounds so nice...and it takes a lot of work... and the fruit is so sweet.
First of all, sharing bedrooms is very practical with the amount of space the average family has in their home. Most people have between 2-4 bedrooms in their house. It makes the most sense for children to be able to share bedrooms. Especially when the Lord desires, deserves, and expects lordship in our lives in the area of family planning, this often means that we get blessed with a bunch of kids. But many people, sadly enough, decide that they will not surrender lordship to Christ in family planning because of something so simple as believing that they don't have enough bedrooms to do so. But this is an untruth from the world and from the enemy of our souls, keeping us in fear and out of obedience and blessing. God can bless children through sharing their bedrooms.
There is also so much character development that happens when siblings share bedrooms, and this character effects their whole life. Children learn selflessness when they have to focus on others' needs and not just their own; generosity when they share their space, their things, and their time; they learn to serve one another when someone has a need - especially if they have bunk beds and cannot get down easily *chuckle*; responsibility is developed when they need to keep their space clean and organized for another's sake and not just their own; self-control when they want to do something or say something to a sibling, but have come to love that person in their vulnerability of sleep - and know that a parent can help reinforce that child's ability to exercise self-control if necessary; they learn tolerance for another's breathing sounds and giggling and when that sibling is sick; they learn loyalty to siblings in a special way; sensitivity; flexibility; and compassion. Of course this character takes years to develop, and I wish the fruit were consistent and once-learned-always-applied, but that's just not real life with children. But when they do learn it it will not only bless the family but will bless their spouse one day as well.
Other benefits include the special bonding that children can have when sharing bedrooms. They have special conversations before falling asleep, even when they may not have been the best of friends all day long prior to that. They connect by sharing a room in special ways that they just don't have otherwise.
Our twin baby girls also have the sweetest times at night before falling asleep. And we didn't even know they did these things until we added them to the girls room at about 9-months-old and the older girls would then tell us about the twins. The twins would stand in their adjacent cribs and suck each other's fingers (like thumbs) and feel each other's ears. *laugh* They would squat down and spring up again playing peek-a-boo. They would help each other get out of their pajamas in the funniest ways! We had put their blanket sleepers (footed pj's) on backwards to prevent them from taking them off, but they figured out a way. One would turn around with her back to sister, sister would unzip her pj's for her, and then that baby would bend over and touch her toes causing the zipper to zoom down her back and get undone. *laugh* We had to stop this by adding diaper pins to the tops of their pj's so they wouldn't get cold, but on my gosh it was cute. Sharing a bedroom can be so, so sweet.
Setting up the bedroomsWe have a 4 bedroom house (click here for a tour of our whole house). One of the bedrooms we use for a toys and computers room, then there is the master bedroom, and the two children's bedrooms: a girls room and a boys room. *smile* First I'll show you our girl's bedroom set up.
Our five daughters, ages 14, 13, 6, and almost-2-year-old twins share the girls room currently. The twin baby girls each have a mini-crib in the girl's room. They slept together in a full-size crib when they were immobile infants, but when they became mobile they needed to be able to get away from each other and sleep undisturbed. *chuckle* I used to have their cribs touching so that they could still be close to each other, and listen to each other breathe at night, and play cutie-pie quiet little games at night before falling asleep. But then they started climbing in to each other's cribs so I've moved the cribs apart a little bit now to try to help them sleep better.
The curtain in the girls' room has been attached up high by the cribs temporarily so that the babies cannot pull it down. The 6-year-old's jewelry box on the window sill is kept out of their reach as well. There is a fan on the window sill which they use to not only circulate the air flow in their bedroom at night, but it also makes a great "white noise" which helps them sleep better. When the twins are about 2 1/2-years-old we plan to take down the mini cribs and add another bunk bed to the girls room instead (up against the window, perpendicular to the existing bunk bed; the white shelf unit will stay where it is). They won't fit in these mini cribs quite as long as they would in two full-size cribs, but we've moved children as young as 18-months-old in to twin beds a few times before with success, so it'll be fine.
Our oldest daughters (13 and 14-years-old) sleep on the bunk beds currently, and our 6-year-old daughter sleeps on the trundle bed which pulls out from underneath the bunk bed at night. (see next photo below)
To add a little of their own personalities to their beds, my mom has sewn each of the children their own cutely-patterned with polka-dots, stripes, and plaids flannel pillow cases, which are kept underneath their comforters and decorative pillows. So at a glance the room decor matches; but when they get into bed to sleep their brightly-colored pillow cases come out. *chuckle* They love these.
Our four sons, ages 9, 5, 3, and 2-years-old share the boy's room currently. The oldest two boys have the top bunks and the youngest two the bottom bunks. Yes, the bunks are close together which means, yes, we did have a problem initially with the biggest boys jumping between the two top bunks. But this acquired some swift consequences and it no longer a problem. *chuckle* The 2-year-old has only climbed up a couple of times (although is not allowed technically to do so) and it is not a problem. The 3-year-old does not climb up at night but does climb up once-in-a-while during play time in his bedroom, but we try to discourage that as much as possible as well. But we cannot worry about it too much. This is the space the Lord has given to us, so we do the best we can with it, and we try to be faithful in training them to be safe. The boys love it, and really it's working just beautifully. *smile*
All of the toys (except these stuffed animals on the wicker shelf, and some of the girls-only toys in their closet) are kept upstairs in the play room, so this really helps the rooms to not be crowded or cluttered, and really helps the children stay in their beds at night (both boys and girls).
What about all their stuff?
So I'm sure you're asking, "But what about all the kids stuff??" *smile* Well like I mentioned above, almost all of the toys are kept up stairs in the playroom. All of the children's clothing is kept in our one main children's clothing closet, so not having dressers in their bedrooms also frees up a huge amount of space. Their closets store some of their personal things, and each of the 5 oldest kids has their own personal-stuff box where they can keep their own special things.
Here's the girl's bedroom closet. Now they do have some toys in their closet that are girls-only toys because they're breakable (and uninteresting) for the boys. These are things such as tiny dolls and big dolls, china tea sets, and some Briar horse stalls that go with the horses and their supplies in the plastic drawers I'll show you. Also their clothes hamper.
And this closet is locked during the 2-year-old girls room play time so that they have access only to the toys that that are given to them to play with but without having full access to this closet. This enables the little girls to play safely and "managably" by themselves here during part of our homeschool morning. I bought this awesome bi-fold door lock off of Amazon for $3.88. It's a clear plastic piece that fits over the top of the door, and slides over the crack in the door when we lock it, preventing it from pulling open.
Here is where the girls keep their personal, special things. The oldest girls each have a drawer, and the 6-year-old uses the pretty hat box on top of the drawers. The rest of the drawers have Briar horses, My Little Pony's, and some knitting and crocheting supplies in them - all of which the boys do not need access to. I'm currently looking for some clips to put through the top of each drawer and fasten to the front of the pull-out part so that the little girls can't get in to these either during their play-alone time here. My husband offered to just drill some holes through the top and front of each drawer to fit the clips.
And the girls have a few items such as alarm clocks resting on the head board of their bed, or a book tucked in beside their bed. Night stands would be nice some day, but we don't have room for them currently so we make do. *smile*
Here is the boy's bedroom closet. In here I keep extra backpacks and bags, the boy's hats, their money banks, an extra sheet and wet mat for when someone wakes up with a wet bed I can change it quickly and easily in the morning, all the extra packages of baby wipes from Costco, and their clothes hamper
There side you can also see the extra hangers that I'm not using (I should just put them away I guess, but they fit here okay so I've just left them), and a CD player the boys have used for an audio book or music sometimes when having play-alone time in this room. There also their sweatshirts, the toy basket that the 2 and 3-year-olds use when they have some play time in their room during our homeschool morning, and below that is a large plastic tub containing all of the kids varying sizes of underwear, training pants and rubber pants. (I was forever trying to remember where I put the next size up underwear that I needed for a child, which I had been keeping with their boxes of currently-unused clothes in the garage. Finally I pulled all of the underwear from the boxes and put it all in to one place so I can easily get what I need, and avoid re-purchasing items I already have but couldn't find.)
And at night the closet door is locked closed so that the three youngest brothers are not tempted to go exploring through the other's personal things, especially those belonging to the oldest son who's things are a prize for the youngest ones to explore through. *wink* After trying a few different door locks for sliding doors we finally found that we prefer a home-made lock that my husband came up with. He simply drilled a hole through the two doors right in the top center where they over lap, and then put a very long nail through the two doors so they can't be slid open. When we desire to get into the closet we simply slide the nail out a ways, and then push it back in again when we're done.
Going to sleep
All of our children need pretty much the same amount of sleep at night, about 10 1/2 hours, with a couple of exceptions that are easy to work with. So they all go to bed at the same time of night which is currently 9:00 pm, and then I get them up at 7:30 in the morning, with the exception of our 13 and 14-year-old daughters who need less sleep and so get up at 6:00 or 6:30 by their choice to shower, read their Bibles, and begin their morning jobs.
We do not allow any of the children to stay up late at night if they need less sleep, but instead they are free to get up as early as they'd like in order to get the amount of sleep that they need. At night my husband and I need to be "off duty" at a certain time, and night time is generally unproductive time for the children anyway, so they all go to bed at the same time. In the morning they are required to get right in to their responsibilities and then school work, and if they finish those early then they have extra free time more than usual; but we do not allow them to get up and read or play first and then hope to still get all their responsibilities done in the day. They need to learn good disciplines for their life, so responsibilities always come first. If they are not diligent in doing their school, etc., then they waste their free time in the day, rather than taking the free time first and possibly not finishing their school work.
There is also one more exception to the general sleep routine for the kids. We have a 3-year-old who needs only 8 1/2 hours of sleep at night in order to still need a 2-hour nap in the afternoon (which he needs to feel his best the rest of the evening, and mommy needs him to have as well *wink*). So 8 of the children go to sleep at 9am but the 3-year-old stays up with daddy and plays quietly on the family room floor until 10:30 pm. Then we wake him early at 7:00 am before the rest of the kids are up, and he plays quietly in the playroom until everyone else gets up. This is the second 3-year-old we've had who needed less sleep for his 3-year-old year (which is also the age when most children begin not wanting to take naps any more, but we have them nap through age 5), and then after that needed more sleep again and went back to sleeping the same hours as the rest of the children.
A key to helping children be successful with their night time sleep is to make sure they are not overly tired (not getting enough sleep), or under-tired (getting too much sleep, or time in bed). We do not expect the kids to be in bed longer than they need which leads to disobedience. We strive to put them to bed when they're really tired so that they'll just go to sleep. Sometimes children may not need quite 10 1/2 hours of sleep at night, or some nights they may need more sleep than usual, so to simplify we stick with the general average of 10 1/2 hours every night and they do really well. (Of course if someone is sick or has an unusual need for extra sleep than we encourage or require them to go to bed early.)
When we put the children all to bed we tell them that they must stay lying down, and they generally obey these directions. We discourage talking, but the oldest kids usually whisper for 20-30 minutes before falling asleep. We've found that if they're lying down then they realize how tired they are sooner than if they're remaining stimulated by sitting up. And the bedrooms are small enough that the older ones can whisper without disturbing the younger ones who fall asleep very quickly (again, having made sure that they're really tired when we put them to bed).
If children are having a difficult time going to sleep after this little while of "grace time" then daddy goes down and reminds them to stop talking now. In the case of the boy's room with their bunk beds so close together and side-by-side one another, sometimes I'll have the boys position their decorative pillow (not the one they sleep on, but their other decorative one that goes on top of their bed when it's made) standing up on it's side against the side rail of the bunk bed as a barrier so that they cannot see one another. This almost always helps them go to sleep. If not, then daddy has to go down to use some parental authority to help "motivate" them to control themselves and stop talking. *chuckle* *wink*
Recently we've had the struggle of our little twin baby girl muffins wanting to climb in to one another's cribs at night. *chuckle* Cutie pies. But they need their sleep so we have to give some consequences and then put them back in to their own beds. (They used to sleep together as babies, but when they became mobile they needed to be able to get alone and get to sleep.) So for a while we separated their beds a ways so that they couldn't climb between them easily. This worked for a few months until they learned to span that gap and still get to the other's cribs, however sometimes one would fall out and get a bump or a bruise. So we actually put the cribs close together again to prevent them from falling. We still expect them to stay in their own beds, and give consequences if they disobey, but at least they don't get hurt from falling if they disobey. In a few months with this year's tax returns we'll be getting the girls another bunk bed for their room and so Lacey & Lilly will be on twin beds by 2 1/2-years-old and the falling out won't be a risk any longer. Of course, staying in bed will be a new discipline - but they all need to get there some day. *shrug* *smile*
We were taught, and have found it to be true, that it's very good for children to nap through age 5. At age 5 children are often then learning to read books and can occupy themselves for a quiet time every day. So each of our children at about age 3 has started balking at naps, but we persevere through that hurdle, even cutting back on their night time sleep if necessary for a while, and eventually they settle right back in to napping well until or through age 5. We do not have children share bedrooms, however, during nap time.
Nap time sleep is not as deep and solid as night time sleep is when they're ready to settle in for a nice long 10 1/2 hours, and as a result we've never had kids nap in the same room together successfully. So I currently have our 2-year-old nap in his bed in the boy's room. The 3-year-old little son sleeps up in our bedroom walk-in closet that has a full-size crib in it and even a crib tent over the top of it to help him stay there and sleep. (Crib tents have been recalled - for dumb reasons in our mind - but none the less they're no longer sold.) He needs that sleep, but if he can get out of bed and explore instead then he'll do that. If he knows he can't get out then he lays right down and goes to sleep. So he's in his big boy bed at night, but naps in the crib tent in the afternoon. The twin baby girls actually do sleep in their adjacent cribs for naps, but that's a unique situation with twins. They've always slept together and they do great that way. When they have twin beds in a few months I'm not sure we'll be able to stick with that plan of them being in the same room, but for now they are. When we had more children napping than just these 4, we've had one little son (who needed total accountability) sleep on a blanket in the family room while I worked on the computer or in the kitchen near him. If I was right there then he's go to sleep. And the older kids all have what we call play-alone time during the younger children's naps.
During this time the older ones each choose an independent activity to do quietly by themselves for that 2 hour nap time. They usually listen to a disc player with an audio book or music to help them be in their own little world even though we're all sharing the family room or other rooms. We try to not have talking during this nice time of day. Everyone enjoys it being quiet for a while, and we feel renewed and refreshed having had a little time without anyone interrupting our thoughts or kids taking each other's toys. The kids usually each take a room to play in - the play room, the master bedroom, the family room, dining room table, or our carpeted, well-lit garage (with a space heater if necessary). I do allow the boys to make "mouth noises" while they play with their castles and knights or cars and trucks, but if they're alone then they're pretty quiet still. Some times I let the 9 and 5-year-old boys play together and they do pretty well, but the 6-year-old sister needs a break from their boy-ish ways and she plays alone as 13 and 14-year-old sisters do.
Ages of children and how that plays in
Here are answers to a few specific questions I've been asked regarding children's ages and sleeping arrangements.
At what age do we add babies to the girls or boys rooms?We teach our babies to sleep through the night by 3 months of age, and up until this time we have the baby sleep in a crib in the walk-in closet in our room, close by to us, helping them eat at night and learn to sleep longer. After this time we keep baby with us still until about age 1 when the child is old enough to push a blanket off of themselves (instead of suffocating) should a sibling throw one into the crib with an effort to keep baby warm. *wink* At this time we feel baby is safe sleeping with his or her brothers or sisters.
Is there a point at which an older child needs their own room?Not in our opinion. *smile* From what we've seen in other families and have read ourselves (and of course this is just a generality; there are always exceptions), giving older children their own room only fosters me-myself-and-I, encourages that older child to shut out the rest of the family and focus on their self too much, divides the once-close relationships with siblings, and facilitates independence rather than interdependence, which the Lord designed us for. (Not in a co-dependent way, mind you, but in a close, depending upon one another and doing life together kind of way.)
What if there is a large age difference between siblings?Doesn't matter. Young people just seem to get older and more appreciative of the sweetness of babies and little ones. *smile* They become better and better nurturers, which in my mind should be encouraged to only continue until they are nurturing their own babies.
Do we have boys and girls together in rooms?
No we don't have any currently as it has worked out in such a way that we haven't needed to. But we have friends who have 2 bedrooms for kids and they have 6 kids: one 12-year-old son and five girls. So they have that son sharing with some sisters. No big deal. They just change their clothes in the bathroom and practice modesty very nicely.
Some other friends of ours have 10 children and more bedrooms for them. One of the bedrooms happens to be tiny (closet sized almost) and only fits one person, so their oldest 18-year-old daughter has her own room and it works beautifully for them. That daughter has her heart totally connected with the family and younger siblings and she is very generous and others-focused (while still able to develop her own skills and interests).
So the bottom line is - I think it's best to have only girls with girls and boys with boys as much as possible. But the Lord chose the genders of our children, and He knows the size of our homes, and He is very capable of making things work beautifully no matter what situation we have.
Who should clean the room?
We require each person to be responsible for their own bed and their own things. They each make their own bed every day, keep their own clothes picked up, and keep their own things put away where they belong. They're often inclined to set things down where they don't belong, on the window sill, on book shelves, or on the drawers in their room, but with 9 kids doing that the house would quickly become very cluttered so I don't allow it. When I find things laying around or stacked placed where they don't belong, I call them and have them put the items away. Especially dirty laundry. I can't stand laundry all over the house. It all goes in the hamper and in my mind there is no reason to have it anywhere else except out of laziness and not being considerate of other people's space. We all share the bedrooms and the house, so if people leave stuff lying around then they are not being considerate of others. So, with these plans the house generally stays picked up and no one is stuck with cleaning up piles of other people's things that they left lying around *smile* Works for us.
Generally we still have kids sleep in their beds when they're sick, even when they share bedrooms and therefore germs while they breathe at night. Everyone sleeps their best in their own bed, and when someone is sick they need good sleep. The exception of sleeping in their own bed is if one of the older children has the stomach flu and they desire to sleep in the bathroom on a blanket on the floor so that they can be close to potentially-needed facilities which they're almost guaranteed to need. But if they're mostly past the throwing-up-often stage then we let them stay in their own bed with a dish tub on a towel at the foot of their bed if they need it. I can't be worrying about people sharing germs with 11 people sharing a 1100 square foot home. *smile* That's just not practical. And I'm not wanting to have little ones especially be quarantined from their family when they're sick; they're just not olde enough to understand that and would feel so rejected. So we just do our normal things when people are sick and pray that they don't all get it. We give kids Emergen-C drink mix to boost their immune systems, we don't have any sugar (which feeds a virus and makes it worse and lowers immune systems), and we eat well and get lots of rest, and that's the best we can do so we rest in that. And it works fine.
What about handling different personalities?
Of course sharing bedrooms isn't always sweetness and bonding. *laugh* To develop that character I mentioned earlier takes intentionality in our parenting and training. We need to take on this issue of enabling children to share bedrooms - ON PURPOSE. *smile* We need to ask the Lord what His plan is for our families. How would He have us best proceed.
We should not determine whether or not to allow the Lord to give us more children based upon the size of our house or how many bedrooms we have for children; we need to let Him have lordship, and then let Him show us how to best proceed. *smile* Not whether or not we obey; but how we obey Him well.
Having children share bedrooms can have so many blessings that can come as a result! *smile* And we would encourage parents to take on the challenge proactively - ON PURPOSE. Proactively, not re-actively. Decide on a the best room arrangement and then make it happen. Eliminate any obstacles that you come across; don't let things - such as toys or clothes or number of beds - rob the children of the blessing of really bonding together and developing life-long character. If toys are a problem, get them out of the bedrooms or put them in the closets. If clothes are problem, probably first clean-out some clothes *wink* and then find a good way to store what you have either in the bedroom or outside the bedroom! Think outside the box. Establish a good sleep schedule and then stick with the plan, so everyone can get the amount of sleep that they need, and sleep well while sharing the space. Encourage children of all ages to bond. Encourage each child to be responsible for their bed, their clothes, their things, to be respectful to the others in the room and to learn to be orderly. With children's personalities they should not be allowed to have the mindset, "This is the way I am, so deal with it", but rather, "This aspect of my character seems pretty rough...Lord, please help me to become more gracious and empathetic with others."
We believe that parents should not let children decide whether or not they share a bedroom. Children don't know what's best for them; parents do. It may seem harder to a child at first to share a bedroom with siblings (in fact, it may seem harder to the parent's, too!) - but it's better in the long run. You can do it. *smile*
Website (and blog): TheWellRestedFamily.com
Book: Sleep Tight Every Night, by Malia Jacobson, author of The Well Rested Family
Book: Sleep Tight Every Night, by Malia Jacobson, author of The Well Rested Family
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