The thought of putting 2 (or more) children in the same room seems to terrify most parents! I have heard from many parents that the idea is so scary that one parent (usually dad) has to sleep on the couch just to avoid putting kids together. While room sharing can take some work at the start, it is usually far less painless than anticipated and, in fact, kids love the security of having someone else in the room. Below are some suggestions to make room sharing work for your family.
You would be surprised what a child can sleep through! Once children are asleep, they tend to sleep quite deeply, so a sick or crying sibling won’t necessarily wake the other one up. Over time, both children get used to the noises the other makes and learn to stay asleep, even when one wants to get up earlier. They just need time to adjust.
Wait until the baby is ready
If your baby is still up several times a night, this is not a good time to start room sharing. It would be best to wait until the baby’s night feeds occur at predictable times or until feeds have been eliminated.
Get the older child involved
Toddlers often want to “help” their parents. When room sharing, this can mean getting out of bed to tell you that the baby is awake or check on the baby! Encourage their desire to help by explaining that they will be helping you by staying quietly in bed and allowing you to tend to the baby.
Practice, practice, practice
If a child is used to sleeping in a room alone, they probably don’t know how to do things quietly. If one child goes to bed later or will have to get up in the night to use the bathroom, spend time practicing things like using a “quiet voice” when saying goodnight, opening and closing the bedroom door gently or going to get mom or dad instead of yelling from the bed. Make a game of role-playing these things so that your child gets plenty of practice before the kids start room sharing.
If you are putting a toddler and a baby together, stagger the bedtimes by 20-30 min (from the time the first child falls asleep). Allow enough time for the first child to fall asleep and move into a deep state of sleep before putting the second child to bed. If reading stories is part of your bedtime routine, you may initially need to do this in another room until you have figured out the sleep pattern of the child who is going to bed first. When children are old enough to have the same bedtime, then the routine can be done together.
If your older child has to start sharing their room, they may feel upset that they no longer have their own space. Encourage sharing by using a small reward system. Give stickers, verbal praise and small rewards for staying in bed quietly and acknowledge that it may be hard when mom or dad is tending to the baby but he or she is expected to stay in bed. This acknoweldgement can help reduce frustration or jealousy. If you are have two older children who will begin room sharing, you may give small rewards for going to bed when it’s “lights out” meaning that they are not getting out of bed to play when it’s time to sleep.
Often the first few weeks of room sharing can be pretty hard. At first, one child may wake the other or you may find that your kids are having the time of their lives, but not getting enough sleep. Keep in mind this is a learning process so it will take time. Over time, you will find that the they get used to sleeping through each others’ sounds and that they will come to enjoy being with their sibling during the night. Once a child knows how to room share, family travel can be much easier and your child will be well-prepared for sleepovers. There are a lot of great benefits to room sharing, so don’t be scared. You can do it!