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How long should boys and girls share a room?

Sharing space can make siblings closer, but for others, all kids want is a room of their own…

I shared a room with my brother until I was 10 years of age. He was nearly 13.

It was out of necessity, but I’m not entirely sure it was unusual back in the 80s. I don’t remember being particularly put out by this at the time as I was still quite young. I had my corner of the room and could still set up my Barbie townhouse and dub songs from the radio on my sweet, sweet tape deck so I was fine.

My brother, however, remembers this period of time very differently. Of course, he was at that difficult time in life where he was no longer technically a child but also, still not yet an adult, and quite frankly he resented the effervescent hippy child bounding into his space and annoying him each day. I understand this now.

Back in the 80s, we lived in the quintessential Aussie weatherboard home with three bedrooms, one bathroom, a tiny yet functional kitchen and large backyard. We were also living there with my grandfather who was descending rapidly into Alzheimer’s and therefore, our squeeze, the sharing of rooms wasn’t questioned, it was simply necessary.

At what point do you say 'No boys allowed'?

It was apparent though, when I did eventually get my own bedroom, how much I’d actually been missing out on. For one, unabashedly dancing around my room like a dickhead to Kylie Minogue and, also, being able to scour my Dolly magazine for hours on end wearing nothing but a t-shirt and undies. Simple pleasures.

And I guess birth order really does play a large part here. We are forever talking about how the birth order affects our lives. The middle child is meant to be the one that misses out, the last, spoilt, the first, driven. Stereotypes aside, it really does matter when it comes down to the sharing of bedrooms.

I, for example, had a girl and then in just under 3 years later, had a boy. We had a three bedroom home at the time and this was fine. Then we had Jack four years later. Suddenly we were a five person household in a three bedroom house. It didn’t quite fit. And it’s not like you can put a 4-year-old in a room with a newborn. So for a period of time, my daughter and son also shared a room. Reluctantly on her part, I might add. She’d known what it was to have her own space, to have her things just so. Or if I’m honest, to have her shit strewn everywhere.

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In some states in the USA, it is actually illegal for boy and girl siblings to share bedrooms when they reach a certain age. Now, no such laws exists in Australia, nor should they, especially when it family houses only appear to be reducing in size.

But what does it mean for siblings? Does it harm them?  Sharing with the opposite sex?

Nah. I really don’t think so.

Now, years later, my sons who are 11 and 7 share a room. These two children could not be more different. One is messy, one is almost anally retentive in he way he keeps his side of the room. He knows EXACTLY where each and every possession he owns is kept and should be. So of course the 7-year-old takes great pleasure in rearranging these simply to annoy him. Sam constantly begs me to find somewhere new to live so he can have his own room. But it’s looking unlikely. I’m not sure if you’ve checked out the house prices in Melbourne lately but unless I win Powerball and as long as we want to live relatively close to civilisation, those boys will have to continue to share a room into the foreseeable future.

But as time moves on, Maddie will grow and eventually, I assume, leave home and the boys will get their own rooms, their own spaces. I do believe we all need our own space but in the modern reality, it’s not always possible. It’s not such a bad thing, we’ll get enough time by ourselves in due course.

Do I think there is a limit on how long girl and boy siblings should share a room? Yeah I do. I would say that when the eldest child turns 12, it’s time for them to separate. Girls and boys in early adolescence need their own rooms. They need to be able to express themselves without harbouring resentment towards their younger brother or sister for being in their space. It’s a time of great and marked changes and they should be able to deal with this privately. I understand this may not always be the case, but for the most part, I think arrangements have to be made so that this can happen.

What do you think? Can girls and boys share bedrooms?

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