Question of the Week:
My daughter and husband have fraternal twins, a boy and girl who are now 5 years old. They are sleeping in the same bedroom and have been since birth. At what age should they have their own rooms?
Answer: Your question is one that inevitably pops up in all families with more than one child but in the case of twins, and in your particular case, boy-girl twins, there are many more issues at play.
When twins are young, there’s no doubt that sharing a bedroom offers comfort and companionship. After all, nighttime doesn’t seem so lonely or scary to a child when a sibling is nearby. In fact, many parents report (I include myself in that group) that sharing a bedroom actually promotes quality sleep with less waking in the middle of the night. But for some toddler twins, sharing a room may actually disrupt the other’s sleep especially at nap time when one twin decides he’d rather play than rest. If this is a concern, many parents have found that when they set up a pack n’ play or port-a-crib in another location such as a home office or den, both twins can get their afternoon shut-eye without much disruption.
On the other hand, twins have always been expected to share more than singletons simply because they were born as “a pair.” Many parents of twins place the duo together in a single bedroom even if another is available simply believing that twins should be together to promote their special bond. Yet because of this forced sharing, some twins have a harder time individuating or developing a sense of autonomy. Or, some twin roommates end up squabbling over territory. Many twin experts, therefore, believe that parents should strongly advocate for their twins’ own personal space and that means offering each child his or her own room. No need to worry that the twin bond will suffer by this new arrangement. By allowing each child a bit of privacy to discover his own distinct personality, their bond will actually strengthen.
Your question has one more component, perhaps the most important: should brothers and sisters share the same bedroom? At some point, most twins ask for individual rooms especially boy-girl twins where issues of personal privacy and modesty come into play. As opposite-sex twins reach puberty, they may begin to feel more self-conscious about their bodies and uncomfortable in sharing the same space but not know how to broach the subject with their parents. Mom and Dad should therefore begin the discussion of personal privacy and appropriate boundaries early in their twins’ lives, and when they reach the school years, offer each twin a space of his or her own.
But what happens if space simply doesn’t permit for each child to have his or her own bedroom? What are your options? Thankfully the Internet is full of clever designs for dividing a single bedroom into two, separate spaces. A simple Google search turns up a vast array of suggestions from using a wide bookcase to hanging a curtain down the center of the room. I even saw an ingenious design using old, wooden construction pallets!