Henriette Zwick has two daughters, Marlene and Florentine. When Marlene was three and Florentine one, she decided it was time for them to start sharing a bedroom.
The girls are now six and four, and still happily share their 11sq m room. During the day, they share toys and clean up together; and in the evening, they take it in turns to pick a bedtime story or an audio book.
Although the Zwicks have enough space to give the girls separate bedrooms, they want them to share a room – at least for now. “The eldest is going to go to school and then we’ll see how things develop,” says Zwick.
The girls share responsibility for looking after their room – an important way to teach them not to think in terms of “mine” and “yours”. However, individuality is important too. “The girls have stuck personal pictures and photos on the walls above their beds,” says Zwick.
Educationalist Susanne Mierau says it’s important for each child to have their own space in a shared room, such as a shelf that is not used by other children.
Mierau also believes a shared room is a positive thing, teaching them how to set boundaries and stick to them. Arguments will still happen, and parents should intervene sensibly to deal with them.
Mierau says there’s no reason why both children must go to bed at the same time. “If one child likes staying up late, and the other likes to get up early, it can make sense to put them to bed separately,” she says.
However, another educationalist, Barbara Gmoehling-Schloegl, is not a fan of shared bedrooms. She believes they can hold back the development of the older child, who will have to adapt to the needs of their younger sibling.
“Children don’t always want to have the younger child around when a friend comes to play,” Gmoehling-Schloegl adds.
By the time children reach puberty, a shared bedroom is no longer appropriate, according to Gmoehling-Schloegl – especially when the siblings have different genders.
If you don’t have the space for children to have separate rooms, Gmoehling-Schloegl recommends agreeing fixed times when each child can use the room on their own. A play area should be established outside the bedroom if one child has homework to do.
“Parents should also give their children a realistic idea of when they will have their own room. That could be when one child is old enough to move out,” says Gmoehling-Schloegl.
Mierau and Zwick agree. Zwick is happy for now that her daughters like to play and listen to stories together, but when the time comes, the family will be making space for another bedroom. – dpa/Monika Kophal