Brothers & Sisters Should Not Be Sharing a Bedroom

Rant 108

children's bedroomLearning to put your first bra on is hard. Learning to put your first bra on in under five seconds lest your baby brother throw open the door at any moment and see you half-naked? That's substantially harder. Welcome to the life of a tween girl who shares a bedroom with her brother. 

Welcome to the life I led for a substantial portion of my childhood. When I was 5, my brother came bursting into the world, full of snips, snails, and puppy dog tails. And after a stint in the bassinet in my parents' room, he was moved into the room I'd called my own for five years. It was a sleeping arrangement that would last until I was in high school -- a brother and sister together, sharing a bedroom.

Needless to say, it's one of the worse things I see parents doing to their children.

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I say this with full understanding that many parents in America don't have a whole lot of money or a whole lot of space -- and sometimes both at the same time. 

That's not your kids' fault, folks. That's yours!

The New York Times recently examined the plight of parents who force their sons and daughters to bunk up. They cited an expert who admitted that scientists "haven't really" devoted any time or resources to studying the effects sharing a bedroom with our opposite-sex sibling can have on a child's social and sexual development.

They summed up parents' anxieties over it all in just one -- jarringly immature -- word: ick.

Ick? That's all parents are feeling?

How about a little sympathy for their kids?

Creating a mixed-gender bedroom is not likely to create some sort of Flowers in the Attic-type relationship between your children. I say this as a girl who survived sharing a bedroom with her little brother up until age 15: I had zero sexual interest in my brother nor he in me. We are, in that sense, sexually healthy. 

However, those years were uncomfortable largely because while my body was changing, I had no means of escape from the prying eyes and loud mouth of a younger opposite sex sibling. Already insecure and frustrated with the lack of control I had over my body, moods fully at the whim of my raging hormones, I had no refuge.

And my brother, younger, clueless, did little to help.

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He was wont to burst into the room just as I unclasped my bra, screaming at me for having closed the door to "his" room, as I dove, red-faced, for a bathrobe or blanket to cover myself up, screeching "Mooooom" at the top of my lungs. I didn't want anyone seeing my body, least of all my little brother, but I had no control over the matter.

Nor did I have space to hide away the evidence of my march into puberty. We shared not only a room but a closet. There was no corner in which to secretly store a box of tampons, no place to stow a tub of Noxema pads unnoticed.

It was all seen ... and commented upon ... with derision.

To a young (admittedly overly) sensitive girl already struggling to make sense of who she was becoming, those comments were like knives to the heart.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and I see now that my baby brother was simply a little kid trying to make his own sense of what was happening to his sister, in his room. His intentions, while not necessarily good, were not cruel either.

But this is both the beauty and curse of hindsight. I couldn't see it that way at 12.

I could only see myself through the eyes of someone close to me, and what I saw was freakish and absurd.

I wouldn't blame the bulimia I would dive into on my little brother or on our shared bedroom, but it can't be coincidence that nearly 20 years later, I am still markedly uncomfortable with being naked for any period of time outside of the shower. Being naked in this body was simply not something I was ever able to get used to as I didn't have a space safe enough to do it.

Scientists may not have studied kids in enough detail to tell you what happens to them if they are forced to share close quarters with an opposite sex sibling, but they don't need to. I can tell you exactly what happens: the kids suffer.

Not immediately, at least not in the early days when the worst that happens is the younger one wrests a doll's arms off or the older one bops the toddler on his head for stealing her favorite toy. But when puberty begins to rear its ugly head, the child coming of age is forced to deal with an added stress that can deeply affect the psyche.

And why? Because their parents are broke or the house is too small for a second bedroom? Again, that's the parents' fault, not the kids'. So why should the kids suffer?

How do you feel about brothers and sisters sharing a bedroom? Is there an age when they should be separated?


Image via atravellingmom/Flickr

puberty, sibling rilvary


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Todd Vrancic

Ideally, brothers and sisters should be separated before the onset of puberty in the older child.  Before that, it just doesn't matter.

the4m... the4mutts

Why didn't you just change in the bathroom? Duh. And pads should be kept there as well. 

And I agree with Todd. Near the onset of puberty, yes, opposite sex siblings should be in separate bedrooms, if it's at all possible. But if it isn't?

Well you have to work out a system.

1 changes in the bathroom.

A lock could be installed to be used during changing time only. Or for each kid to get 1hr of privacy in the evening or SOMETHING.

You could have separate trunks with locks for personal items, or cabinets/drawers with locks for shared dressers.

You seem to still be overly sensitive, and not too bright, if, even in hindsight, you can't see the steps that could have been taken to insure 5 minutes of privacy.

IKnow... IKnow0101

I doubt your issues should be blamed on sharing a room with your younger brother.  I think people should be grateful to have a roof over their heads and food in the house.  In some countries families of 7 or more share a one room shack.  Also I wish people would stop blaming parents for everything.  Life is not perfect and sharing a bedroom should not be on the short list of needs.

nonmember avatar Lilo

Yeah, first world problems. Honestly, you get a system figured out and go with it.

Dawn Heald

u have no right judging ppl who cant afford multi bedroom apts when the parents are not makin enough at their job(s).

fave82 fave82

I have to agree with the above commenters. Plus, you didn't even have a drawer you could stash your tampons?? And had you been sharing a room with a sister, you still wouldn't have been walking around naked any more than you did with a brother.

nonmember avatar MASSIVE EYEROLL

Drama Queen, much? I shared a room with my brother on and off for years (when he wasnt staying with his dad). It never gave us screwed up questions about our sexuality, or caused us to have strange feelings for each other. Heck we didnt even start to like each other as siblings until I was 23 and had my first child lol!

It didnt scare me for life going through puberty because I got dressed in the bathroom, where I knew I'd have privacy. I also kept my lady products in the bathroom, like a normal woman.

As for the parents situation, you have NO right to judge unless you know what the parents are going through. Ours turned down moving to a very nice house so they could help my adult sister care for her husband with terminal cancer. I could deal with a few years sharing a bedroom with my older brother knowing my sisters husband got what care he needed when he needed it the most.

PAmom... PAmommy32

I can see how that would be tramatic for a pre-teen girl.  Perhaps it is not the sharing of the room that was the issue but how it was executed.  If parents don't have the money and brothers and sisters have to share a room there should be rules.  Put up a partition for privacy, have your own corner of the room that is off limits to the other, your own box or shelves for private things.  Not everyone can get a new house or apartment just to have a separate room but you can create an environment that works for everyone.

Rando... Randomlady

Sharing a room with a sibling of either same or opposite gender is really not that big of a deal, you just learn to do things elsewhere for privacy. Normally in a small house with plenty of people you would change in the bathroom or so anyhow. I shared a room with my brother who is 7 years my senior, didn't get my own room until I was about 14 and nothing was weird at all about it. We had bunk beds so there was a little privacy, seperate dressers for clothing and other personal items. We just made do with what we had available. It's a very first world problem to think it would do something strange to your children.

I also just want to tell a story here, the Hawaiian royal family and possibly other royal families used to seperate the male and female children from eachother so that when they are older and are due to be married they will find eachother sexually attractive, if they grew up together as siblings as often they were they would be repulsed by the idea of marrying their sibling/cousin.

nonmember avatar MrsClark87

Well I never had brothers just sisters so I never had that problem. I have 2 boys and a girl. Thankfully niether of the boys have to share a room with baby sister but they have to share a room with each other. Trust me, two biys sharung is no cake walk either. Anyway, it is not what I would do, but some people have no choice due to all kinds of circumstances. The author however seems like she needs some serious therapy to deal with her issue that she still has from childhood. Get over it. U survived, ur brother survived, and u guys turned into somewhat healthy adults im assuming. If u dont like it, take it up eith ur parents. Quit whining about it.

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