I talk to a lot of parents who want their kids of different ages to share a room. Whether it is because there are only a certain number of available bedrooms, you want to maintain a guest room, another baby is on the way or just because, the reason doesn’t really matter. The process of moving two little ones into the same room can be intimidating and a bit scary. Understandably, most parents are concerned about how having their little ones in the same room is going to impact sleep.
Well, depending on how your kids are sleeping now, the impact on sleep can vary. The good news is that it is definitely possible to help your two little ones share a room and both get the sleep they need a night. It just takes a little strategy and some planning.
Here are two common scenarios for room sharing and my recommended strategies and tips to approach them to ensure a smooth transition:
New baby is coming and your plan for them to share a room with your toddler or older child
1. Start with baby in your room if possible and help baby practice independent sleep skills
Since your newborn is going to wake up and need to eat during the night for at least the beginning of their life, I recommend starting baby out in your room to minimize the impact on your toddler. (I think most mommas would agree with me that a grumpy, overtired toddler and a newborn is a situation you don’t want to become your new normal for the first few months!)
Once your newborn is getting into a more consistent routine during the day and night, work to help your baby start practicing some independent sleep skills. (If you are not sure what this looks like, I’ve got you covered!) Once
2. Preparing for the transition to share a room
Unless you have the two chilliest kids on the planet, this transition is going to be met with a little resistance, from both toddler and baby. It’s a change to the routine and that’s usually going to make bedtime a bit harder for your little ones during the transition, so try to plan this transition for a weekend, or better yet, a weekend followed by a week when you’re not facing a lot of other obligations. (Preschool, house guests, birthday parties, etc.)
In advance of the transition, take some time to talk to your toddler and tell them what is going on, when it is happening and what they can expect. Talk about what the bedtime routine will look like. Ideally, there will be very few changes, but let them know
Enlist your toddler’s help to get the room ready for baby to join them. This can help them feel important and more excited about the transition. It is beneficial to ensure your toddler understands what is going on. Then they can feel a bit of ownership of the situation which will help them be less agitated by their new roommate’s potential nighttime shenanigans.
3. Make the move
On the day of the move, try not to make other changes to routine or do any big, exciting, or potentially overstimulating activities. Give yourself some extra time for the bedtime routine just in case, so you can still get your little ones in bed at their normal bedtime.
Once you make the move, you will want to stick with it. Expect a few nights with some challenges or wake ups and address those as they come up. Your little ones will become familiar with the noises that each other make during sleep within a week or two. This is similar to if you move to a new house nearby a train. You will likely wake up in the for the first week or so when you hear the train’s horn. After that week or so, your brain and body will learn that the train horn is not something that you need to respond to or be alarmed by so you will start sleeping through the sound.
Keeping your responses in the middle of the night the same as they were when your little ones were not in the same room will be helpful as everyone is adapting to the new sleep situation.
Moving two little ones into the same room after having separate
This situation comes up for many reasons, such as a move, welcoming a new baby or someone new living in the home. It can be tricky to navigate, especially with two toddlers or preschoolers but with some strategy, planning and preparation it can be accomplished.
1. Make sure both little ones are sleeping well and independently before the move to share a room
Since your little ones have had separate rooms, making sure they both have had lots of practice to master their independent sleep skills prior to the added distraction, excitement and change of sharing a room will be essential to a smooth transition. Otherwise, you may run into a situation where you now have two kids who are teaming up against you to fight bedtime or sleeping well at night. It would not a fun situation for any parent.
2. Involve both kids in the preparations
Since you are likely moving one child into your other child’s room you want to do some serious work in helping make it “their room” instead of “so-and-so’s room.” Let your little ones help you redecorate, reorganize and get their new room ready. Ensuring both children are involved, seeing where their stuff is versus where their sibling’s stuff is, and feeling some ownership over this new room will be very beneficial in helping both kids feel excited about the transition instead of potentially protective or uneasy. Updating the bedsheets and comforters can be a great way to do this to help them be excited to get into their ‘new’ beds as well.
3. Set the ground rules
Talk about the expectations in the new room. You want to address the expectations again, even if they have not changed (i.e. once you’ve been tucked into bed, you stay in bed and go to sleep.) This
A bedtime or nighttime chart that depicts those expectations and rules is also a great new ‘decoration’ in the room. The visual that your kids can clearly see and you can point them to when reminding them of the expectations helps kids fully understand these rules and expectations.
4. Make the move
This is pretty similar to the scenario above. Once you make the move, you really want to stick with it. Going back and forth can make things even more confusing for toddlers and cause them to test the rules, boundaries and expectations even more.
Give yourself some extra time for the bedtime routine just in case, so you can still get your kids in bed at their normal bedtime. Again, prepare for a few potentially challenging nights as everyone adapts. Stay consistent in enforcing the rules you have put in place (even if it wakes up your other kid) so that both kids know the rules and exactly what to expect.
Give it a few weeks for everyone to fully adjust. With consistency in your responses and actions, your kids will be back to sleeping well just as they were in their own rooms.
Changes to our sleep environments, routines and habits can be tough
Sleep plays a significant role in our daily lives, our health
If you are getting ready to make the move or want to prepare for an upcoming move for your kids to share a room and you want some help and support along the way, that’s what I am here for. Schedule your free evaluation call so we can discuss your specific situation, concerns and potential challenges and how I can best support you in making the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved!
Cheers to healthy, happy sleep