Friday, May 16, 2008

When Boys Have To Share

As our family readies to embark on a HUGE move across country, we are also gearing up for a few other family changes. One of the biggest and most wonderful blessings will be the addition of our third child this August. I can't tell you how excited we are to welcome "sweet baby J" so soon...

In an attempt to avoid future child adjustment issues, we've decided to move our two boys, M and T (3 years 4mos and 22mos, respectively) into a room together as soon as we move into our new house. We chose to make the switch now while they are already transitioning, rather than after the baby comes. No need to add more to our lives in August. I think the logic here is sound (though if others have alternative suggestions, I'm open to hearing them).

T will remain in a crib (as long as we can keep him in it without climbing!), while M will be in a twin bed. Their room is rather rectangular in shape, but will be pretty spacious. The door is in the lower left corner of the room, the closet is on the upper left, and two windows are spaced equally on the right. I've attempted to "draw" the room layout here--enjoy my attempt at computer graphics! :)

Knowing that we have a lot of seasoned parent readers out there, I am asking (begging) for your tried-and-true wisdom when it comes to child room sharing. Just having a leg up on what we should expect/anticipate/avoid will do wonders for our family's adjustment! I have already started offering this intention during prayer times--I'm really nervous, especially as I get further along in the pregnancy and sleep becomes oh-so-precious!

Here are a few of my questions:

1) what advice do you have for transitioning children into room sharing?
2) how should we arrange the boys' beds?
3) should naps and nighttime sleep look differently?
4) what sort of incentive/disciplinary measures have you taken to ensure proper sleep behavior?
5) how can we maximize our (parental) sleep?

I'll take whatever advice you have to share. Thanks a million!


Mary Alice said...

Hi! Congratulations on buying your house! Our kids share rooms, for a while there we actually had four in one room, but now we are doing a girls room and a boys room.

I find it helpful to stagger bedtimes, so one goes to sleep alone and then a half hour or so later the other tiptoes in and goes to bed. The older child gets a privelage -- an extra story alone with mom, and a responsibility -- go in quietly and do not wake your brother.

Naptime is harder, I would consider splitting them up and putting one in your room or another quiet place for naps.

Gail said...

We've had my daughter (now 5) and my son (now 2 and a half) share a room since my son was about 9 months old, at her request. At the time, we'd put the baby to sleep first and then my daughter would go in a little while later. Now that they are on a more similar sleep schedule they go to bed at the same time. My daughter hasn't napped in a few years, so naptime hasn't been a problem.
I love having them share a room. Sometimes they do stay up a little later than I'd like, talking, playing, occasionally fighting, but in general I don't mind and just consider this a sweet part of their childhood that they will remember fondly (I hope). I wouldn't worry about the transition much, and just talk it up to get them excited about it.

Kat said...

I love the idea of having kids share a room, and Gail, I'm so happy that you wrote to say that you have your daughter and son sharing a room. I've been trying to convince ET that Maria and C could share a room at some point, but he's not crazy about the idea of having opposite sex siblings share a room. I think it might work, especially because there is quite an age gap (3.5 years)...Good to hear that it's worked for your family!

B-Mama, can't wait to hear how the transition goes! Congrats on the new home!!

Anonymous said...

How wonderful for you!! Our babies have slept with us until 18 months, so we haven't had a crib transition per se. Until recently we had all three in one bedroom with bunkbeds and three dressers. I find it pretty uncomplicated to "wean" the toddler from our bed by simply putting him or her in bed (inside, near the wall) with the older child. I start during naptime so that I could make sure there were no problems with falling off the bed or elbow in the eye. They did great! And same at night. That was when I read to them and they fall asleep easily together after bathtime. I really believe they sleep better together. I also make sure that my husband or I get them up around midnight to go potty and that usually eliminates a wet bed. Just a thought. Enjoy your beautiful children!! You sound like such a wonderful mom!

Juris Mater said...

Since we have only 2 bedrooms, our kids have been sharing a room since Bean moved out of the bassinet at a few months of age. It's actually been a continuing struggle on the sleep front. So, in case it's not all that easy for M and T, here's what we've found to work when the going gets tough:

1. We don't stagger bedtimes b/c they enjoy bedtime stories together and my husband and I are ready for our quiet evening time, so we enforce absolute discipline at bedtime. They both like the door halfway open... so at the first instance of horseplay, we close the door (and lock it from the outside). It took one night of the door closing for 5 minutes for them to learn we were serious. We tried negotiating for months and months, and the result of that was a 2.5 year old in and out of the living room until 11pm and a 1.5 year old constantly making noises.

2. If one child is going through a rough sleeping patch, we leave that child in the kids' room for some solo sleep re-training and move the other child onto a mattress in our room temporarily.

3. As MaryAlice suggested, we split them up for naps--older child in our bed (she's a better sleeper and is used to regular beds), younger in the kids' room.

4. Mornings have become the hardest for us--one child is always awake by 6:30, and they're old enough to want to wake each other up to start the day but too young to be forced to stay in there quietly until they get the rest they need. They're a little overtired in the mornings as a result. BUT the upside is they both definitely need at least a 2 hour nap by 11:30 or noon, so I get a good break in the middle of the day and they're tired again by bedtime. Bella (just turning 3) shows no signs of dropping her nap, thanks to the early wakeups. I would love advice on mornings!

Good luck B-mama... I'll pray that it's a super-smooth transition.

Juris Mater said...

PS--my last comment sounded TOTALLY crack-the-whip intense. To put it in context, we make a real effort to make bedtime pleasant, with a bath, bedtime stories, family prayers, holy water, and brief talk about the fun things we did today and what we're doing tomorrow (James Stenson encourages this "pillow talk" in his great "Compass" book). And then the whip cracking begins! I think I'm more willing to go the extra mile to make bedtime pleasant when I know the kids will go down without a fight once the lights are out.

Ken said...

juris mater, don't apologize for sounding "crack the whip"ish. I think that it's very important to let the kids who are sharing a room that you're serious. For about the first week my two boys (17 months apart) shared a room I would stand outside the door waiting for them to start playing or get out of bed. I'd then fly into the room and pretty aggressively make it clear that talking and getting out of bed was unacceptable. After a few days of that, we never had any more problems at night-time.

Oh, for bed alignment, head to head under the windows (if that'll fit) makes it hardest for them to see each other if the beds have a headboard. In our kids bedroom they are side to side across the room but we tell them to face the other way from each other. That's part of what I'd get after them about if they were talking when I barged in.

Right Said Red said...

We have our girl (age 4) and boy (age 2) sharing a room. The transition was anything but smooth. Our big mistake was trying to transition Charlie from a crib to a bed and move his room all at one time. Once we put him back in his crib things went much more smoothly. About 3 months later he eventually fell out of his crib, ad at that point we moved him to a mattress on the floor without any problems.

The kids do not share a room for naps--that would be a disaster with neither child taking a nap. I put Charlie in the toddler room for naps and Gianna takes her quiet time in our bedroom.

Initially we staggered bedtimes, but now we just put them both down together and if they talk a bit, so what? If they monkey around for an extended period of time (over 1/2 hour) we go in and dish out some punishments. Our favorite--take away cherished bedtime sleep "props", Gianna's baby doll and/or Charlie's blanket. The children are devastated to have their favorite sleep object removed, and after a few tears immediately agree to stop talking and go to sleep...if only the sleep object is returned. This has worked nicely as a natural consequences type approach to bedtime. These sleep props are for sleep, so if you are not going to sleep then you don't need them. In addition, Mr. Red likes to tell Gianna that baby doll needs rest and can't sleep if there is talking or crying.

Initially we had problems with the children rising earlier than usual. One kid would wake up earlier and then wake the other. We do still occasionally have problems with this, but most mornings once Charlie wakes up (he's usually up first) he knows he can come into our bed for some attention and snuggles w/o waking his big sister.

Right Said Red said...

Oh, and nice diagram. I'm impressed with the computer skills, especially since you are in the middle of moving!!!!