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Shared Space
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Publication: Chicago Community Kollel

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1/18/07

Dear Rabbi Horowitz

What is your opinion re children sharing rooms?


We are now building a house BE"H and our philosophy was always that it is best for kids to be in the same room (2 kids close in age per room). This will enable the kids with their busy schedules to build a relationship with each other. We also feel that this will help prevent them from being too spoiled. (I found it was hard for kids who lived in their own room to adjust to different situations outside the home that were less comfortable, such as camp or ‘dorming’.)


However, I am reading more in your articles the need of children’s privacy. This will seem to go against the sharing room concept.

Do you feel that there is a different answer for different ages? Even if sharing rooms is ideal, is there anything parents should do to give children the privacy they are lacking from sharing rooms?

Thank you so much for your help

David

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

David:

In your case, you are in the enviable position of having options. Many or most parents have that decision made for them, as economic factors make it impossible to give children their own rooms. I may be making an assumption, but judging from your question, it seems that financial ramifications are not driving this choice you are about to make.

A good place to start with decision-making is to analyze the pros and cons of your options and try to come up with the answer that works well for you. David; with your permission, I’ll try to put some words in your mouth.

Pros (of sharing rooms)

  • “I think the closeness will promote closer sibling relationships.”
  • “I have fond childhood memories of sharing a room with my brother.”
  • “I think that sharing a bedroom will encourage my children to share and cooperate better.”

Cons

  • “Sharing rooms sounds nice in theory, but I’m afraid that I will be playing referee for the next twenty years.”
  • “Will this make bedtime more complicated, as the kids keep each other up longer?”
  • “What if one turns out to be an early riser and the other a night person?”
  • “How about the ‘privacy issue’ noted above?”

My Turn

David: I guess I would sum up my response with one word – evolving.

The needs of the physical plant that is your home will evolve – just as your parenting skill set will need to expand – as your children grow through adolescence and beyond. I think, therefore, that your family’s needs would be best served by creating the type of home that will enable you to adapt to the changes in your family dynamics without needing to bring in the wrecking ball ten years from now and start expensive additions and remodeling.

Overall, I think that when your children are young, you will probably do well having them share rooms, preferably close to yours. It will give them a sense of comfort and enhanced security. If the kids are close in age, bedtime routines can become a bit easier as well. Once your children grow older, (click here for an article on ‘tweens’) they will probably want – and usually need – their own space and will therefore take their own rooms if they are available. Good fences make good neighbors.

If you have enough latitude in designing your home, I would suggest that you place a bedroom or two on the ground floor – far away from your master bedroom – and designate is as a guest room for now. In all likelihood, your teenage children will take those rooms when they grow older.

It may be hard for you to visualize this, when your children are young, but having one teen at home, let alone a few at a time, can be very taxing on your menuchas hanefesh (level of tranquility). Once they hit sixteen-seventeen years old, they tend to stay up very late at night, far past your bedtime. Friends come in and out of the house at all hours. (Please note that I am not discussing ‘at-risk teens’ at all, just normal, well-adjusted adolescents.) I don’t know where in the right-to-left spectrum your family dwells, but you can assume that your teenage sons and their friends will be up very late for “Thursday night chulent”, “Monday night football” – or both. Your teen daughters will be on the phone until the wee hours of the morning dealing with “issues.” Trust me, you do not want this going on right next to your bedroom.

As for the privacy matter, I pretty much dealt with that in the previous column (Click here). The notion of individual space is one that should be conveyed to children. I do not think that sharing a room adds or detracts from that. As for the ‘summer camp’ matter, I would not factor that in much. If you can afford to give your children the luxury of a private room, by all means do so. Almost all kids – even those who grow up in very comfortable homes – adjust well to the camp environment.

So, I guess that my overall advice to you would be to start off having them share rooms – if this works for them. But at the same time, have your ear to the ground and be ready to adapt to changing circumstances. You also ought to prepare for the reality that you will almost certainly need alternative arrangements as your family grows.

© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

Next Week’s Question

Rabbi Horowitz:

We have very different views on the issue of having guests over for Shabbat meals. One of us feels strongly that Shabbat should be for bonding with our own children after a hectic week, while the other feels just as passionately that we should have guests over at our home often.

We have a terrific marriage, B’ezrat Hashem, but this is a sore point in our relationship as we have such differing views.

Tamar and Eitan



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