Family Bedrooms Still Popular Even with School-aged
By Judy Arnall
“But Mom! You don’t have to sleep alone!” Kyle protests to his mom when she suggests that he
might want to sleep in his own room. Family bedrooms are increasingly becoming common in
North America thanks to the attachment parenting movement that recognizes that babies and
toddlers are not developmentally ready to sleep on their own for the first few years of life.
However, Kyle is seven years old, not two. The prevalence of family bedrooms among families
with school-aged children has not been studied, let alone talked about openly in our society yet,
but the trend is growing.
Many children, especially those that don’t have siblings to snuggle in with, continue to sleep in
the same family bedroom as their parents, well into the school-aged years. Because of high
profile cases such as the late Michael Jackson issue where he openly talked about sleeping with
older children in a non-sexual way, causing such public distaste, many families do not admit to
anyone outside their close family relatives that they sleep with their children, again, in a caring,
non-sexual way. The fear of being investigated by child welfare authorities is the biggest barrier
against discussing this practice. So the practice occurs quite often, but is not openly admitted. As
a society, we accept family bedrooms for motels rooms, visiting at relatives, camping and
vacations, but not for everyday use in a society that values independence at all cost. Still, parents
persist. “We co-sleep because it’s a cultural choice. My husband is Vietnamese and I am Canadian
and we have decided that it’s what works best for our family. Back in Vietnam my husband`s
sisters still sleep with their mother and my husbands’ brother and father also share a room. The
younger ones are all in their 20`s and it is not illegal or abnormal or culturally odd like it is here,”
says *Cheryl, mom of two children.
How does a family bedroom work? Two hundred years ago, before the invention of central
heating, most of the family slept in the same room if not the same beds. Fast forward to the
twenty first century, where bedrooms now have the square footage size of the average 1950’s
house, the family bedroom can easily accommodate two king-size mattresses on the floor or
several beds in the same room.
Not everyone agrees with the concept of a family sharing sleep in the same room. Barbara Evans,
a parent educator from Beaumont, Texas, worries about the parent’s need for privacy and
intimacy. “My concerns are that as parents, our job is to raise healthy, loving and lovable,
independent (heavy on the independent) children. Not to the exclusion of depriving them of
nurturing and cuddling, but this may be the first place to start learning about boundaries and selfcare.”
Why do families choose a family bedroom? No separation anxiety issues and no bedtime battles is
the biggest reason. For an increasingly separated family where both parents might work in paid
work all day and children are away at school, it is comforting and enjoyable to cuddle together at
the end of a busy day. “The best thing about having the kids there with us is the emotional bond
we have with them. We love the time upstairs to talk in bed, read, write or just watch T.V.
together. There’s no separation between us and we don’t send our kids away at night to be alone
unless they want to.” says *Ally, mom of three children, ages 9, 10, and 12. They have a big
master bed for the parents and two mattresses on the floor on either side of the master bed for the
What age should family bedrooms stop? Children naturally develop the desire for more privacy
at puberty and tend to want their own room and sleeping space by the age of 12 or 13. This
occurs naturally whether they sleep alone, or share a bedroom with siblings or with parents.
Most experts agree that the rules are simple. Generally, all members of the family must wear
night clothes. Whoever doesn’t like the arrangement and says “no” should have their wishes
honoured whether they are the parent or the child. The parents might enjoy the closeness, but if
the 8-year-old wants his own room, that should be respected. And of course, couple sexual
intimacy must take place in another room.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau once said, “The government has no
business in the bedrooms of the nation.” And for many families, that rings truer than ever.
Family Bedroom Pointers
1. Parental sexual relations must take place in a private room away from the eyes and the
ears of the children.
2. Whoever says “no” rules. This must work for everyone
3. When children hit puberty, their natural desire for more privacy will take over and the
concept of the family bedrooms should be reviewed by the family.
*Names changed upon request.
Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting and Teacher
Conference Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling
book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible
children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD,
Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital generation for health, safety and
love as well as the new book, The Last Word on Parenting Advice
http://www.professionalparenting.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org, 403-714-6766
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