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Right age for kid with opposite sex to sleep separately. See details...

MOTUNRAYO JOEL writes on the appropriate age for opposite-gender siblings to have separate rooms

For Mrs. Blessing Ndubisi, a mother of two, opposite-gender siblings should have separate rooms once they can identify their body features.

Ndubisi, who owns a crèche/after school in Lagos, said her knowledge about the way children reason informed her position. She added that children are becoming smarter and wiser with age.

“My children are seven and five — a boy and a girl. When I noticed how curious they were about their body features, I ensured that I moved them to separate rooms. I didn’t waste time in doing that, not because I don’t trust them. I believe children need privacy. They should be allowed to have their own space. Before my children began to sleep in separate rooms, I noticed they were always hiding from themselves, especially when it was time to take a bath,” she said.

The crèche owner also said her children had also constantly engaged in fights over misplaced items. This further spurred her to move them to separate rooms.

She stated that her son, who used to hit his sister, was forced to calm down when he had no one to play with in his room.

“Before their separation, my son had always accused his sister of misplacing his things. On several occasions, I have had to intervene in their arguments. I observed that as they had their separate rooms, they became closer,” she said.

Psychologists say by the time children reach puberty, the need for privacy and space must be respected and provided.

A psychologist at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Dr. Ernest Onyishi, said opposite-gender siblings should have separate bedrooms when they begin to desire the need for privacy and space.

“There is no fixed answer as to the right age for opposite-gender siblings to have separate rooms. But I will say the need for separate rooms may be inevitable when opposite-gender siblings begin to become aware of the need for modesty and may feel uncomfortable changing in front of an opposite-gender sibling. Before moving your children to separate rooms, you need to consider several different aspects of their relationship as well as their ages, personalities, and whether they are of the same or opposite sex,” he said.

He added that sharing a bedroom may not be an awful thing. Onyishi also said it may be better for some children in some circumstances.

“Children can learn valuable skills, including the ability to share and cooperate. They could also develop a sense of closeness with others. I believe it would be wise for parents to observe their children, talk with them, and do some informal experimentation to enable them determine what kind of living circumstances suits their child’s personality and developmental needs,” he said.

For parents who don’t have vacant rooms in their houses, Onyishi said they can create a specific area for each child to keep their clothes and toys.

Also, a mother of three, Mrs. Sarah Ebere, said she had yet decided if it was necessary for her children to have separate rooms.

Ebere, who works at a financial institution, said her house is big enough to allow her children (a boy and a girl) have separate rooms but it would defeat her efforts in getting her children to be close.

She said, “My children are aged eight and six. I believe they are already aware of their body features but I don’t want to allow them have separate rooms. I think they are too young for that. They need to be together so that they can be close. The advantages of making them share one room, outweighs the disadvantages.

“Although whenever any of them wants to change their clothes, the person goes into the bathroom. I ensure they don’t undress (unnecessarily) in front of each other. I have trained my children in such a way that they respect each other’s privacy.”

Onyishi noted that families who share rooms can find solutions to the problems.
Children can be given their own specified space to keep clothes and toys in the bedroom. Providing an alternate space to change clothes, like the bathroom. Children must learn the boundaries that are appropriate for privacy between genders,” he added.

Like Ebere, Mr. Kunle Sobowale, a father of three, said opposite-gender siblings should not have separate rooms unless a child exhibits a wrong (sexual) behaviour.

“Except a parent catches his or her child behaving inappropriately towards another sibling, I don’t think opposite-gender siblings should have separate room. Probably when they are about 16 or 17, then they can separate rooms,” he said.

Advising parents, an expert in psychology, Dr. Uzondu Chinemere, said as children enter puberty, having a space where they can feel comfortable with their bodies is important.

He said, “Some children may be unwilling to have their own room. But by emphasising the benefits of having their own space, these children would be encouraged to accept the change in sleeping arrangements.

“Try as much as possible to emphasise the need for privacy and ensure each child has whatever they need for study, play, and entertainment. Make each child’s space a special one that reflects their personalities and interests.”

Chinemere noted that same-sex siblings don’t need separate rooms.

“At least not if they’re roughly the same age, sharing a room teaches valuable social lessons. It’s more a matter of how well they get along in general, and how much you space can afford,” he said.

Like Onyishi, Chinemere said there is no particular age when different sex children should not sleep in the same room.

He said, “As a parent, if you find your son or daughter is distressed because their other-sex sibling is in the same bedroom, try to arrange something else. Watch out for red flags in your children such as inappropriate sexual behaviour, or whether one sibling has shown aggression toward another. In addition, children are more apt to have feelings of embarrassment and increased curiosity as they approach school age. Children should be taught to respect each other’s need for privacy.”

The psychologist said creating separate rooms for opposite a gender siblings, allows each individual to become naturally comfortable with their body and explore themselves without being self-conscious in the presence of the opposite sex.

“Boys and girls become aware of their gender and physical differences as early as three and begin to separate socially from the opposite sex as early as five to age seven. In order to respect their independent developmental process, it’s best for them to have separate living space or bedrooms, as young as age six or seven” he said.

An Associate Professor of Development and Clinical Psychology, Esther Akinsola, highlighted signs parents should look out for in their children.

Akinsola said, “These signs would enable parents know when it is time for them to create separate rooms for their children. When one of them locks the bathroom or bedroom door when changing or asks the other to stay out, an increase in comments about the sibling being the opposite gender, or a growing curiosity about sexuality issues, gender differences, or physical changes. If one’s is already tight on space and one is reluctant to renovate or move, consider at least putting up a divider so that both can have some privacy.”

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