Can Teenage Boy and Girl Siblings Share Rooms?
You may be downsizing, remodeling or simply cannot afford a bigger place, but consider your plans carefully if you are having your teen boy and girl share a room. There might be a stigma attached to boys and girls sharing rooms after puberty, but the reality can work out well as long as everyone's needs are respected. Brothers and sisters sharing rooms can actually be beneficial and lead to a closer bond, but appropriate parental guidance and a few rules and precautions will make the experience easier on everyone.
The United States does not have specific laws about opposite sex siblings sharing a room, and brothers and sisters sharing a room is not in and of itself an indication of child abuse or neglect. However, some states, landlords or homeowner's associations do have regulations regarding opposite sex siblings sharing a room, sometimes setting the age limit as low as 5 years old. If you are planning to have your boy and girl teens share a room, check your local laws and with your landlord, if applicable, to make sure you are not risking breaking the law or a visit from child protective services.
Teenagers are in the midst of their sexual development and will experience sexual curiosity in many ways, including masturbation. This can be difficult when sharing a room with any sibling, but especially an opposite sex sibling. Likewise, curiosity about the opposite sex may lead to some awkward moments in a shared room. However, though there certainly are cases of sibling sexual abuse and inappropriate sexual conduct between siblings, simple curiosity without attempts at sexual conduct is normal between siblings 1.
Teens require privacy, which can be in short supply when sharing a room. Particularly when your teens of opposite sex are sharing a room, be sure to set strict parameters giving each child the privacy they need to change clothes, spend time alone and keep their belongings private. Ask the teens to take turns changing in the bathroom, or provide a lock to the door so that one teen can change in the room comfortably and be assured of his privacy. Assign specific times where the teen can be guaranteed privacy in the room if desired. Arguing between teen siblings is normal, but it may be exacerbated by sharing a room, so check in with each child to be sure both are getting the privacy they need from each other.
Check in with your teens frequently to make sure they are comfortable with the room-sharing situation. Let your teen set boundaries to ensure their comfort. If your teens enjoy having friends to sleep over, but you and the other parents are not comfortable with opposite sex sleepovers, make it clear that the other teen must sleep in your room or on the couch for the night, or even ask that child to spend the night at another friend's home to keep visiting teens and parents comfortable with the situation. There is nothing inherently wrong with teens sharing a room when necessary, but setting clear boundaries will help make the teens, their parents and their friends secure in the situation.
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