By Heidi Stevens
A new baby means your daughters now share a room. Any way they won’t hate this?
Parent advice (from our panel of staff contributors):
Tell them these new arrangements dictate a new room, and you need them to help decorate the old digs. Get their input: Paint? Wallpaper? Carpet? A moose head on the wall? Then have them help implement the redecorating. If they have a strong sense of ownership, things may go more smoothly.
– Bill Hageman
I’d share the lights-out games my sister and I played when we shared a bedroom: Finger tracing words on each other’s backs and having the other guess what was spelled, the “fake sleep!” command we’d bark when Mom would come up to say good night and, later in childhood, faking death after staying up late to watch a horror movie on television. (My sister once sent me into a near-seizure when I got up to go to the bathroom and came round the corner to see her splayed on the steps as if slain.)
– Wendy Donahue
Emphasize that this is what big girls do, and then treat them like older, responsible kids. If budget allows and the daughters are old enough, name an amount of money that they can spend on things to change the room and make it a more grown-up space to their liking. Let them plan this, shop for that and handle the payment for this. If the girls are still very young, get them a new “baby” of their own (a special doll or stuffed animal) and make them in charge of “caring” for it. Then all the changes will be exciting and fun instead of upsetting.
– Dodie Hofstetter
It’s actually fine for them to hate the idea, says clinical psychologist Roni Cohen-Sandler, author of “Trust Me, Mom – Everyone Else is Going!” (Penguin).
“It’s really important to start with the idea that kids are entitled to their feelings,” says Cohen-Sandler. “Of course the parents want the girls to embrace this new idea and love their new room and love sharing and love their siblings. But sometimes in the rush to make that happen, there’s no room for the kids to be able to express their feelings and get their feelings validated.”
Ask the sisters how they feel about the changes – not with the intent of canceling the room move, but just to get them talking.
“And don’t freak out if their first reaction is, ‘Why would I want to do that?’ ‘Why would I want a new sibling?,’ ” says Cohen-Sandler. “It’s change, and every kid has the right to feel upset about change.”
Once you’ve heard and validated their side, offer up yours:
“It wasn’t their idea to have a new sibling or share a room, but there are things they get to have a say in,” she says. “Give them a say in decorating the room, picking out paint colors, how the room will be arranged.”
And offer up some ways to turn a shared room into a treat.
“Maybe they want to pretend to be princesses together or college roommates,” offers Cohen-Sandler. “Encourage them to do things they wouldn’t be able to do if they weren’t sleeping in the same room.”
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