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Sisters sharing a bedroom

publication date: Sep 29, 2009
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author/source: Anne Coates
young and teen sistersHere you have two daughters one a young adult and the other just coming into the most awkward phase of becoming a teenager! And all hell has broken loose.

From your letter it seems you are doing an admirable job in not taking sides and in understanding that both girls have their faults. That isn't always the case with parents - some do take sides. But I can see how frustrating it must be for you.

We often have a rather rosy image of siblings getting along together but very often that isn't the case and there's no rule that says you have to like who you are related to. It may be that when the girls are older they'll really enjoy each other's company but in the meantime you need some solutions.

Sharing a bedroom can be difficult especially with the four-year age gap at these particular ages. But in other cultures sharing a room with one sister would be the acme of luxury!  If most of the arguments are about the room, is there some way in which you can divide it with bookcases or other furniture so there is a defined area belonging to each one? Having adequate storage and insisting that both clear their own belongings is another good strategy.

Your daughters are at very different stages developmentally and need you in what may be conflicting ways. You have already had a young teenager so know roughly what to expect (although she may be quite unlike her sibling in many ways). Older children often feel that they have been the "guinea pigs" and that their younger sibling has an easier time of it which is worth bearing in mind. The younger daughter probably envies the freedom her big sister has.

There are times when either girl might want some time on her own - or have friends in her room - and that's probably just the time when the other insists on being in the bedroom. Then is a good time to involve the other daughter in whatever you are doing; have some special time together. You could also timetable when the room is for one or the other's use - to have friends round or whatever. And you may have to separate them when they are doing their homework.

Ask each daughter separately - and privately - what really bugs her and listen carefully to the answers. Remember that each daughter has a right to have her privacy respected and you should assure her that anything she says can be confidential. It may be that after listening to both of them you can come up with some more solutions.