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Should Sister and Brother Share a Bedroom?

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: My nine-year-old daughter and six-year-old son share a bedroom. My daughter is showing signs of beginning puberty. I've observed my son at various times looking underneath her clothing and have explained to him that it is not acceptable to peek at her. My husband doesn't feel that there is anything wrong with this sleeping arrangement. There is an empty bedroom available, but he is in no hurry to move our daughter into it. I feel that she should be in her own room. Any advice?

A: I think it would make sense for you to ask your daughter how she feels about the sleeping arrangements. She may be oblivious to her changing body and her brother's antics, or she may be very aware of them and be looking for a way to discuss the subject.

In general I agree with you that you are approaching the time when she will need/want her own space if it is available. Obviously lots of families don't have extra bedrooms, and girls have often had to share rooms with brothers, but it isn't always easy. Her six-year-old brother's behavior is not abnormal or even inappropriate. He is at an age when it is normal to be curious about the differences between boys and girls, and his mom and sister are the two females he sees the most, so he will try to look. You do need to talk with him about the meaning of privacy and how to respect other people's privacy, but he should not be reprimanded for being curious.

If you have the extra room available, you can start to make a transition by having her use the room for various activities when she wants to be by herself. If she has a sleepover she can use that room as well. Over time you can move more and more of her belongings into the room until she is ready to move there completely. Be aware that she still may want to sleep in her brother's room from time to time, even when she is in her own room.

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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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