Families come in different sizes. Homes can be big and small. Finding the perfect balance in sharing the space within your four walls can be a bit of a challenge when you have multiple children in your family. From the very young to the adult in your house, everyone needs to feel that they have their own space. This sense of “my” space is not only a specific room in a home, but a boundary for your personal space that needs to be respected. And mentally, it’s important to know that when you need it you can retreat into the space inside your head where you have the opportunity to reflect, ponder, reminisce, plan, and refresh. Instilling a respect for someone else’s space is a never-ending process that requires constant reinforcement and the ability to adjust with changing needs.
At a very basic level everyone in the household needs to know that a specific area of the house belongs to them. It can be an entire room, a part of a shared room with a sibling, a corner to store your “stuff”, or a shared space like the bathroom where you have control as long as you occupy it. As long as the “occupier” feels that the rest of the family respects their space life is good. When the line is crossed, whether accidentally or on purpose, that’s when life gets loud and out of control. I’m sure any one of you can relate a story when someone in your household didn’t respect the space of a sibling (or a parent). “Mom, John went in my room again and messed up my desk.” “Mom, somebody was in my room. I can’t find the money I had in my drawer.” You get the idea…
How do you go about instilling respect for someone else’s space? And how do you insure that the respect will be a perpetual state and not a fleeting adjustment after a scolding? I think you have to start young. When kids are toddlers they are beginning to learn the difference between what’s mine and what’s yours, or their sibling’s. As a parent you work hard to teach them that “mine” does not to apply to everything they see. Learning to share gets the ball rolling. Once a child knows the rules of sharing it’s easier to make them understand that some things belong to their brother – not them, their sister – not them, and mom and dad. It’s not like you have to label everything in the house to get this point across, but essentially, that’s what you’re doing. Some things are yours. Some are mine. Some we share. Period.
As families differ, so do their sleeping arrangements. Ideally, everyone has a room to call their own. Let’s face it, that’s not always possible. If you do have specified rooms, make that absolutely clear to everyone. No need for guards at the door or a moat though. The resident of that space needs to understand that his/her one room is in fact a part of the entire house and not a country unto itself. Family members will “come to visit” so to speak and pitching a fit every time someone sets foot in your room will not be tolerated. Note, I make a distinction between stepping into the room and messing around in the room. There is a big difference here. If I go in your room to retrieve the dirty laundry cause Mom asked me to is totally different than if I go in your room because I’m angry and want to dump out your crayons all over the floor hoping you get in trouble.
One final note on a bedroom of your own. Just because you have your own space doesn’t mean that you don’t need to respect the space of the person who has the room next door to you. Think of annoying tenants in an apartment complex. Loud music when your sister is trying to study next door won’t work out well. Jumping all around in your room when your baby sister is trying to take a nap in the room next door is sure to get you in trouble. Key word again – Respect.
The only difference here is that now we have more than one occupant to a room. If your kids are schooled in the finer art of sharing you should be able to come up with a plan that works for all involved. As long as everyone has some designated space to call their own and a sense of equality exists sharing a bedroom works out very well. A bed to call your own. A dresser for your clothes. Designated space in a closet. In theory this sounds like a breeze.
I’ve been around kids in different households and I think each child’s individual personality really comes into play here. Some kids share naturally while others need to be prodded to comply. I know some kids have such a strong sense of equality that you have to almost literally split the room 50/50 to make them happy. If you are aware of this trait in your child you should be able to accommodate them. There are some children who think sharing and respect are outdated rules to follow. For whatever reason they think not following those rules are a sport - a source of entertainment. If you are in the situation where you absolutely must have your kids share a bedroom, this scenario can be a challenge. Consistent discipline and patience should get you through it.
A setup I’m new to is moving your kids around as they age or your family grows. Bedrooms can be divided based on age and gender. As an example: Take three bedrooms available for kids in a house. At one time it’s a boy’s room, and two girl’s have a room each. Then along comes a little sister and the older girl’s now have bunk beds while the baby has a room of her own. Time passes and the older girl (ah… the tween years…) wants her own room. Switch again and the oldest takes the baby’s room who now bunks with her other older sister. Musical rooms perhaps, but each move accommodated changes in the family and worked out very well for the kids. They all felt comfortable in their space.
Where Your “Stuff” Lives In Your House
Stuff. A small word that immediately can bring to mind a compilation of every imaginable possession of a child – or children. All contained within your house. Where do you put it? How do you manage it? I’m not going to preach about the importance of organization right now (although, honestly – that’s the key to success). What I want to mull over is the necessity to recognize that the stuff your kids possess is very important to them. Some kids even support their sense of who they are based on some of their stuff. Right or wrong, it’s something to consider when designating where stuff resides.
The things within your house right this very minute belong to somebody. I’m sure for the most part everyone knows who belongs to what. As new things are brought into the house it should be apparent who it belongs to, who is responsible for it, who uses it, and where it will be stored. Its space. Now the challenge is to make sure that everyone respects that space and the stuff in it.
I’ll give a few examples:
Your kids have bikes. They know which bike is theirs and which belong to a brother or sister. All of the bikes are stored in the garage – each next to the other. If a child goes in the garage to get their bike and in the process knocks all the bikes down onto the hard cement floor and simply walks out the door, more than likely there will be hell to pay. All sorts of screaming and demands for retribution ensue. Had that child asked for help in getting the bike out of there and avoided the bikes-on-the-ground scenario, everyone’s stuff would have been respected. Peace would reign in the garage today.
Your kids come home from school and usually set up on the kitchen or dining room table to do their homework. Everyone sits at a chair with their books and papers spread out in front of them. That’s their stuff in this scenario. Everyone is hard at work until somebody gets bored and decides to take a break. The break is comprised of throwing paper airplanes at a sister. This act invades her space. Her study space. In retribution she walks over and tosses his papers on the floor. Ding! – now she’s invaded his space. And we’re off to the races… screams and a mess in the making. Had the brother just respected everyone’s space and their stuff in that space you wouldn’t be refereeing and calling for a clean up break.
Your kids keep their coats in a closet or on a hook on the wall by the door. Everyone knows who belongs to each coat. Sometimes there’s more than one coat or sweater in there for each person. A knock on the door and your daughter wants to run out to play with her friend from down the street. She runs to grab her coat and grabs more than one. Out the door she runs leaving behind a clump of coats on the floor. The dog walks in with muddy feet and inadvertently strolls across the coats on his way into the house. Now we have muddy footprints on the clump of coats on the floor. Oh, can you hear the battle now when those coats are discovered? Had the sister slowed down a notch or maybe picked up the coats before heading out the door, you could have avoided the name-calling, finger-pointing, and ultimately escalated battle about to erupt in your hallway.
One more, and I know you can relate to this one… Your kids are in the house on a rainy day and have decided to play with Legos. Hours of fun and deep concentration culminates in projects that cause each one of your kids to beam with joy and a sense of accomplishment. Some kids show fleeting attachment to these creations while others are more deeply invested in their construction skills. For these kids, any mishandling or disparaging commentary is an assault on them personally. You know which of your kids falls into this category and so you proudly allow them to display their creation on a shelf in your living room. Everyone is so proud. Until… your older child decides that they need a book to do their homework and walks over to the shelf to get it. Not wanting to tire themselves out by moving the Lego creation over to the side slightly in order to remove the book they try to finagle the book out of it place on the shelf and in doing so knock the Lego masterpiece to the floor. Lego pieces scatter all over the floor and the very sound of that scattering sparks screams from another room and footsteps pounding their way to the scene of the crime. Again, all it takes is a little respect for someone else’s space and the stuff in it and you could have avoided this Lego-induced skirmish.
I am by no means saying that you can avoid scenarios like I’ve described. That is la-la land thinking. What I am trying to showcase is that with a consistent reminder to respect the space of others and respect the stuff in that space you can avoid many showdowns in your household. This is not a situation that applies singularly to family members within a household. We come across other people’s space and stuff every single day. Learn to respect it at a young age and pass that respect forward throughout your life. Respect – pass it on.
I don’t care who you are or what you do each day, there are times when you need to be alone. Alone in the space that is your mind to think about anything and everything that you wish. It could be a time to meditate for balance in your life. A time of great stress as you try to sort out your options. Time to study and lock in facts and events that are important to you. Creative time when anything is possible and wonderful things can be discovered start in your mind, usually when you are allowed to be alone to just think. Sometimes a vacation is not possible but time left alone is priceless as it allows you to de-stress as you chill out in your mind.
I think one of the hardest things to find for yourself or to recognize as being required in a family member is the need to be left alone. The need to be allowed to occupy your own mental space so that you can collect your thoughts and move one. We are all so busy these days. Running to work, school, activities and such takes up a big part of our day. And in the evening when we’re all together again it can feel like we’re on top of one another. Physically sometimes and mentally too. Have you ever come home from work and you are just “done,” “finished,” “kaput?” It’s like your brain has lost the capacity to compute even the simplest concept. Wouldn’t it be great to have some time alone with your thoughts to put to bed the chaos of the day? Everyone has bad days, kids included. How nice it is if you can decompress, alone in your thoughts for a while. Sit still and remove all the negativity that’s bouncing around in your head. After a short while you know you can move on.
This is the non-tangible space that everyone needs once in a while. Try to recognize when it’s time to leave a family member alone. Alone with their thoughts. Respect that mental space.
That’s just some thoughts on respecting space when part of a large family. It’s a group effort. Everyone is expected to participate. You each have the capacity to add or detract from your life together as a family. Hopefully you all will see the benefit of working together and respecting everyone’s space.
How do you manage the space in your household? Any tips or tricks you’d like to pass along. Would you like to write an article from your particular point of view or experience? Please… pass it along. Share. You can contact LilyToad at:
By Gret Boyd