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ParentingReal Parenting

I Share One Bedroom With My Husband and 4 Kids (Our Eldest Is a Teen)

Until what age can kids continue co-sleeping with you? Teenage years for this this family.

Co-sleeping means sleeping on the same bed or in the same room with your baby. This isn’t a new practice by any means. It’s something done by families across cultures and throughout history. When it is discussed, however, it is often done so in the context of safe sleep practices for infants, and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) become a significant concern.

The assumption, of course, kids move out of their parents' bed eventually. But in the Philippines children beyond preschool-age co-sleep with their parents still. One family we know of share one bedroom still. The four kids' ages:  14, 12, 11, and 4.

Charlene* (not her real name), 39, and her husband have been co-sleeping with their four kids ever since they started their family. It has been the setup in their household since their first child, a boy, was born. He’s now 14 years old.

A family's co-sleeping history

Charlene and her husband lived with her parents after they got married, and they shared her childhood bedroom up until their son was born.

“Noong una (when I had my son), [our bed] was only a single bed with a pullout. Kasi ‘yun lang ‘yung kasya sa bedroom,” Charlene tells “To be perfectly honest, we planned to get married, but we didn’t plan on having many kids. Financially, we weren’t ready, and we were making do with what was available.”

From Charlene's parents' home, the family has moved twice and welcomed the addition of three more members in the family — all girls. By the time they moved to their current home — a two-bedroom apartment— they already had three kids and two house helpers.

“We were both working, and by this time, we had two yayas. It was a two-bedroom apartment, but we didn’t want them (the kids) to stay with the yayas,” she says.

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Safe sleep practices

The family's shared bedroom today is dominated by a king-size bed in the middle of the room where Charlene, her 4-year-old, and her teenage son sleep. To the left is a single bed where her husband sleeps while the two older girls sleep on a pullout.

Safety is also a huge priority, especially when sharing a room with kids. None of Charlene’s children suffered any bumps or falls. “Praning talaga ako,” this mom insists, explaining that she read and learned about SIDS, which can be a risk when co-sleeping.

“Ako ‘yung nanay na nagigising lagi sa gabi [to check on my kids]. ‘Pag nasa-crib natutulog yung baby, sisilip ako,” she says. “Tapos tinitignan ko kung gumagalaw yung [dibdib], kung humihinga,” she says. “Light sleeper pa ako unless sobrang pagod. Basta iniingatan ko talaga sila.”

Co-sleeping benefits for big kids

Among the co-sleeping benefits her children receive, Charlene says their bedroom arrangement helped her kids grow up caring and close with each other. “They have no choice but to adjust to one another’s quirks,” she says with a laugh, noting as well that it is different from the way she grew up.

“May sarili na akong kuwarto since I was 8. Add to that the fact na 9 na ako nagkaroon ng kapatid, so feeling ko malungkot akong bata,” she tells us, adding she sees the opposite with her own family. “Nakikita ko na masaya kami, eh, masaya kami sa iisang kuwarto.”

Her kids’ love of reading was nurtured in the bedroom. Charlene’s husband read to their son when he was younger, and when their son grew older, he read books to his two younger sisters. And now, “yung girls na yung nagbabasa dun sa maliit,” the mom says.

“Sobrang close namin as a family, kasi within that space, there’s a lot of opportunity for [us] to reach out to the kids, for us to really bond,” she shares.

The logistics of co-sleeping when have four kids is challenging. Before her youngest was born, Charlene says she and her husband found ways to fit three kids in one bed, sort of like assembling a puzzle. Charlene and her second daughter would occupy the middle of the bed. Her son would sleep perpendicular to them near the headboard, while her eldest daughter would sleep below the younger one on, the lower left side of the bed. Dad got the pullout underneath.

This kind of comfort and ease with each other helped, too, when the family traveled abroad. “Noong nag-travel kami to Hong Kong — it was a budget trip — we stayed in a hostel [and slept in] the same setup. And it was fine!” Charlene says, laughing.

All six shared a king-size bed and a narrow single bed. “Nag-survive kami!” Charlene exclaims. “So I think, in terms of adjusting, natuto ‘yung kids ko na hindi sila masyadong [mareklamo].”

Since Charlene and her husband are both working full-time, it’s only during bedtime they get to really see their kids during the week. This, she notes, may also be the reason her kids don’t feel “suffocated” by their presence.

“The sad truth is because we’re so busy with work, wala kami [sa bahay]. In essence, [the kids] have the house all to themselves almost the whole day. They’re in school, and then they’re at home. It’s only on weekends na nandoon kaming lahat,” says Charlene, who works in advertising.

“Kaya siguro hindi sila nasasakal kasi wala naman kami. We’re not breathing down their necks,” she adds.

Co-sleeping tips from a family who believes in it

Co-sleeping, Charlene says, made her kids more willing to share and talk about their thoughts, feelings, problems, even crushes in school. “I think kaya rin kami solid, very supportive,” she says. “Parang we know if there’s something wrong. And open, [my kids are] very open.”

Here Charlene shares her most important tips for families who are co-sleeping or thinking of co-sleeping long-term.

1. Make safety a priority.

“If you have a baby you really have to be very careful. If you’re a heavy sleeper, I don’t really [recommend bed-sharing],” Charlene insists. Reading up on the risks of sleeping beside an infant is a must. (Check out the guidelines for co-sleeping here.)

2. Make time for your partner.

“You have to take care of your relationship din, especially if you can’t have a little privacy at home,” she points out. “It doesn’t have to be someplace you can go and have intimacy, but make time na kayong dalawa lang. Dinner outside or if it’s possible, kung medyo malaki na yung kids, go out for a staycation,” Charlene adds.

3. Assign everyone his “own space” at home.

Charlene says: “Find ways for [your kids] to still have their own semblance of personal space and privacy. It’s one thing na natutulog kayo na magkakatabi, pero it’s not all the time [you’re with each other].”

In their case, she and her husband set up a long desk for their kids in the living area, where each child has his or her own designated “workstation.” “Parang may sari-sarili silang mini office. They each have their own computers and desk drawers,” Charlene explains.

4. Plan for the future.

“If you intend to co-sleep long-term or if ‘yun lang ‘yung option, anong gagawin mo ‘pag lumaki na [‘yung kids] at ‘di na kayo kasya?” she asks. “Think about the future, kasi sooner or later, that space is not going to be enough for all of you.”

Since she has a teenage son and her two older girls are in their pre-teens, Charlene and her husband are already making plans of letting the three have their own rooms.

On a final note, Charlene has this to say: “Co-sleeping is probably one of most natural ways to establish a nurturing and mutually and genuinely loving relationship with your kids, within the family. It doesn’t require too much effort. It happens very organically.”

*The family has asked their names to be withheld for privacy.

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