Ex-etiquette: Should 13-year-olds of the opposite sex to share a bedroom?
Q: My new husband and I both have a child from a previous marriage. My daughter and his son just turned 13-years-old, their birthdays are one week apart. They have shared a bedroom for the past year, but we are concerned that they may be getting too old to do that. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: So many parents ask this, but the answer seems obvious. Your children were too old to share a room years ago!
Parents merging families rarely think of the pressure this puts on their children. The decision to share a room is usually based on how much room is available in the house, but there are other things to consider. Let’s start with the need for privacy. Kids their age are going through all sorts of body changes and rarely do they want to share this with a person of the opposite sex their same age.
Then there’s the social aspect — say your 13-year-old son asked to have a friend sleep over, you probably wouldn’t think anything of it. What if the friend was a girl? Would your response be the same? That’s what you are doing if you let opposite-sex 13-year-olds share a bedroom.
Your children are subjected to provocative sexually explicit material everywhere they turn — TV programs camouflaged by animation or mainstream social media postings by celebrities afraid their name won’t be in the paper for an hour. Your kids aren’t babies, they’re teenagers. Even if they didn’t share a room, the transition to living as a family is tough. You made it 100 times tougher.
The answer? Move or convert a room, but do it fast. And, from this point on, get clear on your own boundaries. You can’t be wishy-washy about things like this. Make sure your kids know the family rules and what is expected, and have that all-important conversation about sex and what might happen. They will probably hate that you brought it up. It doesn’t matter ... It’s your job to protect your kids. They aren’t the only ones who need to make good choices.
That’s good ex-etiquette.
Email Dr. Jann Blackstone at the Ex-Etiquette website, exetiquette.com at firstname.lastname@example.org.