CHILDREN share bedrooms in a fifth of UK households – with many forced to do so because of a lack of space in their parents’ home.
More than half of all adults say they wish their children had bigger rooms in which to study and play, and a further two-thirds would like to move in to a bigger house, according to the Post Office Mortgage Step-up report.
The squeeze comes as statistics show that the average square footage of a typical home has decreased dramatically over the past 90 years from 1,647sq ft to 925sq ft.
In some households, adults have given up a larger room for the benefit of their children, the report found.
A third said they would happily take the smallest bedroom in the house in order to give their offspring more space, while the figure rose to almost half of those with children aged between one and three years old.
Experts said sharing a room allows parents who would otherwise need to move house the option to stay in a smaller property – lifting financial pressure at a time when one parent may be working less, earning less, or continuing to work but have childcare fees to pay.
However, while the majority of people say they would like to live somewhere bigger, they will have to wait an average of four years before they can afford to do so, the report found.
And nearly a third doubt they will ever be able to move up the property ladder due to finances or other commitments.
John Willcock, head of mortgages at the Post Office, said: “With the average house size continuing to shrink, and with many family homes often lacking a garden, it’s hardly surprising that so many of us are concerned about this lack of space and the impact it will have on our children.
“Unfortunately, the reality means a lot of families feel like they are letting their children down by not being able to provide them with their own room, or playroom where they can study or play. As a result a number of parents are making sacrifices and giving up larger rooms in the home to children.”
Despite the lack of space indoors, children said they are more likely to spend their summer holidays inside than playing outside. More than a quarter prefer to sit inside and play computer games, while one in eight admits spending most of their time watching television.
More than two-thirds of adults say that children in their household play outside less than they did as a child.
Mr Willcock warned that upsizing a home to find an extra bedroom for children rather than allowing them to share for longer, could financially stretch parents too far.
“For those people considering moving and upsizing, it’s important to be clear on what you can afford, and therefore, which mortgage deal will best meet your needs,” added Mr Willcock. “While not having enough space might be frustrating, it’s far better than over-stretching yourself financially. You should also take into account the needs and priorities of your family when looking for a new home and consider what comes top of the list, be it location, more space or proximity to good schools.”
Last year former UK education secretary Michael Gove claimed that every child should have a bedroom of their own to fulfil their academic potential, saying that they needed an individual space to learn and study.
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Jenny Fyall, from Udny Station, Aberdeenshire, has two children – Isabel, three and Thomas, two.
“When Thomas was about nine months old and Isabel two, we decided to put them in the same room. After we moved him out of our room, Thomas had been sleeping in a small box room as we only had two proper bedrooms, but we felt it wasn’t really fair on him to be in the box room as he got older.
“He wasn’t a great sleeper then and still isn’t, but we thought having his sister nearby might help. For the first week, it worked like a dream, then he started waking in the night again.
“The problem was, that at that age, you need to leave them a little bit to see if they can settle themselves back to sleep and with Isabel in the room, we couldn’t, so we just ran straight in as soon as he woke up so he didn’t disturb her and his sleeping got worse and worse, so after a couple of months we moved him back into the box room.
“Now, we live in a bigger house and the children have their own rooms, but I’m thinking about moving them back in together soon. Isabel really likes the TV programme Topsy and Tim – about twins who share a room – and she loves the idea of them having a bunk bed so keeps asking if she can share with Thomas again. I really like the idea of them sharing – it’s really sweet.
“It’s nice that they’d have someone to chat to as they fall asleep and hopefully they’d play together in the mornings and give us a bit more of a lie in.
“I know quite a few people whose children do share rooms and they get on very well.”