Raising an only child can have its pros and cons. There can be many reasons as to why couples have only one child. They vary from personal preference to financial constraints to late marriage and even infertility at times. There have been myths going around since years that an only child tends to be lonely, spoiled, aggressive, bossy and maladjusted. Until now there have been hundreds of research studies and not one of them has proved this myth to be correct.
A psychotherapist, Alfred Adler, believed that birth order has an effect on children’s personalities. Only children, engulfed by their parents’ attention, often expect to be admired by everyone. But somehow they learn to rely on themselves, having spent their childhood alone, along with developing a sense of comfort in being alone. Children without siblings usually tend to develop precocious interests and are traditionally expected to display stilted social skills. At times they tend to form stronger relationships with themselves or create imaginary friends to kill the boredom of not having a sibling to play with. However, these challenges faced by an only child can be conquered with the help of parents. The advantage of having an only child is that you can give your undivided attention, without being pulled in other directions. You have plenty of time to teach social skills and values that you feel are important. According to research an only child develops high self-esteem and endorses maturity because of the parents’ one-on-one focus. They tend to have strong identities and personalities as their needs are not overlooked and they don’t have to be on par with a sibling to get attention. There is also an advantage in having to spend so much time alone as they learn to entertain themselves. This in turn makes them creative and more attentive. Having an only child also eases the financial pressure because of which you can offer more of everything to that child. It could range from after-school activities to better educational facilities to even traveling more often.
Of course there are downsides to having an only child. It’s possible for them to have a sensitive nature as they are not exposed to the teasing and fighting that siblings usually go through. This could make them very sensitive to friends’ remarks and they may not take it well. Growing up with siblings can help one see another person’s perspective and teach them how to get along with other people who are different. It also teaches a child how to stand up for herself, how to share, compromise and negotiate. Another drawback of having an only child is that they won’t get to enjoy the mutual support that siblings have amongst them and neither will the parents be able to feel the joy of watching their children bond with each other. It can also be difficult for an only child to solely take care of her parents when they get older. It has been said that only children form deeper friendships than children with siblings do. They tend to substitute them with siblings and their ties often last a lifetime. Hence, it is of significant importance that you expose them to a wide range of people and experiences so that they become sociable and comfortable being around new people. Only children tend to be self-reliant and might not see friends as an essential part of their lives so you should make them join activities that require team support and effort. Parents also face many challenges while raising an only child but there are ways to avoid them. A lot of parents tend to set very high expectations for them which can really pressurize the child as she knows she’s the only one there to meet them. Due to this pressure, they try to become perfectionists to please their parents. It is essential to keep your expectations in line with your child’s natural abilities and age, and not focus only on what you want her to become. Maintaining a balance between protection and overprotection is necessary. If you keep hovering over the child and keep trying to rescue her from every little situation that might occur, she will not learn to stand up for herself and navigate the world. Some parents try to make too many decisions for their child because of which the child ends up completely relying on them for every little thing. Give your toddler the chance to make small decisions for herself to help build future decision-making abilities. Also, only children can have difficulty relating to peers since they are the center of their parents’ attention. Set play dates for your child, at home as well as outside so that she has plenty of time to spend with kids her own age. Socialization from the very beginning will help the child develop the ability to resolve conflicts, take turns and share.
Overindulging your child can develop an attitude of “I always get what I want” in her so make sure to set limits, delay gratification and instill discipline through guidelines and expectations. Even bombarding the kid with gifts can develop a similar attitude in the child so it is important to keep the gifts in check. There are many experts and parents who note that undivided attention to an only child can be either positive or negative but with a lot of love from you and support of some friends, your only child will thrive to be a well-adjusted person.
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