Raising an Only Child

If you are the lucky parent of an only child you know the drill. You are thrilled to have this beloved child in your life AND you worry that there are no siblings to share the ride. You heap all your love and care onto this wondrous being AND sometimes that translates into a burden of too many expectations on that child’s shoulders. You strive to set up connections with children of friends of yours AND sometimes the children don’t gel. You spend countless hours arranging and attending play dates AND you wish that your child had more exposure to mixed aged groups. You spend all of your free time with your child AND worry that they are overly dependent on you. Yikes! Such is the bittersweet path of raising an only child.

There are a lot of great things about only children. They interact well with other adults. They get lots of attention. They have a wonderful mix of oldest and youngest child attributes, for example: being leaders AND being fun loving, taking responsibility AND being creative.

Then there are the down sides. Your child might be a perfectionist, too self involved, or may be overly attached to you. It makes sense because in your eyes everything they do is a major accomplishment to be relished. You might find yourself compensating for the lack of siblings by giving too much STUFF to your child, or letting them off hook too easily.

The big question? How to balance loving and caring while teaching your child how to be in the world.

Here are some reminders:

  • You can never overindulge your child with too much love.

  • You can overindulge with too much pampering.

  • Separate your expectations of yourself from your expectations of your child.

  • Recognize the difference between what you wanted to do and didn’t and what your child wants to do.

  • Balance spending time with your child with creating spaces for them and you to have ALONE play and down time. Literally schedule it. Notice the patterns of your days and make sure BOTH your needs are met.

  • Instead of combining your socializing with adults with a play date for your child, ask yourself, “Who is this get together REALLY benefitting?” If it is not benefitting your child, rethink it.

  • Ensure success by arranging play dates with children who truly match. Limit the time to one hour for children four years and under.

  • Take care of yourself and get out and mingle with other adults on your time, not your child’s.

  • Recognize that your child is going to carry both you and your spouses unresolved and unspoken issues. Commit to resolving your issues so your child doesn’t have to carry them.

  • Help your child be aware that others matter just as much. Read books, do role play, explore other’s feelings, keep talking.