The majority of parents struggle with sibling rivalry and often find themselves saying, ‘If only I had just ONE child, life would be SO much easier!’. But in reality it is just not that simple.
Raising a single child comes with its own challenges and there are a few doubts and questions we hear time and time again from parents of only children:
- Am I spoiling my child too much?
- How do I teach them social skills such as sharing, taking turns and waiting?
- How can I entertain them when there is no sibling to play with?
- Are they growing up too quickly because they spend so much time with adults?
But here is the good news, once we put some thought into our ‘job’, having a single child CAN bring benefits too. For instance they learn how to be alone and entertain themselves, they get quality time from you and undivided attention from their parents, they do not have to deal with other siblings and they will not be compared with another sibling either. And generally speaking an only child grows up to be more independent.
Here are a few tips that might help you if you have concerns about raising an only child:
- Be clear on “Together Time”: You might find that you have lots of time to be with your child but try putting a timer on so your child knows when it is ‘you and child time’ and when they (and you) need to do other things. Make sure you have agreed that after that time they have to get on with other things on their own i.e. continue with what you have done together etc.
- Developing social skills:
- Helping Out: make sure your child has family chores where they need to do tasks for the household so they learn that you need to participate to be a part of any community. Yes it so much easier and quicker and better to do it yourself BUT that does not teach your child valuable lessons on contributing!
- Taking Turns: even if you don’t mind that your child goes first, has the biggest, longest, the most etc. still try to say, ‘today it is my turn to choose the television programme, be served first, decide on dinner, choose the book’ etc. I have been supporting a mum and dad of a 10 year old boy who were afraid was going to become a ‘spoiled child’ because he wouldn’t share when he had friends over, got upset when the adults had a bigger portion of food than him, stayed up later etc. The boy had started to see himself as an equal with the parents! The parents then started saying, ‘I can have a bigger portion because I am bigger’, or, ‘we can stay up later than you because we are older’, or, ‘Sorry, today you cannot have a loan of my i-pad because I need it’, this has started to help him to develop important social skills.
- Have friends over: as a single child they don’t have to share toys, food, television etc. so as well as doing the above, try as often as you can to invite friends and family over so your child has to share their properties, time and space. It’s a good idea to prepare your child beforehand, ‘Sam, today Ben is coming over to play so let’s talk about how you can make Ben feel welcome’, or, ‘what is a good friend?’ etc. Maybe stay nearby to step in when you feel your child is begging to ‘take over’ or being unsociable i.e. ‘Sam, I can see you really want that toy Ben is playing with, what can you give Ben instead or maybe you can ask him when is it your turn’.
- NO to you and YES to me: you might have more time for your child but try to say ‘No, that does not suit me today’ once in a while, i.e. driving them to friends, reading them a book, playing a game etc. simply just because you are tired or it is not convenient. Here you teach them that adults are not always on standby for them and at their constant beck and call!
- Couple or friends time for YOU: with only one child you might feel guilty leaving him/her alone. But remember that all your child wants is for you to be happy and in order for that to happen you also need some Me-Time!
And trust yourself, that what you are doing is right!