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    Parents and the Only Child

    By Darlene Zagata     

    When raising an only child parents may worry that the child will be lonely. They may even feel guilty for not having another child, often feeling that they are depriving their child of the social interaction of growing up with siblings. While an only child may not have siblings to play with there are advantages. An only child doesn’t have to compete for attention nor share toys.

    Parents of only children may tend to be overprotective especially if they have lost a child previously or are unable to conceive future offspring. Only children like firstborns may tend to act older than their age which may be due in part to the fact that they spend a great deal of time in the company of adults. Many only children may even prefer to be around adults rather than be in the company of other children their own age. Being an only child myself, I can honestly say that as a child I felt more comfortable around adults than I did other children. This isn’t to say that only children do not get along well with other children; the relationship of an only child to other children is normally the same as it would be for children that grow up with siblings. Each child is different whether an only child or a child of a large family.

    An only child may also grow up to be a perfectionist since parents often tend to set expectations high for only children and firstborns. They are usually given more responsibility and may tend to become emotionally mature at a younger age. Since they normally have their belongings all to themselves some only children may have some difficulty with sharing and may not like others touching items that belong exclusively to them. But once again, each child is different. It is a common misconception that only children are selfish and do not like to share. This may be true for some only children but the same can be said for other children as well. Often, two siblings of the same parents are described as being as different as night and day. Some only children may be even more willing to share their toys or other belongings because they welcome the opportunity to do so. Since they don’t normally have other children to share with they may be more willing to share when the opportunity arises.

    Parents may appreciate the advantages of raising an only child such as an absence of sibling rivalry, no fighting, arguing or teasing. Of course similar situations can occur with friends, neighbors, schoolmates and cousins. There is no perfect parenting situation; that much is certain. Raising an only child does afford the parents more time to devote to one child and lessens the financial strain of sufficiently providing for one’s family.

    In a family of two or more children parents tend to compare them to each other. It is not a good practice to get into but unfortunately most of us are guilty of such behavior at one time or another in our parenting. How often have you said something like “Why can’t you keep your room clean like your sister?” or “Why can’t you get good grades like your brother?” You know what I’m talking about. I don’t really believe that as parents we do this purposely. We don’t mean to make our kids feel bad or make them feel inferior by comparing them to a sibling but whether it is intentional or not, most of us have done so at one time or another. Children tend to compare themselves to their siblings as well with such statements like “Why can’t I be pretty like my sister?” or “Why can’t I be good at sports like my brother?” An only child may have a stronger sense of self since they do not normally grow up in an atmosphere of comparison.

    Only children are thought to be intelligent and high achievers. Although some studies may indicate this to be true there is no concrete evidence of such. If such beliefs are true of only children it may be due partially to the fact that only children may find themselves having to provide a fair amount of their own entertainment. Since they have no distractions brought on by interaction with other children they may tend to immerse themselves in their activities. They may read more and concentrate with more intensity on their interests. Of course this is only speculation but it does seem reasonable that children who do not have other children to occupy them may turn to the creativity of their own minds to occupy themselves.

    Many people view an only child as being spoiled but that’s not necessarily true. An only child may have an extremely close bond with one or both parents however that is not unusual considering the close relationship that develops between an only child and his/her parents. As an only child, I never really missed having siblings so I honestly don’t feel as though I lacked anything in my childhood. I will admit there have been times in my life when it would have been nice to have a sibling to lean on during difficult times. But even if you do have siblings there are times in life when you have to rely upon yourself and find your own inner strength. An only child is no more special than a child raised in a large family nor is he or she deprived in any way. Each family is special in its own unique way and so is each child.

    Written by Darlene ZagataRate this article:

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