You may have decided that you want only one child or health reasons may not have permitted you to have more children. You may be the envy of parents with more than one child who have to deal with sibling rivalry, tattling and the like. But deep within, you know that being a parent to an only child brings with it a new set of responsibilities and challenges.
The main problem that only children face is the issue of loneliness. They may want you to be their play mate. However, playing hide and seek and doctor-patient games don’t usually catch the fancy of adults. Another problem is that as your child gets used to playing with you, he or she will refuse to join their peers in games. They will prefer to spend their time with you. Sweet as this may sound, it is tiring and damaging for both parents and children. So, the first thing to do is to encourage your child to mingle with their peers. Let him join in various play groups and play with children with his same age. Let your child play alone for a while. Slowly, he will learn that it is possible to have fun by oneself. That does not mean that you shouldn’t play with your child. Of course you must spend time playing and doing things with your child. Just make sure that he has time to spend with his peers and also some time to be alone.
Parents of only one child sometimes feel guilty when they see that their child is lonely. They tend to release their guilt by buying things for their child. Expensive games to keep them entertained new gadgets, computer and music systems and more. The problem is that this only serves to spoil the child. So, do not give in to such urges. Buy whatever your child really needs and as mentioned before, let your child spend time with his peers. A network of relatives and cousins also play an important role. By mingling with their cousins, your only child will not feel so lonely and left out.
An only child tends to be inflexible at times. They are used to being the center of attraction and having all their needs met in time. They tend to expect the same even when the situation does not permit parents to do so. For instance, if you have to attend a phone call when your child is talking to you, he or she may scream to be heard. Or if a parent is ill or unable to fix dinner in time, the child may throw a tantrum. Such issues can only be dealt with through discipline. Set rules clearly stating what is permissible and what is not. Your child must be aware of the consequences of his actions. For example, he should be aware that a tantrum can result in punishment.
Parents of only one child tend to do everything for their child – making beds, picking up toys, arranging wardrobes and a lot more. This will only make your child lazy. Assign certain responsibilities to your child. Let your child understand that he or she has to do certain things by themselves. Preparing a bowl of cereal or making the bed is no big deal and every child has to learn to do it themselves.
As parents of an only child, it is your responsibility to teach your child to share. An only child is used to having what they want and whenever they want so they have a tough time sharing. Inculcate the habit of sharing in your child from the time he is a toddler. You can set up play times with other children and during this time your child should be required to share his toys with the other children.
Parenting an only child is neither easy nor difficult. It just requires a different approach.