The Only Child: Owner’s Manual Concludes
Some of the things discussed in the articles are:
- Having an Only Child is not an insensible thing to do,
- You can have the best of both worlds!
- Obstacles are not insurmountable or deeply problematic.
- Keys to success: Appreciate, Moderate, Encourage, Assess, Build, and Let Go.
- Benefits of having an only child far overweigh its disadvantages.
It’s ok to have an only…
Is stopping with only one child a sensible thing to do? Alicia, mother of an only child, says: “I had my first baby when I was thirty four. I am not sure I want to go through it all over again. I neither feel guilty saying this nor do I feel obliged to give my only child a sibling. We are perfect as a family of three and I am content” she concludes rather categorically.
A Growing Pattern
With career becoming a priority among women too, with rising costs and late marriages, only child families are increasingly becoming commonplace and hopefully soon there will be no stigma attached to it. Nations at a macro level and families at a micro level are recognizing the advantages and positives of having a smaller family.
“I think having an only child is somewhat like having the best of both worlds. Your career does not suffer, you have more time, you have better control of your emotional and financial resources and your attention is focused on your only child, which is a great thing…the benefits of having an only child far outweighs its disadvantages. I think a family of three is really a very very good idea,” remark Pat and Ron.
While raising an only child does have its hitches and hiccups, the obstacles are not insurmountable or deeply problematic. Correct information on how to raise an only child coupled with the right parental attitude will ensure that your only child grows into a balanced, caring and responsible adult.
To summarize –
Appreciate that you are a family of three. Those couples who wanted a second child but were unable to do so owing to medical or financial reasons must soon reconcile their position and enjoy the child on hand. Appreciate and acknowledge the joy and meaning you give each other as a close knit family of three.
At the next level, appreciate the child. Never fail to give him a pat on the back or drop a complimentary word or two. Parents tend to forget that even older children need words of encouragement and appreciation. Also, value your child as he is. Do not crowd him with your over-expectations and do not impose your dreams and ambitions on him.
On the flip side, do not go overboard and indulge your child by over-praising him. “While it is easy to appreciate and praise your child when he is really young and adorable, the whole thing gets a little sticky as your child moves into his teens and when he gets a little tight on you. Teens need the praise but don’t want to necessarily earn it. Victor and I gave the praise anyway and somewhere I think it helped us keep close to our growing adolescent” says June.
Whether it is praising or protecting your only child, moderation is the key. Many parents fall into the trap of interfering in their child’s fights with his peers and taking up his issues on his behalf. “Being there” for your child does not include total intrusion into his space and smoothening ‘everything’ out for him.
Avoid the pitfalls “I would have learnt how to deal with people early on in my life if only my parents weren’t interfering into every situation of mine and tackling it on my behalf” says only adult Zach. As parents, your only child may be extremely precious to you. But he has other people to contend with who do not share your opinion of him. Criticisms, fights, compliments and praise are a part of his life too, and you must allow him to deal with it on his own terms and not yours. By over-praising you are merely going to paint a rosy picture of the world and later it may come as a shock to your child.
Moderate everything, except love.
Encourage your only child to form bonds outside the family. Help him bond with his peers by fixing playmates for him, by providing opportunities to meet other children of his age. Encourage him to ask you questions and have open conversations with you.
Answer questions on the sibling issue without discomfort. As a parent, approve and encourage his positive traits and allow him to blossom. Above all, give the child his time alone and encourage time alone as a habit rather than as a last option to exercise in the absence of a friend or any other play engagement. “A child has many facets to himself- many talents and strengths. Each child is unique and it is really up to the parents to recognize and foster those traits and talents.
Encouragement is the key here. You allow for certain positive things to happen and you nourish that habit/talent/trait.
It is a good idea to periodically step back and assess your role as a parent, the job you are doing as a parent, and finding out the needs of not just your child but your own needs too. Questions you can ask yourself-
- Am I doting too much on my only child because she is my only child? Am I in anyway, through my attitude, giving room for the stereotypical only child to be groomed in my home?
- Are we as a couple nursing any regrets about not having a second child, and are we in any way percolating it down to our only child?
- Being a family of three is great. But are we constantly keeping our child in adult company and unconsciously making her participate in adult-oriented activities? Is my child getting enough of her peers and age group?
- Is my child too individualistic for her own good? Is she a mini-adult? Am I ensuring that I am letting the child remain a child?
…time for some self-assessment
“Natalie and I love to review not just our finances but our role as parents too. We try to see how to make our son’s childhood better by cultivating the right parental attitude. This kind of stepping back to look at ourselves is a terrific exercise and it helps keep tabs on our child and ourselves too” says John.
There are many things you can build for your child and around your child.
- Build a support system around yourself consisting of family, friends and relatives. Share your child with other willing care givers too. Let your child bask under the attention of uncles, aunts and friends too. This way you give your child an extended family and a larger circle of people she can connect with, and as for you, you could approach the support system when you need time alone for yourself or as a couple.
- Build relationships with your only child’s teachers and the parents of her peers. This will allow you to enjoy a certain comfort level for yourself and build a solid foundation of relationships for your child.
- Build tolerance and understanding for your only adolescent. More than anything, your adolescent needs attention and allowance (not just financial- but emotional too). Look at it as an investment you make on your child for her better development.
- Build an ambition- without going overboard, you could build an ambition for your child and help her achieve her potential.
Most famous only children look back to the role their parents played in helping them achieve the position they enjoyed. Without pressurizing your child and without impinging her with your expectations, you can encourage and motivate your child to excel in a chosen field.
Enrolling your child in a regular mainstream school and watching your tiny bundle of joy walk into a huge building can be a very emotional experience, and it is. Technically, it is the first “letting go” act a parent experiences vis-a-vis his child. Believe it or not, that thick lump in your throat does not diminish in size or pain when you see your only child all grown up and strapping, ready to leave for college. During the course of her growing years, there would be many opportunities that can teach you the art of letting go even while you hold on to your child and the love you nurse for her.
A good part of bringing up an independent child lies in the act of letting go. A parent who is too scared to allow his only child to ride the bike must let go. A parent who is too ambitious for his only child must let go of the idea. The bottom line being, you allow spaces in your togetherness and you allow your child to get a taste of lessons of life without you intervening all the time with a protective umbrella over her head. “We may be adults when our child is first born to us- but we really begin to evolve and grow only with our child. The growth is as joyous and as painful as the process of birth itself” says a teary eyed Judy as she packs her daughter’s bags for college. “Holding on is so easy. Letting go is tough. But I will learn that too. I don’t want our daughter to be held back in anyway because of us,” she says as she understands that after college her daughter may move to a different state or even a different country.
One child- the only way to go?
In today’s world of rapid changes and greater demands, couples who decide on having only one child still nurse doubts on their decision. An oft heard question is- “Is it alright to have just one child?” The answer is it is not just alright it is also wonderful to have just one child. “The initial years- especially when I was well within the biological age of having another child, I nursed lots of doubts. But better sense prevailed and we stopped with just one. I think we have done wonderfully well as parents towards our son. He is a caring, affectionate and a strong boy. Nowhere close to the stereotypical only child,” says Alexia, a proud parent of an only child.
“My friends would be complaining about their siblings. They would be peeved and annoyed. Each time I heard something like that, I would thank my lucky stars that I was a single child. My books were mine, my CDs were mine and above all my parents were fully mine” laughs Jonathan an only child.
Some parents worry about leaving their child ‘alone’ as much as only children worry about their aging parents. But the reality is that many siblings do not support each other for life, just as the fact that despite multiple children, aging parents often opt to remain only with one of their children. The presence of a sibling is not a protective measure for a better future.
In the end, it’s all about parenting
Raising an only child has its share of joys and peculiar challenges. But being an only child does not in any way obstruct the child from growing into a balanced, responsible and caring adult.
Parents can foster and nourish any and all the qualities in their child which the child would have gained in the company of a sibling. Largely, it is the right parental attitude that decides the personality of the only child and not the fact that he is without a sibling. So, if a couple were to ask if an only child is a good way to go, it is. It surely is.
“I was an only child to my parents and I have an only child too. I think my childhood was blissful. As an adult too, I have not missed having a sibling. Friends and cousins more than make up for it. I can now see our son enjoying the same kind of attention and focus from us. We are very happy to be a family of three. One child is just perfect” says Max with a flourish.