Jun 092008

What is the ideal size of a family? And who helps make that decision? Is it just the prospective parents, or maybe pressure from family and friends? How often do couples themselves manage to disassociate from the popular beliefs on what the ideal size of a family should be?

Why have an Only?
For various reasons, including economic, medical or emotional affordability, more parents are increasingly tending towards having just one child. What are the pros and cons of having just one child? Is it advantageous for the child as well as parents to be a family of just three?

Research indicates that when parents have more time and energy to invest on their kids, the children make certain positive gains which otherwise cannot be obtained through formal education or training. Parents of single children often are able to offer that kind of focused attention and affection.

In this article, we discuss some of the positive aspects observed in an only child.

Thriving family of three

  • Intelligence- Studies show that first-borns display a higher IQ than their younger siblings. When the first born continues to enjoy his singular status, chances are that he will outshine his peers who come from multi-children families. Single children may prove to be more intelligent owing to the ‘enriched’ intellectual environment the parents provide.
  • Achievement- Parents of only children tend to motivate their offspring with more vigour and dedication. Owing to this fact, the ratio of only children who are bigger achievers is higher than when compared to children belonging to larger families.
  • Self esteem- Research indicates that first-borns, last-borns and only children possess the highest level of self esteem. Their self esteem is directly linked to the positive enforcements at home. First-borns and only children enjoy parental admiration and acceptance at a greater level than other children.

Is three odd?

On the flip side, there are some drawbacks of having an only child. Some of them are:

  • Affiliation- Studies show that only children don’t affiliate themselves to organizations or clubs or societies as willingly as children belonging to larger families. Their social lives are neither intense nor very active. However, single children are reported to have closer friends, fewer social obligations and hence seem to enjoy a richer life.
  • Group Dynamics- Being the cynosure of their parent’s eyes, only children expect similar attention and admiration from their peers, but in vain. They may display a more autocratic and less co-operative behavior with other children in the beginning. Unlike children from larger families, onlies don’t have anyone to play with at home. They then start making changes in their behavior, which then helps them in a great way. With parental contribution in the development of their child’s interaction with peers, single children can grow up to enjoy peer popularity and excel in group dynamics. Also, only children learn over time that, in order to make friends, they have to be flexible and accommodating.

May 292008

Dealing With The Only Child’s Adolescence

With the onset of his adolescence, you may start experiencing minor fissures in your relationship with your only child, which until now was rosy and perfect. From being a cooperative, demonstrative and loving child, your budding adolescent may display streaks of rebellion, prefer to be withdrawn and isolated or be sullen and uncommunicative. Apart from these emotional changes, your child would also be going through physiological changes.

From being cuddly, cherubic and sweet, your child would start looking more adult-like in appearance: changing voice, bodily hair, newly acquired physical build. As parents, your response to these outward changes could range from surprise to uneasiness to unfamiliarity with your own child who is going through puberty. On the other hand your reactions to his inward changes of striving for independence and self identity may range from anxiety to conflict to exasperation.

Typically, adolescence is harder on parents of only children as they would find it very difficult and emotionally unsettling to watch their ‘one and only’ move away from them, breaking the magic circle of three. Without another child to divert their attention to and with differences in thought increasing between them and their only child, adolescence can indeed be a testing time for the parents of only children.

Differences of opinion between parents and their adolescent will usually be in the following key areas:

a) Individualism– Starting at nine and spreading well into their teen years is the stage when your child will be sculpting his own identity, or in other words, becoming ‘his own person’. The adolescent will begin to define himself not vis-a-vis his parents as he did till now, but more in relation to his peers. The teenager will not only desire freedom from parental regulation, he will also demand more adult standing and be wanted to be treated as a grown up.

b) Social separation– Your child may seem like moving away from you. The earlier closed group of being a cozy group of three may begin to disintegrate, much to your dismay. Your child who was content with just his parents may now explicitly say that “I’d rather be with my friends than with you”. The company of his peers would become more important and interesting to him at this stage, as he searches for social separation from his parents.

c) Experimentation– The rules of the house may be contested. The carefully regulated routine of yours may be challenged. Your child may experiment with gaudy clothes, shabby shoes and an embarrassing hairstyle. Music may get louder than usual and the television may blare at odd times. Basically, your teenager would be experimenting with his preferences and appearances with equal gusto as he would be contesting the limits of your rules.

While your child goes through these age-triggered changes, you as a parent may also experience a variety of feelings and fears. Predominantly, you would go through:

a) Fear of rejection– Your adolescent’s new thoughts and activities may make you feel defunct and rejected. From being the center of your child’s world, you may feel relegated to the periphery.

b) Fear of conflict– When the position of your authority is questioned you may feel insecure in your relationship with the child. When your only child questions the rules and regulations you have set for him, the possibility of conflicts and confrontations increases, making you uncomfortable.

c) Fear of estrangement– As your child increasingly seeks social separation and openly shows his preference for friends over you, you will start getting pangs of estrangement. “Will my only child move away from me permanently? Will he get closer to his friends than us?’ you may fear.

d) Fear of failure– Yet another setback a parent may experience- “What if the child tries something so radical and dangerous that he harms himself? What if I let my child mess up his life and fail in my parenting duties?

While you go through these fears, be assured that your child is going through similar fears too. Your adolescent does not mean to push away your love or spurn your concern- he is merely confused and is currently trying out various things in order to “find himself”. While he experiments, explores and challenges the options available to him, he wants your love and support to aid him, but often ends up communicating differently to you through his behavior.

Bridging over adolescence

Parents can tide over their only child’s adolescence and also support their growing child by:

a) Exercising faith– On the bond of love, trust and care they have created between them and their child since his birth. Parents should ‘know’ and ‘have faith’ that the carefully nurtured bond with their will not be broken so easily and they must just have the confidence to allow their child to ‘come and go’ while he is experimenting and exploring.

b) Keep communication open– Despite the conflicts and confrontations your relationships may be seeing, it is vital that you don’t close off any channel of communication. It is better to ‘argue and talk it over with’ rather than opt for the ‘silent treatment’. It is important that you allow your child to express his feelings as much as you take the freedom to express yours.

c) Greater acceptance– With greater prodigal behavior from your child a greater degree of tolerance and acceptance is required of you. If you want to be ‘above the situation’, the only way out is to scientifically understand the changes your child is going through and deal it with it with a greater science- the science of love and affection.

As your child flexes his wings, it is important that you give him roots. While your child struggles in his adolescence to find his roots, it is vital that you give him wings.

 Posted by at 9:00 am
May 292008

Easing The Impact Of A Messy Divorce

When divorce between parents has not been amicable, it is the only child who is impacted the most. Without a sibling to share the burden or ease his pangs, an only child’s experience of divorce is significantly higher than other children. Being the pivotal point of both parents, the only child often gets embroiled in custodial issues and may be pointed out by the parents as being the sole cause for the continued interaction between the estranged spouses.

A pertinent question parents should ask themselves is, “Do you love to hate each other more than you love your child?” Parents who are yet to come to terms with the harshness of divorce need to understand that placing their grievances against the spouse and mutual animosity on their child may deeply affect the emotional well being of the child.

New challenges and new adjustments

Divorce is a time for new challenges and adjustments, not just for you but more importantly for your child too. Divorce is a painful phase which may affect your ability to be good parent. If anything you have to be more available for your only child during this phase.

Making up through play and talk

The custodial parent may be facing a variety of pressures such as setting up a new home, assuming additional duties, which was hitherto done by the other spouse or maybe moving from a full-time job to a part-time arrangement. In the midst of this the single parent may find it extremely hard to act normally with her only child.

Beatrice, who was going through a painful divorce, confesses- “I came in after a hard day’s work to find the house in a mess and a list of chores waiting to be done. I found my son Bob playing ball inside the house. On top of that he insisted that I play with him. I simply flew off my handle.”

An only child may still be reeling under the loss of the parent-child contact time. When the custodial parent spends lesser and lesser time with the child owing to external pressures, the only child is impacted the most. In this case, a sibling may have proved immensely useful by giving each other company and a sense of “family” even when a parent is absent. Setting aside regular time for talk and play with your child and fixing weekly outings where your entire attention will be focused on the child can greatly ease emotional pressure on both of you.

Helpful relatives can bridge the gap

Does your child’s favorite aunt fall on your husband’s side of the family? What should one do when your child misses his cousins who are related to your embittered spouse?

In the absence of a sibling and the other parent, your child may be engulfed by a feeling of “loss of family” and may want to make up by reaching out to the extended family.

It may not be an easy task for you to get in touch with your spouse’s side of the family, especially during or after divorce. You could be straightforward and let them know that your child is missing them and divorce need not mean separation from the rest of the family too. Most relatives would hasten to comfort the child and ease his anxiety. Fix up times with these favorite relatives of your child’s whom he misses. Keep the family contacts and allow your child interactions with the extended family.

Stick to routines

A new environment and a new household need not necessarily mean a new set of routines. As far as possible stick to your old way of life. Do not bring in an atmosphere of “your way” of bringing up a child versus “your spouse’s” way of bringing up a child. “My son asked me if it was okay to go to bed without brushing. That was a ritual Mark was very particular about. For a moment, I was tempted to say it was okay, but I insisted that he brush his teeth, not only because it is a good habit but also to give him the safety net of an old and familiar routine”, says Donna mother of an eight-year old only child.

Stay in control

Children usually become silent, withdrawn and “good” in order to stay out of trouble or they become difficult, loud and rambunctious in order to seek attention. While you are coming to grips with the reality of divorce, of two households and the pressure of being a single parent, you may feel too stretched to monitor your child’s behavior or maintain rules and regulations.

But more than ever, it is in this transition period that you have to show your child that old rules of discipline and good behavior still holds good.

If he has definite TV watching hours, regular tasks at home like folding the laundry or putting out the garbage and if he has strict no’s about eating junk food- make sure you stick to those rules. It is important to retain an old sense of familiarity even in the new order of things.

A period of transition is also a period of transformations. Staying in control and staying focused on the needs of your only child can ease the impact of divorce and help you and your child to get back on your feet faster and with lesser hardships.

 Posted by at 4:22 am
May 272008

Advantages Of Homeschooling Your Only Child

Many parents of single children toy with the idea of homeschooling their child at least once during their child’s tenure at school. The trend of homeschooling is indeed catching on with growth rate of 7 to 15 percent per year. It is estimated that there are currently two million children coming under the homeschooling program. They are reported to be performing on par with regular schoolchildren at college, universities and at work.

Jessica, parent of an only child who wanted to homeschool her son, gathered a long list of pros and cons from her interactions with other parents who were homeschooling their children. “I wanted to be sure I was doing the right thing. A school is a place where my only child can be with other children. I didn’t want to deny him that. At the same time, the advantages of homeschooling attracted me a great deal,” she says.

Choose Your Pace, Choose Your Subjects

Your only child will have the educational freedom to choose what he wants to learn and in a pace that he finds comfortable. You can customize the syllabus for your child according to his needs and abilities. (check if your state has any restrictive legal requirement in connection with this).

“I find the homeschooling system very supportive of the child and his needs” says Mariam, mother of a seven year old only child. “My daughter Pat loves science. We do science experiments, go on nature walks, explore the environment around us and create our own worksheets. She simply loves doing what we do. She is my one and only and I want to go all out to nurture her interest. I don’t know if any school can nourish her love for science as much as my husband and I do.”

Greater Freedom

“The morning rush to catch the school bus…it all seems to belong to some distant world now,” smiles Mariam, who has been homeschooling her only child for the past two years. However it may take a little while to really settle down to an “absence of a rigid routine” before you can enjoy this freedom from timetables and rules of an educational institution.

“It does not mean no work gets done; only you take a longer time to explore what works for you and your child. Believe me, it can be a luxury. I love being with my only child in other capacities than just a mother,” adds Mariam. For Zach homeschooling meant greater stability. “We have already moved thrice, across states in the past two years. It has been crazy. Thankfully our child had to contend only with changing neighborhoods and not schools too. Since we were homeschooling our only child, we were able to give greater support to him during this time of upheaval and change.”

Emotional Security

Bullying, peer pressure, teasing, competitive feelings are real issues that can mar the experience of a regular school for a child. Particularly for parents of only children, these issues often take nightmarish proportions (and probably rightly so) considering the deep care and protectiveness they offer their child.

Many parents of single children do worry about the adverse affect of wrong peer group at school on their child. Confidence, self-esteem, pride, self respect are qualities that have to be nurtured by the school too and if the school fails in providing a conducive environment, the parents can take the next step of doing the schooling for their child on their own. “Girls, I feel, are more susceptible to peer pressure, teasing and bullying,” says Vincent. “I took my girl out when I found her constantly unhappy or bored at school. Being on her own seems to do her a whole lot of good” he concludes.

Religious Freedom

In many families, spiritual and religious beliefs are integral to their daily lives. Homeschooling is an option for those families who wish to nurture in their children their spiritual beliefs.

Better bonding

Understanding the child’s needs more closely and being available for them close by is the greatest advantage of homeschooling. This aspect of homeschooling program wins the greatest favor from parents of onlies. The program provides the necessary leisure and opportunity to foster better ties with your child.

It is not just the very young children who benefit from the homeschooling program. “Moving my adolescent into a home schooling program was the best decision ever,” beams Julie. “He was frustrated with the early waking hours, jibes from his friends about his weight, heavy homework schedules and lack of rest. Now three months into homeschooling and his rebelliousness and destructive behavior have reduced drastically,” she concludes.

While homeschooling does have its advantages, it has its downside too. Read on to find the negatives of home schooling your only child.

 Posted by at 6:39 am
May 272008

Possible Disadvantages Of Home Schooling Your Only Child

A school is not just a place for gaining knowledge and a graduation certificate- it is also a microcosm of the world outside with representations from people of different classes, attitudes and outlook.

A school going child learns to make friends, tackle animosity, manage his homework duties and handle expectations of his peers and tutors. These skills prepare him for the world outside and ensure an all round development of the child’s personality.

Can homeschooling provide all these- considering your only child may need more opportunities for socializing and mixing with peers than other children? Is this option suitable for both you and your child?

Company For Your Only Child

A regular school set up will ensure company and give your only child various opportunities to mingle with children across age groups. Not just that, he would find opportunities to participate in group activities like cultural programs, sport events and games.

However you can work around this problem as Nan did. “I was convinced that homeschooling was the best option for my only child Susie. But to make up for the company she was missing, we moved into a larger neighborhood where she could find lots of friends. Also, we enrolled her in a Sunday school, where she sings in the choir. I think the balance is working out just right” she says.

Single Income

Deciding to home school may mean one parent dedicating his entire time for the child. One partner may have to forego his/her full time employment in order to be available for the child. Parents of only children who wish to give both their emotional and material best for their child will have a choice to make here. However, many parents report being satisfied with watching their children learn in freedom and don’t mind the loss of income.

The Time Factor

The parent who opts to stay at home with the child may find his/her hands full. Planning activities, arranging work schedules, may consume your energy. The home schooling program, while affording freedom from rigid timetables and standard timings, however demands a discipline of its own. One does have to juggle a variety of things and use time optimally while home schooling their child. “I have to plan days ahead for a simple hair cut. If Laura were at school at that time, would I be planning so much?” says Jesse.

Constant Monitoring

While homeschooling affords time, space and excellent opportunities to bond with your only child, it also demands a 24 by 7 monitoring of your child. Do you have the energy to be constantly available for your child? “Homeschooling is a lot of fun. My son Pete and I are enjoying it immensely. But I did experience a severe drain of energy after the initial three months. Now I hire a babysitter once a week to have my time out and one day in a week, my husband pitches in to keep Pete engaged. It is a lot better now” says Barbara.

Limited Games

While younger children can be content playing with children from the neighborhood, teenagers may want to join a sports team and may be serious about an organized sport. Well informed and motivated only children may want to shine in a sport to support ambitions of getting into a college through a sports scholarship. Some families, it is reported, have created their own sports team to overcome this problem! Alternately, you can look for coaching facilities in your area where your child can be groomed in a sport of his liking.

Being Out Of The Box

For many, homeschooling is still an out of the box idea and not a well thought out option. Your own extended family or friends circle may think you odd for homeschooling your only child. It may give rise to feelings that you are clinging on to your child and wanting to keep him tied to you constantly.

Your social peers may “box” you in as being overly possessive and overly protective parents. “George and I have developed a thick skin over the years. We cannot be browbeaten out of our decision” laughs Anna who has been homeschooling her child for the past six years. Negative comments and criticism, there will be plenty. But as parents of an only child, it is upto you to weigh the pros and cons before deciding what is best for your precious child.

While homeschooling does have its disadvantages, it has its benefits too. Read on to find the benefits of home schooling your only child

 Posted by at 6:35 am
May 062008

Only Child And Divorce

Divorce is painful. If anything, it is more painful for the only child and her parents owing to the cohesiveness and the tight bond the parents and the child enjoyed with each other.

Emotional Pressure

An only child will be under great emotional pressure while the process of divorce between his parents is on. The child will be plagued by a variety of questions and feel torn between his two parents: Who is at fault? Is he a cause for this divorce? And so on.

An only child below ten years of age may experience intense grief at the break up of the family triangle and nurse fears about his future. An early adolescent may feel deep betrayal resulting in greater rebellion and fissure between him and his parents. A late adolescent may pick up a lesson or two from his parents’ divorce and may conclude that “love is not forever” and “affection can be conditional”.

Easing The Emotional Pressure On The Only Child

While the child cannot be entirely protected from the impact of divorce, the brunt of it can be blunted. A child can be “eased” into the harsh reality of divorce if the parents take that extra care for the sake of their ward.

  • Preparing the child– It helps if the parents break the news of their divorce jointly and explain that this inevitable decision was taken keeping everyone’s interest in mind. It would help to emphasize that while you as parents may not live together, you are still joint in your decision to provide the best for your only child.
  • Predictability– Allow for some predictability in your new routine. This will help the child settle faster to the new life and routine. Put up a predictable schedule where communication with the other parent is allowed and when visits are anticipated. Also, allow for some relaxation of the schedule when the child has an immediate need to see or talk to the absent parent.
  • Sense of order– Look out for those personal habits and rituals which will bring in a sense of order and offer the child a sense of comfort and stability and reinstate them. Allow the child to choose his own space in the new living environment and do it up as he wishes. This will provide him a sense of control over the new living conditions.
  • Provide information– Your child will be assaulted by a variety of questions. Try to answer them patiently and as honestly as possible depending on the age and maturity of your child. Providing information can assuage the child’s fears greatly.
  • Be prepared– The impact of divorce may be seen in many areas of your child’s life. Be prepared for some amount of rebellion or tears. Your child’s grades may fall or he may retreat into sullen silence. Be sensitive to his feelings and do not pull up the child. He is coming to terms with the reality as much as you are.
  • Be strong– Do not lean on the child for emotional support or expect him to declare who the better parent is. No matter how traumatized you are, it is essential that you exercise adult responsibility and remain the parent and he the child during this painful phase.
 Posted by at 11:21 am
May 012008

Only Child And Individualism

Psychologists in their studies have found a greater likelihood of only children growing to be more individualistic than children from larger families. Individualistic people have strong ideas and convictions which they adhere to with clarity and conviction, due to which others may see them as stubborn or eccentric.

Parents have to walk this fine line with care. On the one hand, they need to let their only child develop his own personality, ideas and convictions, and on the other hand, they should regulate and moderate this developmental path. This is what parents normally do, whether in single-child homes or in larger families.

However, parents of onlies need to be aware that:

  1. Siblings who would normally help in this regulation or moderation are absent,
  2. Lack of siblings also means undivided attention on the only child.

Clear cut preferences

The only child will be able to map his beliefs, values, likes and dislikes with a high degree of clarity. The only child’s value system will be quite deep and defined. They have a clear idea of who they are, what they like and don’t like.


The clear cut preferences again gives the only children definite ideals which they will stand by with lot of conviction.


Values and beliefs grow into ideals as children age, and this moulds their character. The child may be so entrenched in his system of beliefs and ideals that he may be unwilling to compromise (or sacrifice) his convictions for others just in order to fit in.

The underside of the three strengths

While having a strong character is a desirable trait, the child’s “strong sense of oneself” may interfere with his “sense of belonging with others”. While affirming the above three gains of clear cut preferences, ideals and strong character in the child, a parent also has to watch for the downside of these strong points. The three most common “consequences” of highly developed individualism are:

  1. Personal entitlement
  2. Older identification
  3. Eccentricity

These three traits may display in a child as outspokenness, stubbornness, and insistence getting one’s way.

Personal entitlement

The notion of personal entitlement arises when the child believes he and his beliefs to be more special and superior to others’ and hence expects special treatment from his peers and elders. The child may think himself “above the system” and have trouble fitting into rules, timetables and routines imposed outside of the home, as in a school or a learning center.

Solution: Parents should help their child in understanding that, while within the home, rules and regulations may be made to suit him and could be negotiated, the outside world functions differently. The parents have to make the child see that while he is the “one and only” for them, for the world outside, he is just one amongst many.

Older identification

Owing to the continual and close association with elders rather than people of his own age, an only child may feel greater camaraderie with adults rather than his peers.. Being treated like a “little adult” and with the absence of a younger sibling to compare his own “child quotient” with, an only child may inculcate a set of norms and beliefs that are out of step with his age.

Solution: Parents can prevent this kind of older identification in their only child by providing him increased opportunities to interact with children of his own age. This will help the child to sufficiently identify himself with other children and detach from the “adult like” outlook to the world he may have.


It is nothing but the quality of “differentness”. Eccentrics live by their own personal ideals and have a strong sense of self identity without conforming to socially accepted norms. A child who feels distinctly and increasingly different from his peers may have trouble bonding with his equals and forming friendships. He may grow up to be a loner who is self-occupied.

Solution: Parents can channel their child’s strong individuality without compromising on their child’s social membership. Uniqueness does not have to result in isolation. Parents can prevent “differentness” in their child by offering ample social exposure and affiliation by way of activities or cultural pursuits. Parents have to teach their only child the importance of balancing their sense of oneself with their sense of belonging.

 Posted by at 7:52 am
Apr 132008

Your Only Child: Holding On And Letting Go

The day a child prepares to leave home to find his feet in the big world outside is a day every parent looks forward to with equal anticipation and dread.

While in the back of every parent’s mind is the knowledge that one day their fledgling would indeed fly the nest, no parent would be able to think of that day without experiencing moments of pang and sometimes even sorrow. If anything, that ‘happy-sad’ moment is particularly harder on parents of only children.

Having been a “little universe” unto themselves, parents of only children may experience deep pangs of anxiety, sadness and concern when their child flexes his wings to set out into the world. While ‘holding on’ came easy to them, they realize letting go might not be such an easy task after all. As for the only adult, it may indeed be a daunting proposal to step into the world outside leaving behind the loving, protected and secure environment of his home.

Give your child “roots and wings”, says Patricia Nachman in her book “You and Your Only Child”. While roots imply a loving home, a friendly and trusted environment that will make your child confident and secure, wings imply the capacity to explore and experience freedom when the child steps out into the big world. The deeper the roots go, the stronger the wings would grow.

While roots imply the act of “holding on” to your child, wings imply the act of “letting go”. When there is a fine balance between holding on and letting go, when there is an equal pull from both extremes, children benefit from that dynamism and flourish within that golden mid-point.

How to hold on yet learn to let go of your child? How to strike that golden balance between giving them a solid base yet giving them the ability to bravely explore and experience the world? Research states that parents can enable not only their child, but also themselves in a positive manner, wherein the family enjoys not just their times together but also allows for times apart without undergoing extreme separation pangs.

Being one of many

Parents of only children will do well in allowing their child to mix with peers of his age sooner in his life. Apart from helping in making the child connect to other people and situations, the parents themselves will learn to have time apart from the child. Let your child enjoy sleepovers with cousins and friends. If there is a chance for him to have a vacation with a friend or relative and if you are comfortable with the idea and the adults who are offering to take him, permit it. It will be a learning experience for him as much as you.

His room, his space

Learn to respect your child’s personal space from an early age. Often, parents go overboard in decorating their child’s room, not to his taste but to their own. Also, as your child grows, learn to be sensitive to his need for privacy and personal space. This will help you look at your child as a separate individual and not just an extension of yourself. When you as parents learn to set apart your child’s needs and wants, you will also evolve to a position wherein when it is time to leave home, you will adapt to it as a natural course of events in your child’s life.

Have a personal life

Many parents invest their entire energies and emotion on their only child and feel empty and deprived when their one and only leaves home for college or career. While it is only fair that we allow our child to grow on his chosen path, we cannot do it at the cost of our personal happiness. The solution is to nurture a life apart from your child’s. From your child’s early years, learn to engage in activities, cultural or social, which does not include your child. Have hobbies and pastimes that encourage your own special talents and abilities. Build a stable “other life” that will stand you in good stead when your child leaves home.

Invest in the marriage

The marriage must always be important and your relationship as man and wife must get equal priority as your role as parents. When the marriage is strong and stable, the family automatically becomes a happy and stable one.

Many couples invest in their child more than in their relationship. Often the child becomes the binding factor and not each other. This is not a good trend to follow. Nurture your relationship and the child will thrive automatically. Later, when your child grows to be a man with his own family and responsibilities, you will not feel left out or lonely and you will have each other to keep company.

 Posted by at 11:24 am
Apr 042008

An Odd Situation? One Child is not an Odd number!

Some parents make the choice of having an only child consciously and happily. However, for some parents, having an only child is not a choice they make. Due to various circumstances, they are forced to settle for just one child. Many parents (mainly mothers) feel strongly about their ‘small’ family and worry about it. This feeling is often not expressed openly but nurtured as a wound inside their hearts. Sometimes, worries and feelings of guilt go out of control, ending up hurting the only child. With the passing of time, many learn to accept their “only child” situation and grow to enjoy their only child family.

Who Feels the Pain More about having an Only Child?

Compared to those who had the luxury of making a choice, the parents on whom the only child situation was forced upon tend to suffer more. To start with, they didn’t want to have an only child family. They feel constant guilt and tend to blame themselves. Adding salt to injury is the constant pressure and questions they face from their family and peers. Family get-togethers are the worst situations for such parents. It would be wonderful if family members realize that certain topics are sensitive and private. Is that too much to ask for? A way out for parents of onlies is to learn to come to terms with their situation and thus reduce their guilt. Once their feelings of guilt are reduced, they will not feel so much pressured by inappropriate questions. They tend to go easy on themselves.

Only Child Family- An Example:

Sarah and her husband come from large families. They always maintained good relationship with their siblings. They never had any doubt in their minds that theirs too will be a large family. But after they had their first child, Sarah failed to conceive- even after trying for 4 years. Initially, it didn’t worry her much. But as the years passed and all her peers and siblings started expanding their family, Sarah started worrying. Visiting family became a nightmare. Someone or the other always asked Sarah and her husband about the second one. Although Sarah’s husband felt uncomfortable, he didn’t take it negatively, justifying to himself that it was all in good nature and that this is what families discuss. He wondered why Sarah was being so hostile and taking it as a personal affront. In time, these feelings led to arguments between the couple. There was the usual blaming each other game. They spent a lot of time talking to others and surfing online to find a solution to their problem.

The Solution- NOT

After visiting many doctors and spending heaps of money, they decided to try artificial insemination. By this time, they had already exhausted what ever little savings they had. So Sarah sold some of her stocks and also borrowed from her sisters.

The date for the treatment was set. As planned, Sarah and James took their only child to her mother’s house who had offered to babysit the 6 year old. As Sarah was leaving through the door, grandma told the child: “Mommy is going on some important work. I am going to take care of you until she comes back. Come on, let’s have fun”. But Sarah’s son said “Mom and Dad are going to get a better child for themselves, aren’t they?”. Sarah was shocked to hear her son’s words. She didn’t know what to do. She kissed her son and walked away. But her son’s words wouldn’t leave her.

In her eagerness to expand her family, Sarah had slowly started neglecting her son. She never even thought for once how her son felt when she was so eagerly looking for another child. She thought it was her duty to provide a ‘whole’ family for her son so that he will grow like a ‘normal’ child. But she didn’t realize that her actions left her only child with an impression that she was looking for a better child. Sarah never felt so dreadful in her entire life. In her search for something she thought was important, she forgot what she already had.

The last year in particular had been terrible for Sarah. It had made her snappy, depressed and aloof. She had depleted their savings and got the family into debt- and all for what? For some treatment which might or might not give her another child. On the way to the hospital, she started thinking about the whole situation and did some soul searching. Was she doing the right thing? When she failed to be a good mother to one that she already had, what right does she have to bring another into this world? She realized how much she had changed.

James parked the car in the parking lot and was waiting for Sarah to get down. Sarah didn’t move, tears were rolling down her cheeks. She didn’t say anything at all. When James asked her what the problem was, she told him that she wanted to go home. James was surprised and angry. The past few years had been very tough for him, especially with Sarah becoming detached. Even though he was not opposed to spending their savings to have more children, he was not happy with the thought of borrowing money from others. But he gave in to Sarah’s constant whining and fighting. Although initially he had the same drive like hers to expand their family, the financial situation and the pressure changed him. He came to terms that theirs would be an only child family. But Sarah did not. James thought agreeing to this treatment would make Sarah happy and then may be they could get back to their normal life. And now, at the last moment, she was hesitating. He wanted to scream at her, but one look at her tear-stained face made him change his mind. Instead, he held her hands and said “Let’s go home”. On the way, Sarah told James about their son’s comment and they realized their mistake.

Are You Trying to Change Your Only Child Situation?

There are many people like Sarah and James, with various variations on the story. It is understandably a very sad situation when an only child situation is forced on some parents. But such families need to learn to come to terms with their situation, otherwise they might not only hurt themselves, but also their only child.

An only child is a number too- better than zero! A person might have come from a big family and want a big family. That doesn’t mean that a big family is right for their kids. There is no ideal family size. Our grand parents had 8 to 12 children, our parents had 4 or 5, and we even smaller. Every generation had a range and may be 1 is right for some of us.

Coming to terms with your only child status:

  • Don’t let others’ questions about the next child bother you. The best option is to avoid answering them and hopefully they will get the message. Remember, answering them will only extend the topic, making it a full-fledged family discussion. The Only Child Project would like to read your rights again: You are not required to answer any question. Whatever you say will be used against you to prolong the discussion. You have the right to remain silent. If you are not able to remain calm, please advice the family gathering that it is a very difficult and personal issue which you would not like to discuss at this time.
  • Understand the issues. Go over the pros and cons of having an only child and focus on the pros, and slowly try to change the cons to pros.
  • Learn not to compare your life with your child’s life. When our parents were growing up, they played on the roads with the neighborhood kids. They climbed trees, and cycled to the neighborhood mom and pop store to buy candy. We did some of this, that too on a reduced level. Times have changed. We cannot let our kids roam the streets- its just not that safe anymore. Neighborhoods have changed. Sometimes you might feel that she is missing out on something by not running around the streets and having fun. But remember, your daughter and her peers don’t realize that they are missing out on anything- because they never experienced anything like that and they DON”T CARE! Their lifestyle is different. We need to let them live their lives.

We all want to give the best to our children and in the process get carried away. The trickiest part of parenting is actually figuring out what is best for our child. What was good for us may not be right for them, and what is good for others may not be good for us. So, until the storks learn to deliver babies with instruction manuals: Dear parents, take is easy!

You already have the best child in the world. Learn to love and cherish your only child.

 Posted by at 5:06 am