Only Child As A Mini Adult
Most only children (obviously) spend more time with adults than do children with siblings. There is a stereotype that smaller families are ‘parent-oriented’ wherein the child joins in the parents’ activities, whereas in larger families, activities are ‘children-oriented’ wherein parents partake in activities that would keep their kids engaged. To those who emphasize this stereotype, isn’t there another stereotype that says that parents do everything for their onlies, and try to be their playmates? So which one is correct- is it the household becoming ‘parent-oriented’ or ‘child-oriented’?
The truth might be somewhere in between. With good parenting, the situation can be turned to greatly benefit the only child. Studies indicate that there are multiple advantages an only child gains from the constant company of adults around him.
Being in an adult atmosphere predominantly, only children acquire superlative verbal skills. This in turn aids them in excelling in academics.
As they get to observe and be included in adult activities, it gives them diverse experiences of the world around them.
Only children display equal amounts of calmness, leadership qualities and self confidence as children with siblings, but are a notch higher than the latter when it comes to being cultured, sensitive and mature.
Despite these positive gains, parents need to keep tabs on what the child is imbibing from his environment. Only children who enjoy greater camaraderie with adults than with children of their own age may over-identify themselves with elders and emulate not only their behavior and speech but also identify himself with adult entitlements and responsibilities.
How to recognize if your child is more comfortable in the adult world than his own?
- Does your child act his age or act above his age?
- Does your child offer suggestions or puts forth his comments on matters that are best dealt with by parents alone?
- Does your child prefer to hangout with you and spend the evenings lounging around the house with you instead of being outside in the ground playing and romping with other kids?
- At parties and gatherings, does your child presume that his place is with adults and feels entitled to participate and socialize with your guests just as an adult would be expected to?
Differentiating between adult world and child’s world
While it is vital that parents retain a loving relationship with their child, it is important that in the family equation you remain the parent and he the child. In a family of three, the increased interactivity between parents and the only child can easily blur the line between parents and the child. A child who over-identifies with the adult world and adult responsibilities may be growing up too fast for her age and losing out on her childhood.
A child needs the assurance that his parents are in control and there is someone bigger and stronger than him who is in charge of his life. A child has to be made to feel safe and secure by clearly delineating to him that his own world currently is free of adult responsibilities and adult concerns.
How to do it
While it is acceptable to allow the child to contribute to conversations on what to buy and where to holiday that year, encouraging this kind of suggestion-giving to an inappropriate degree may result in the child developing an exaggerated sense of importance and giving him to intrude into your conversations and decisions. It is healthy to allow the child his say but make clear to him where his role stops.
Watch how you speak to your child. Do you talk to him as you would to a peer? When you engage with him, what are the kinds of activities you both choose to do? Is it adult-oriented like, or is it child-oriented like playing outside, riding a bike or going to the park? If you are unable to find playmates for your child and if you are pressed to keep him engaged, opt for child-oriented activities rather than doing things which you would also enjoy doing.
Encourage your child to build his own circle of peers and friends. A child’s social skills need to develop comparably to his equals and not with respect to grown ups.
Parents can delineate their time alone from the child and demonstrate that they have a life apart from him too by occasionally going out to dinner or movies without the child and by taking short breaks leaving the child behind with caregivers. If you carry guilt about doing any of these, the feelings will communicate itself to the child and he may feel entitled to go with you everywhere, failing which he may feel resentful or excluded.
Aware parents can mark grown-up/child divisions rather comfortably without compromising on the closeness they enjoy with their child.