Time Alone For Your Only Child
If you are one of those parents who feels guilty about an evening without a playmate or a play-engagement for your only child- then this article is for you.
Consider the case of Rachmans. The couple could never agree on the issue of time alone for their only child. While Judy, the mother, could never rest easy while watching her child play alone, Donald believed that their child Laura would indeed benefit from time alone. Which one of them is right?
A common feeling
Many parents of only children feel unease and unrest while watching their only child play alone. Either they immediately try to fix up play engagements for their child or pitch in and offer to stand in as playmates themselves.
While playing with your child can indeed be an enriching experience for both parent and child, one cannot really match up to being a child’s peer. On the other hand, one should not shy away from giving the only child some time alone in the name of keeping loneliness at bay for him. “I think it is guilt,” says Laurel. “When I see my only child play alone, I wonder to myself- ‘if only I had given my son Michael a brother or sister to play with, would he have been so alone?” The key word here is guilt. Many parents of only children feel guilt over not giving their child a sibling to play with.
Sibling rivalry is real…
As mentioned in other places, in many families, siblings don’t even see eye to eye- leave alone play together. And it is an impractical idea to bring forth another child just so your child may have ‘someone to play with and not be lonely’. What studies repeatedly drive at is that a sibling is hardly a solution to the problems the only child may face.
Being alone is not bad
Parents have many means of filling up a child’s time- like enrolling him in various classes, getting him to participate in team activities and so on. But more often than not, parents fail to value a child’s “time alone”. What is time alone? It is a time the child gets at his disposal to use how he pleases. (It does not mean the child is left alone in the house without parental attention!). During time alone, the child learns how to fill the time at his hands, without seeking aid from parents, peers or friends. It is not the same as being lonely. Rather, it is an opportunity to “be with oneself”.
The Only Child can enjoy time alone
Very often, children and adults alike sparkle in company but fail to make the grade when they are left on their own. On the other hand, studies indicate that children who know how to fill their time alone learn to engage themselves and rarely feel isolated or lonely.
It is a capacity they build for themselves to be content with the situation at hand and be able to use the time in a way that gives them pleasure and joy. “It is heartwarming to watch my child Bonnie play on her own. She celebrates imaginary birthday parties with her toy friends, has fun with her paints and serves us tea in her tiny cups. She has a way of keeping herself engaged. It is good to see that,” says Mona, proud mom of a five year old only child.
Important skills only children learn from having time alone
- Your only child will get creative when he finds that he has to find a way to fill his time. He may find joy in play-acting or creating games he can play alone.
- He will learn not to complain of boredom. Many children expect to be entertained all the time. Children who have their time alone know what to do with themselves and not get bored.
- It is an acquisition for a lifetime, wherein the child will not seek continual emotional or peer support and knows how to ‘be with oneself’. As he grows older, this ability to be with oneself will stand him in good stead.
- Time alone will help him appreciate time with others. He will truly relish other’s company and learn to treat his friends and peers more tenderly. He will truly understand the value of companionship as he has experienced time alone.
- The most important benefit of having time alone is the child will never feel ‘lonely’ now or as an adult when he has to be alone. He will in fact find creative ways to fill that time.