Tips on bringing up a Single Child Well
Some of the fondest childhood memories most people have are about days spent with siblings, fighting and running around and growing up together. But in today’s scenario when more parents than ever before are opting for one child, this decision often comes along with pangs of self doubt and guilt. What do you do if you are among those parents who have decided to raise an ‘only child’? Like everything else in life, parenting an only child comes with its own sets of challenges and joys. It is up to you to ensure that your child has a happy and memorable childhood, with or without siblings. Here are some points to consider:
Ditch the guilt: The first thing for you as a parent to your ‘only child’ is not to doubt your decision every single day. You may have very solid reasons depending on your circumstances about why you decided to have a single child. Instead of focusing on what your child might be missing out, channel your energies into the present and enjoy your child. A family of four or five does not automatically guarantee a balanced and happy childhood for your child. So focus your energy on being the best parent that you can be today.
Rope in your extended family: One of the best ways to make your child feel that he is part of a big secure unit is to give him opportunities to interact with your extended family. Encourage him to visit his grandparents, invite your nephew/niece to spend a weekend with him, tell him that they are his siblings too. If distance does not permit frequent visits help him use technology ( like Skype video chats) to stay connected. This will give him a feeling that they are part of his life.
Widen his circle of friends: Encourage your child to go out play and make friends. One or two neighborhood friends may not suffice. Take him to places where he can meet like minded friends, so if he is interested in karate, enroll him in a martial arts class or if he is the outdoorsy kinds, find out about nature clubs in your city which organize weekend nature walks, treks etc where he is more likely to meet kids with similar interests as him. As an only child your child is likely to get more than his fair share of attention and love. If not dealt with properly there are high chances that he might live up to the usual tags that are attached to an ‘only child’. Look out for these usual culprits
Being too overindulgent: Do not smother your pangs of guilt at not being able to give him a sibling, by showering him with gifts or catering to his every demand. This will make grow up with the notion that everything in life will be handed to him on a platter. Teach him to wait for his turn and work towards the things that he wants.
Being the ‘helicopter parent’: Do not hover around your child and be over protective all the time. Let him be, give him the rules and trust him to follow it. Always let him know that you base your love on him and not his achievements. So buy him a gift because he studied hard for the spelling test and not because he came first in it. This reassures him that you love him just the same no matter what.
Being there to simplify his life: Do not become your child’s personal maid, doing everything that he is perfectly capable of doing himself. So if he can’t tie his shoelaces like you do don’t jump in and tie it for him. Let him tie it his way. This will teach him to be independent and not depend on you for everything
In spite of your best efforts what do you do if your child constantly demands for a sibling?
Try to find out what he really wants. Does he really chance for a sibling or is he just lonely. Does he want some one to play with? Is he enamored by the idea of a sibling because his friend has one? Talk to him about it in a language he can understand. Your four year old may not understand why your career is more important to you. Assure your child that you love your little family just the way it is.