The number of families that have only one child is increasing over the years. According to the N.Y. Times “Census figures from 2004, the latest year statistics available, show that 17.4 percent of women ages 40 to 44 had one child. In 1976, the percentage of women in that age bracket with one child was 9.6 percent. The percentage of women in the same age group without any children also nearly doubled in that period, to 19.3 from 10.2.”
It seems that there are quite a few reasons why the number of families that have only children has nearly doubled since 1976.
Factors include; parents having children later in life, divorce, financial difficulties, more mothers having to work full time, fertility issues; or it could simply be due to couples now making a conscious decision to do so.
For a long time there has been a stigma around being an only child, but as more studies are being done, it is being found that most of those “myths” aren’t playing out. In fact, it seems that there are some benefits to the situation as well.
Single children (as well as most first born children) are high achievers in most careers. They are better conversationalists and do very well with schoolwork.
They also tend to be more mature than other children their age, closer to their parents, able to exert more self-control, are more dependable, and are more often leaders.
Only children do not need to suffer from any of the old stigmas such as lack of social skills, dependency, selfishness or the inability to share as long as parents take actions when they are younger to help avoid these scenarios.
It is important that your only child learn socialization skills outside of the house with children their own age. Because only children are so often surrounded by adults, they might not witness the push and shove, rough and tumble behavior that they would experience with other children. They also need to learn how to share, how to stand up for themselves, and to realize that they can not always be the center of attention.
Signing your child up at a daycare center for even a few hours a week can make a world of difference to an only child.
I was lucky enough to be working from home when I first had my son. And even though I didn’t need to put him in Day Care, I put him in anyway. From the time he was about 2 years old until he started Kindergarten I had him in 2 or 3 days a week. I started him out with ½ days and gradually worked him to three full days a week. It gave him the needed space away from Mommy (another concern I had was his becoming too attached to me) and it also made him comfortable being around other children from a very young age.
If Daycare is not an option, then even a few hours in a play group a couple of times a week will suffice. It is important though to step back and let your child handle social situations by themselves. If Mom or Dad keep jumping in to resolve issues, your child will never learn how to fend for themselves or learn the art of compromise.
Letting them sleep out of the house as early as possible.
Again I got fairly lucky when my son was born. He had 2 grandmothers, 3 aunts and an uncle who couldn’t get enough of him. And believe me when I say, I made the most of it. I had my son doing “sleepovers” at their house from the time he was an infant, even when my husband and I didn’t have any particular plans.
It is important for only children to know they can feel safe and secure in places other than home and with people other than their parents. It might not have been the easiest thing for my husband and I to do at first, but the confidence and sense of security he has shown while away overnights since then has made it totally worth it.
Freedom and Privacy:
When a couple has only one child, that child can sometimes be receiving too much parental attention. They can start to feel suffocated or as if they do not have any time or privacy of their own. As psychologist Carl Pickhardt wrote in his advice book The Future of Your Only Child, “Don’t constantly scrutinize your child. If [he or she] has been on the phone too long or stayed up reading too late, pretend you don’t notice every now and again. Give your Only a sense of privacy and his own identity.”
Protect Your Own Privacy and Boundries:
Quite often an only child can get confused about the family situation. They might see marriage as a three part union with themselves as an equal partner. It is important that they are aware that while they are very much loved and an important part of the family, that Mommy and Daddy have a relationship that is separate as well.
Sleeping arrangements can play a big part in this. Letting a child sleep in bed with both parents on a consistent basis while they are younger, can make the separation that much more difficult later on as the child may get jealous that Mom and Dad get to sleep together, but they have to sleep alone. It also may cause problems with the child being unable to sleep alone in their rooms in general.
My husband and I solved this dilemma by allowing our son to sleep in our bedroom only one night a week – usually a Saturday night. We would put his mattress on our floor or would sometimes build him a little tent and we would make it seem like it was a special occasion that he could look forward to every week. If he asked to do it during the week – we would tell him gently “No, that is only on Special Saturday’s.” If the rare nightmare occurred during the week, I would usually go into his room and lay down on the floor next to his bed until he fell back asleep. This way he still had the security of Mommy being there, but he was also back in his own bed. I would then get up and go back in my own room when he fell back asleep.
Positive affirmations can work wonders with only children because they are used to having so much communication with adults. I started praising my son’s “friend making skills” and “sharing” skills from very early on. I would say things like “I am so proud of you for sharing this with me, now I will share this with you” or I would tell him “You always make friends so easily, you won’t ever have to worry about having a ton of friends.” Even I didn’t realize how much of an effect this would have on him until his first day of Kindergarten came around. I asked him how his first day was and how it went with the other kids. He told me “It was great Mom! You know how easily I make friends.” After being on pins and needles all day myself, it was the most wonderful thing in the world to hear.
Getting Them A Live Pet
Having a pet is a good way to teach any child how to be more responsible, but for an only child it could be even more important. Only children can easily get used to having everything done for them by the adults around them, yet they have very little opportunity to have to do for another. Giving them a pet and showing them how to take care of it, puts a little of the responsibility back in their hands. It also shows them how and why they need to be gentle and considerate with other living things.
Raising an only child to be as social and as confident as any child coming from a larger family is not difficult as long as you as the parent take conscious steps to avoid any of the pitfalls.
The N.Y. Times Article:
“The Future of Your Only Child” written byCarl Pickhardt