10 Tips For Raising an Only Child
There are many stereotypes about only children: they're often selfish, spoiled, a bit more sheltered, and not as good at being openly social as kids with siblings. I don't want to brag, but I'm an only child, and I'm none of those things — people are consistently surprised when I tell them I don't have any siblings — my parents did a wonderful job of raising me against those stereotypes.
Only children can be difficult to raise, though, that part I'll admit. I always wanted to be out of the house and playing with other kids my age. I was often bored, and though I would use my vivid imagination to come up with games and activities in my head, it got very lonely chatting with my stuffed animals all the time. I begged and pleaded for a sibling and put a lot of pressure on my parents to be the ultimate companions while I was under their roof. Rather than responding to my demands by telling me to go play in my room alone, they did everything they could to make sure I had a happy, social, and well-balanced childhood.
If you're raising an only child — even if the plan is that they won't be an only child forever — read through for a few tips on raising a child who will crush all of the aforementioned stereotypes.
Help them wait their turn.
Only children don't have to wait in a line to use the bathroom in the morning or wait until their sibling is finished playing with a toy before they get a chance. Encourage waiting to do things they want to do until you're ready rather than dropping everything for them, don't overindulge by allowing them to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and limit treats and gifts to birthdays, holidays, and special occasions to help them practice patience. Sometimes hearing "no" as an answer isn't a negative thing.
Encourage play dates and spending time with other kids both in and out of the house.
Making sure they spend time with other kids both in their own environment and in other homes ensures that your child can adapt to having others in their space, and also allows them to develop their own sense of self away from you and away from the security of home. Not to mention, play dates give them the perfect opportunities to engage in social scenarios in the same ways siblings would with each other.
Give your child responsibilities to teach accountability.
Don't let your only child get away with not helping around the house or having a chore chart. Giving them individual responsibility lets them know that it's not Mom's or Dad's job to do everything for them and will give them an opportunity to work for rewards.
Sign up your child for sports and other activities.
Team sports are a great way for your child to know what it's like to work with other children. Activities like this teach your child sharing, teamwork, and holding themselves accountable as part of a larger group (rather than being in the spotlight). They also foster diverse relationships stemming from a common interest.
Don’t overprotect your child.
For parents of multiples, it gets a little bit easier with each child to loosen the reins a bit and allow your children to explore and "get away with things." Only children may feel like they're constantly being watched, or that everything they do will be dissected, so be willing to let a few things slip by here and there, and don't excessively watch over them.
Don’t minimize your expectations, but don’t apply too much pressure.
It's important to hold your child to certain standards when it comes to social and academic achievement, but only children inherently feel a lot of pressure to overachieve to make their parents proud. When there isn't anyone else to compare their accomplishments to, they could become very competitive with themselves, causing some stress.
If you’re not sure what to do in a situation, think about what you would do if you had other kids.
If you're not sure how much you should be helping your child with something or if you should allow them to do something, consider the situation if you had a large brood. For example, would you be making your child's bed if there were two other beds to be made? If the answer is no, consider changing the way you approach certain things with your only child.
Get a pet.
Even if it's only a hamster, having a pet gives an only child a fur sibling — it may sound ridiculous, but having a dog or a cat to refer to as a sibling helps an only child feel like they're not alone all the time. Having a pet also encourages responsibility, positive social interactions with someone other than parents, and both the animal and your child will be happier in each other's company (seriously, if you can handle it, a dog (I'm biased) changes everyone's life for the better).
Don’t skip out on doing things for yourself.
Sure, you could revolve all of your days around your one child because it's typically easier to handle one than a few, but don't put your own needs on the back burner. Your child will take notice of the time you take for yourself, which will help them to realize that just because they're your only child doesn't mean their needs come first 100 percent of the time.
But don’t forget to be fully present when you are with them.
Many only children will crave extra attention after spending enough time alone. Although they'll hopefully grow up creative and independent as a result, don't skimp on the time you do spend with them. Put down your phone, plan something special, listen to them and converse with them. Your only child will benefit greatly from being exposed to your adult language skills and having your full attention will encourage trust and help them to be open with you in the future, when they don't have an older sibling to confide in.