Is your baby your only child? The love of your life? The apple of your eyes? The only one for whom you will channel all your emotional, mental and financial resources?
Single
While you have the complete right to decide on the number of children you have, the society would tell you – more often than you like – that it is important to have at least 2 kids. This advice mostly stems from the negative stereotype associated with an only child; that he would grow up to be “selfish, socially irresponsible and spoilt”. This is an unfair generalization. However, there definitely is a risk of your only child feeling lonely. So, read on to learn ways to ensure that your child does not become the “stereotypical only child” and grow up to be as responsible as children with siblings.

8 Important Tips For Parenting A Single Child

1. Facilitate plenty of opportunities for interaction with other children:

From a very small age, arrange various social activities for your child so that he is used to having other kids around him. For instance:

  • Enroll him in a preschool
  • Arrange playdates – at least weekly once. Click here to read more
  • Allow sleepovers
  • As a family, hang out with other families with children – it could be friends, neighbors or your siblings/cousins
  • When you go to a park or movie, try to take 1-2 friends of your child as well

All these will teach your child how to behave in a social situation with other kids. It will also ensure that your child is not hanging out only with adults (i.e. his parents) and makes a lot of buddies from early

2. Take extra effort to teach them social skills:

There are quite a lot “unseen learning” involved when a child interacts with his siblings. Sharing toys, taking turns, competing, losing, winning, supporting – all these are part and parcel of a child’s life when they grow up with elder or younger siblings. As an only child, your baby might not get as many chances to experience these feelings and learn to deal with many of these emotions. You need to take extra efforts to teach your child not to be socially inept. Demonstrate to them how to be considerate and share. Help them cope with their losses and deal with their wins. And of course, reward them when they get it right

3. Make him independent:

When you have only one child, it is easy to be a helicopter parent and hover over your child 24×7 (Read more about helicopter parenting here). If you are not cautious, you will end up doing everything for your child and thereby make him highly dependent on you for everything. Take a step back. Let your child do his own homework. Let him tie his shoelaces alone. Even if you have free time, there is no need to do things they are developmentally capable of doing. Further, give your child some responsibility, such as household chores even if you do not need the extra help

4. Do not set unrealistic expectations:

This tip is for you as a parent. With just one child to accomplish all your life’s dreams, it is quite easy to set unrealistic expectations for your child and expect them to grow up in the perfected way. This is very unfair on the child. You need to know when to push and when to stop. An only child usually will go out of their way to please their parents – all the more reason why you should not pressurize him

Single child tantrums

5. Do not over indulge:

Another tip for you as a parent. Too many gifts will give your child a sense of entitlement – a feeling that they can and should get what they want. Do not splurge on them. Also, do not over indulge – if they get used to you meeting their needs immediately (as opposed to having to wait for their turn among siblings), they do not learn patience or the art of waiting

6. Ensure the child does not become self-centered:

Only children tend to lack tact, i.e., they are mostly outright when it comes to expressing their emotions and objections, often interrupting and unintentionally hurting others. Discipline your child early and do not overlook bad behavior. Teach them, with examples, compassion

7. Engage them in activities:

Keep them occupied, they might be more bored than you think. Engage them with at least one activity of their choice – tennis, arts & crafts, swimming, piano, marital arts – anything that interests them and have potential to be something they grow up to be passionate about

8. You can be a friend, but remember to be a parent first:

When you have only one child, you become excessively close to that child, often to the extent of sharing your secrets. While you should definitely encourage your child to open up to you, it might not be fair on him to listen to your problems, at least not yet.Click here to read more about the topic

Remember, you are a parent and your child is just a …well, a child. Also encourage your child to have other adult relationships like with an aunt or uncle. You should not be the only person he is close to. Lately, more and more couples are deciding to have a single child. Whatever may be the reason for this – personal, financial or just convenience – it is important to be aware of the impact it has on your child. Of course, every child is different and the “impact” cannot be generalized. But there is absolutely no harm in imbibing the above tips in your lives in a proactive way.

Happy parenting!