Expert Author Susan Leigh
Some parents agonize about having only one child. They fear that a single child will be lonely and isolated, perhaps become selfish or insular. It is true that whilst some children hated being an only one, many children relished being an only child. They enjoyed being supported and nurtured, with no other siblings to demand their parents attention.
Whatever situation we find ourselves in there will always be someone who found it a good experience and someone else who found it to be a bad or problem experience. Parenthood is no exception. But the majority of parents care desperately to do a good job of raising their children in the best way that they can. Let us look at the benefits of being an only child.
- Love and care. An only child does not have to fight for their parents attention. They are already the golden child, the apple of their eyes. I have worked with clients who had siblings and who remembered being naughty simply to attract their parents attention to themselves. They felt that any attention was better than none.
- Time and patience. One child in a family might have needs that require a lot of time. They may have particular problems or have a time-consuming hobby or interest that requires a lot of commitment and accommodation from the other members of the family. Any siblings may have to fit around those demands. Whereas an only child can be supported with as much time as they require. There are no distractions to take time and patience away from them.
- Support. If an only child is having problems or difficulties they are often quickly picked up on. Sometimes an only child may feel that they are under a spotlight, that everything they do is quickly noticed and discussed but that can be a good thing if someone needs to intercede to stop a bullying situation or if extra tuition is required.
- Balance is sometimes needed to allow a child to learn to stand on its own two feet, to allow them to find their own ways of dealing with problems and difficulties. A child, especially an only child, needs to learn that other children can sometimes be cruel, bullying, bossy. An important life skill is learning to stand up to that situation in an appropriate way, for example through humour or natural confidence, because life is not always kind and we all have to be able to cope with set backs and recover from them.
- Money is often plentiful when there is just the one child. And parents are often keen to ensure that their precious offspring has everything they want and more. An important consideration is in not spoiling the child. Learning to share, that things do not come easy, possessions should be appreciated and treated with respect are all important lessons to stop a child becoming unpleasant and superior.
Parents of only children are often all too aware of the potential for raising a spoiled or difficult child. They are often careful to ensure that their child mixes with other children, from the family, neighbours, friends and perhaps attends nursery school where they can learn social skills and how to accommodate relationships with other children. This then can more than compensate for any lack of experience with other children in the home.