Single children could be construed as lonely. But they have many strengths that can be gently brought to the fore. Here’s how.
As a parent of a single child, I’m often made to feel guilty and accused of depriving my son of companionship or the ‘only-lonely’ syndrome. However, like the 10 per cent of households* in India who are opting to have only one child, and nearly a quarter of college-educated women who say they would prefer to have a singleton, I have also stuck to my guns.
So, now that the apple of my eye is going to turn nine, relatives and friends, have willingly taken back their words that all single children are not selfish, lonely or unsocial.
Here are a few tips to raising a single child and breaking stereotype notions:
1. Socialize, socialize, socialize
Socialize your child beginning at an early age. Put effort into creating strong social circles because friends become sibling substitutes. Have regular playdates, outings with children of similar age. Since an only child picks up adult language quicker it’s imperative to surround him/her with children of the same age group.
2. Don’t overprotect:
It’s but natural for a parent to step in every time the only child is having an argument or disagreement with friends. Stop the urge to play mediator all the time. Let the child fight his/her own battles. Advise them as they grow how to handle disagreements but step back from interfering.
3. Don’t overindulge:
Sometimes to assuage your own guilt as a parent, you might go that extra step to indulge in buying that expensive toy. Always ask yourself, ‘Would I do the same if I had another child?’
4. Don’t over expect:
Only children feel the pressure to succeed inherently; they feel the pressure without parents emphasizing it. If a child has special talent, like an instrument, of course support it, but keep in mind it’s a singular activity. Encourage a single child towards more group activities as this way, they would add more friends to the list and also not remain the centre of attention all the time.
5. Make them independent:
Since the pressures of raising a single child are lesser than raising several, as parents we tend to do more things for them. Be it tidying the room, putting their clothes in the washing machine or helping around in small household chores, encourage a single child to do things on his/her own.
6. Stay positive:
There are so many stereotypes, perspectives and misconceptions about the struggles of raising a single child, that as a parent of an only child that can boggle you down. Just focus on the positives. Research has proven that only kids also do well as well as those with siblings in school and later in life. The world has it’s opinions and views on everything. Stick to what feels right to you.
By the end of the day, we create our own parenting rules, inspired, sometimes influenced, by others. As parents our rules shouldn’t ever be made on the basis of guilt, feeling of inadequacy or regrets for there is no right or wrong parenting. Only experiences.
*Research by the Delhi-based National Council of Applied Economic Research dated 2011