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Only but not lonely – the fate of the single child in a family

publication date: Jul 10, 2007

Spoilt and lonely are the usual descriptions of children who have no brothers and sisters. But is this really the case?

Researching my book, Your Only Child, I discovered there is no evidence that the majority of only children feel any lonelier or less happy than anyone else, nor is it true that they are more likely to be socially isolated.

In fact only children enjoy their own company and are less likely to be bored and make friends just as easily as other children who have siblings.

However parents of only children do have to make sure that their child isn’t isolated. These days with mother and toddler clubs, pre-school playgroups and nurseries, it’s much easier for children to meet each other than it was a few generations ago.

Spoilt children are not usually well-liked. Spoiling a child means she is overindulged to a point where she finds it impossible to share toys or games or attention and therefore is avoided by other children. Sensible parents won’t spoil their children - however many they have.

Many parents believe that you need siblings to learn social skills but in fact the first three years is the time when the foundations for social skills are laid and at that time many first-born children are still onlies. From birth a baby is picking up signs from the world around her. When an infant smiles and sees that smile returned, she feels she has some control in a brief social exchange.

Children with poor social skills - and this doesn’t just apply to only children - tend to be less popular with their peers and may do less well at school, so setting a good example for your child can’t begin too early.

Bringing up a single child is just as demanding and as rewarding as bringing up a larger family but there are some pitfalls parents need to be aware of. For example don’t:

  • Try to be a substitute playmate for your child.
  • Buy too many toys - toys cannot replace another child’s company and too many may set your child apart from her playmates.
  • Give too much pocket money.
  • Consistently organise your child's activities instead of letting her get on with it herself.
  • Always allow your child to win at games.
  • Always win yourself.
  • Fail to set limits.
  • Ignore her or fail to notice when something is done.
  • Use the television or DVDs as a substitute for having friends round to play.

What any parent should do is ensure the child feels good about herself and the size of her family. Being an only child is neither better or worse than having brothers and sisters - it’s just different.

If you would like to order a copy of my book from Amazon, click the link below

Your Only Child