GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — So, you’re the parent of an only child. Don’t despair. The myths about only children being lonely, or self-absorbed, or detached are just that, myths. Not that your only child can’t be those things, but so could a child with siblings.
“Siblings are less important than how a parent parents a child. Parenting has the biggest influence on how your child develops,” says Dr. Susan Newman, psychologist and author.
There are things that you can do as the parent of an only child to help raise a well-rounded human. Here are just a few tips we came across in our research.
What every expert seems to agree on is social interaction.
Make sure your kid has plenty of play dates. Expose them to different social settings and chances to interact with other kids their age. Involve them in activities and sports.
Teach conflict resolution. Children without siblings often don’t get the chance to resolve small conflicts since there is no one to fight with. Parents can model this behavior by having kids observe them resolve minor conflicts. They also need to learn to share and wait their turn too.
Encourage their Independence only kiddos often have close relationships with their parents and often rely on them for, well, everything. Teach them to have responsibilities. Give them chores. And, don’t feel like you must be the constant entertainer. It’s good for them to learn to occupy themselves.
Encourage Individualism Dr. Newman says only children are more likely than children with siblings to seek out social validation and opportunities to fit in. That might make them more susceptible to peer pressure down the line. In order to discourage that, praise individualism in your child from an early age. Help them to value being unique, rather than part of the crowd.
Manage Expectations Only children are more likely to be perfectionists and are often seeking approval. Help them realize they don’t need to be perfect. You only have one child to focus on, that’s a lot of attention and expectation.