Only child needs special attention
All of us rising or having raised children know the expenses of having a family.
Even if children decide not to continue their education after high school, the expenses involved in providing food, medical care, clothing and shelter for a child from birth to age 18 is monumental.
The prospect of having a large family causes parents to evaluate their status and project the costs of each child over the future years. Because many couples opt to have smaller families, I often am asked about the psychological considerations of having only one child.
For many years it was felt that an only child would acquire undesirable personality characteristics, even to the point of being spoiled and selfish. Parents were made to feel guilty if they had “an only child.”
For those of us raised with brothers and sisters, many fond memories of family life exist. We would be quick to point out that without brothers and sisters some experiences just cannot be duplicated.
In adulthood, family get-to-togethers would be quite different in the absence of brothers, sisters, and their children. For one thing, without them we never would have the experience of being aunts or uncles.
And we remember that some only children express feelings of loneliness in childhood and wish for a brother or sister to share family life.
On the other hand, the only child does not have to experience the rivalry and sometimes even hostility that can accompany sibling relationships in childhood and later.
Some evidence exists that the only child may be more creative because he must create more things to do. He may create the fantasy of brothers, sisters or imaginary playmates.
At the same time, the only child does not have to vie for attention or prove his superiority in the daily competitive round of sibling games.
Parents of an only child who wish to help their offspring achieve a happy and psychologically well-balanced existence may have to adjust some of the attitudes they developed as a member of a family with many children.
The first attitude is to let the child develop as a person and for parents to keep their own life constant. Parents sometimes let their whole life revolve around the only child. They tend to lose any identity they had as a couple. The twosome is always a threesome when there is only one child in the family.
The parent must consider the child’s abilities, talents and limitations. The parent of an only child should be aware of the many stages of human growth and development and assist and guide the child through each step. Do not compare the child to playmates.
Parents of an only child may want to talk to their adult friends who were raised as only children. Insight can be gained room looking back on the experience. The library and bookstores have many books that may help parents seeking assistance.
The important thing to remember is that the only child is an individual in need of love and protection. Next week, I will continue the discussion of the only child and talk about common mistakes parents may make in rearing one.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright 1987