12 Ways Parents Can Help An Only Child Not Feel Lonely
Having an only child gives you a mature, diligent, and conscientious little perfectionist—but it also comes with some tough parenting moments.
Fifty years ago, people frequently saw only children as socially anxious, shy, pampered, and lonely. However, the tide has shifted, and as the percentage of only children increases, their status in society has risen. According to the Pew Research Center, 22% of youngsters lacked siblings once their mothers reached the end of childbearing age in 2015, compared with 11% in 1967.
Families come in all shapes and sizes. There are families with more than 12 children, and others with none. A small family differs dramatically from a large one and, consequently, comes with an entirely different set of challenges and rewards.
Being an only child has many advantages, but there are disadvantages, too.
Does being an only child mean you are destined to be lonely?
Definitely Not! It’s important to understand that not having more children isn’t hurting your only child and isn’t destined to be lonely, pampered, or spoiled.
As a parent, there is much you can do to help your child adapt to being an only child and suffer less loneliness.
Read on to learn our top strategies for raising an only child:
Teaching Social Skills
- Encourage Interaction with Others
To keep from feeling lonely, only children often develop imaginary friends or ties to inanimate objects, such as dolls or stuffed animals. It doesn’t matter how much attention you lavish upon an only child; sometimes they just need someone their own age to relate to. You can also consider the following activities:
A. Interact with other children to create good communication skills – Have regular, meaningful conversations with your child and work on developing your child’s communication skills. Some kids aren’t sure how to interact with others effectively.
- If your child tends to lean toward solitary activities, their communication skills are likely lacking.
- Find a good book on communication skills and work on building these skills in your child. Simple things like asking questions, smiling, and making good eye contact can help.
B. Playdates are important – Children who have trouble connecting with others on their own may want some assistance. Contact the parents of kids in your child’s age group as well as the teacher of your child.
- Many seemingly shy children do have friends at school, but they’re too bashful to ask them to spend time together outside of school.
C. Avoid relying too heavily on digital devices – TV, mobile devices, tablets, video games, and others might stunt a child’s social growth. These activities can be isolating and hinder the growth of social abilities.
- As parents, it’s easy to rely on these activities because they offer a simple means of amusing children. But remember that too much “screen time” can have a negative impact on children.
D. Become friends with other parents that have children – Spend time with other parents who have children the same age as yours. Bring your kids along for the fun and let them socialize with the others.
- Lead by example
Only children don’t experience the rough-and-tumble of sibling relationships—but so-called “sibling rivalry” actually helps kids get along with peers on a daily basis. To help an only child succeed in social situations, parents should:
- Focus on self-confidence and self-esteem. Many kids are socially hesitant because of a lack of confidence or self-esteem. Failing to make friends can make a child even less confident.
- Demonstrate by example how to share, compromise, and show consideration for others.
- Reward children when they’re being considerate and administer consequences when they aren’t.
- Encourage Laughter
There’s no set way to teach someone to have a light-hearted sense of humor and be a good role model. Avoid being an iron-fisted disciplinarian, and smile and laugh openly with your kid. He’ll probably do the same.
A. Activities create social opportunities – Avoid using gadgets and get your child involved in various activities that involve others. A few examples include team sports, ballet, art classes, and summer camp.
- What activities does your youngster enjoy? In what sports or activities does your kid excel? Both are excellent places to start.
- Resist the urge to interfere
Being a perfectionist yourself would only encourage your only child’s bad behaviors if you try to redo everything they do, like making their bed or dusting a shelf they recently cleaned.
- Avoid hovering. Some children prefer to spend time alone. If you weren’t hovering over your child, and allowed them to have more alone time, they might be more interested in making connections with other children.
- Many kids are surprisingly capable of solving their own challenges if given a little space to operate.
- Share Some Responsibility
Raising an only child gives you a super-close relationship with them. To help your child become more independent, give her some responsibility like chores. An only child needs to learn how to occupy himself and have fun; the parent doesn’t always have to be the entertainer.
- Set clear Boundaries
Only children often feel like one of the adults, believing they should have equal say and equal power. And while many parents of only children do give their child a say in some family matters, there are obviously many decisions that should be made by the parents alone.
Setting Expectations for an only child
- Be realistic
Only children appear to be little grownups by the time they are 7 or 8 years old, and they frequently view other kids as immature. You should make an effort to maintain reasonable expectations as her parents because she only has one childhood.
- Don’t ask for protection
For most only children, perfectionism seems to go with the territory, like they take on adult standards. This can lead your piano-loving 10-year-old to put undue pressure on himself to learn the entire works of Tchaikovsky before bedtime.
Let your child know that it’s good to set goals, but that there are other things in life than just work, and that you won’t be any less proud of him if he doesn’t end up at Carnegie Hall by middle school—or ever.
- Don’t make a “mini me”
Only children need time and space with freedom to do what he or she wants. Your only child is your only child, not your second chance at redemption, so don’t push your own agenda on him. Instead, let him explore his own interests without interference.
Spoiling an only child
- Keep gifts in check
When only children are bombarded with gifts and rewards, they get the message, “I always get what I want.” Parents need to realize that it’s not the gifts that matter; it’s time spent with the child that’s most important.
- Don’t overindulge your only child
While raising an old child, you probably cater to her every need. In contrast, children with siblings need to “wait in line” to have their needs met. And learning how to wait is a vital lesson. To prevent only children from developing an attitude of “What I want, I get,” parents should:
- Set limits
- Delay gratification
- Stick to household rules
- Instill discipline through guidelines and expectations
- Don’t strive for constant happiness
In the long run, If you dote on your only child and satisfy his every whim, you’ll regret doing so. One of the repercussions of such overindulgence: Some only children want to have everything on their own terms. They develop a mentality of, “It’s either my way or no way at all.”
As experts and parents note, the undivided attention an only child receives from his parents can be either a positive or negative force. But if you avoid some of the common pitfalls and offer your only child your unconditional love, he will no doubt thrive. In fact, many parents of only children say that their relationship with their child is like a wonderful friendship. Best of all, they say, it’s a great friendship that lasts a lifetime.
Only children do have a greater chance of suffering from isolation and loneliness. Make an effort to help your only child to have a happy and socially successful life. Their social skills will benefit them throughout their lives!
Visit us at Confident Voice Studio for activities that will surely help your only child stop being lonely.