Being a parent of an only child myself, I understand the unique set of concerns that go along with the job. Is my child around other kids enough? Am I paying too much attention to my child? How will they handle friendship problems when they haven't had to deal with sibling conflict at home? This is my one and only shot at parenting...what if I mess it up?!!
Relax! I am sure that in many ways, your child is happy being the only kid in the house. It must be great to not have to share a room or toys or time. But I think balance is the key. It is vital for your child to understand that while they may be the "center of the universe" at your house, those in their world outside of your house won't see it that way. Here are a few tips to help your child learn to navigate in the land of other children.
- Practice having your child wait for things. From the child's perspective, one of the benefits of not having siblings is that they don't have to wait their turn for things. When they ask for something, make sure you are not always jumping to meet their request right away. Give it a little wait time. This will be excellent practice for them when they are in school or in any other setting where other children are around.
- Schedule play times with other children on a regular basis...and hope for a little conflict! Working through conflict is a natural part of learning about relationships in childhood. Your child needs to know that others have opinions, likes and dislikes that may be different from theirs. Opening their minds and hearts to the notion of "others" is very important. If they tend to be a loner, perhaps they are avoiding other children because they don't know how to handle the natural conflicts that happen between children.
- Notice if your child seems to relate to adults more than to other children. Ask your child's teacher if your child plays easily with others or would rather hang around the teacher talking. If that is the case, again, make sure your child has plenty of social time with peers. It is vital for their social acceptance to have similar interests to those of the same age.
The key to successful parenting of an only child is to provide for them the things that other children are experiencing in a household with siblings. Relationships with friends will never be the same as relationships with siblings, but practicing good social skills and conflict resolution is vital to their development.