Childcare and You

Childcare and You

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Exploding the Myths of "an Only Child"

A few years after my first child, I decided it was time to have another baby because I did not want my daughter to grow up as an only child. Like most parents of an only child, I was deluded into believing that an only child would not develop as emotionally well as a child with a sibling. Well meaning advices from people around me, advocating the merits of a two children family, confirmed my belief even more. Entered baby number two and after years of intermittent sibling conflicts and emotional upsets between my two children, I threw the theory of ‘why-a-sibling-is-must’, out the window. 

I wonder why parents of two or more are so quick to glorify the advantages of having a second child. The way I figure it, parents want to justify their choice, preferring to applaud their actions as opposed to parents of an only child. I can say this with certainty because soon after the birth of my second child, I had joined the bandwagon of parents extolling ‘sibling benefits’ and did my part of trying to convert ‘threesome’ family into a happy ’foursome’ family.

My actions were controlled in part, on account of a general perception - albeit a misguided one -that people have, about families with a singleton and partly due to a genuine desire – trust me that is the truth - to see the other family grow.

The most common myths about ‘only child’ families are “your child will feel lonely with no one to play with at home, he will grow up as a spoilt brat, he will not learn the art of sharing, he will be selfish, you, as a mother might get too possessive about him, he might turn into a mama’s boy, he may not grow up to be independent, you will have no one else to look after you in your old age after he leaves you and so on.”

You may need to take a reality check on this. A baby, per se, is not the solution to the above concerns. Each baby is born with certain inherent trait that is peculiar to its nature and there is no way of knowing how that baby is going to turn out in the sibling line-up. Every baby comes with its own set of challenges and demands that it unique and it is not right to declare that two babies of same parents would develop a close bond or much less even like each other.

The reasons for sibling rivalry are many, the most common one being, the older child feeling threatened and betrayed on assuming that the second child had replaced her in her parents’ affections, especially if the older child had been subjected to an indulgent parenting style. I know this for a fact because when my son was born, my daughter was seven and she had been the center of our world until then. For the first couple of years, she resented us showing him affection and would compete for attention, although she came around later on.

As well informed parents, the reason for a second child should not be to ward off questions from well meaning friends. Having a baby should be well planned after considering all options. Family support, availability of domestic help and financial means are some common factors that parents think of before having another baby. In India, ‘only child’ families are common amongst working parents with few options to consider before having another baby. Reluctance to impose on grandparents, unavailability of domestic help and financial constraint usually influence decision to have a second baby. 
If you are unable to have another baby, do not despair by imagining that your child will be denied the advantages of sibling support. Parenting issues and growing up issues remain the same for an only child or more. Even if you have ten children, you can have selfish, spoiled, dependents and introverts among them because no two children are the same, even though they are from the same parents.

You can enrich your ‘only child’s’ life by staying in touch with cousins and other relations. Encourage her to nurture friendships and allow sleepovers to experience the dynamics of sibling like relationships. Go out on holidays with other families having kids and expose her to all the complexities of family relationships.

click on link below for tips on how to raise your 'only child' into a 'happy child'

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