The Only Child: 5 Tips for Raising Only Children

My split family was both a blessing and a curse. For the purpose of this article, it was a blessing. In one household I was an only child, in the other I was one of four…eldest girl, but second oldest. In a weird way this gave me the best of both worlds and the ability to take a step back and compare how different each family position was.

There have been tons of research on birth order and how this effects your parenting strategies and I wanted to add a few tips of my own. These tips for parents of only children come from my own experiences as well as a number of interviews with current teen interns who are ‘onlies.’

Advice for Parents of Only Children

1. Don’t worry.

So many parents of only children are worried about their child ‘missing out’ on having siblings, learning to share and having a large family. There are definitely pros and cons to all amounts of children, in the end they do even out. Most importantly, I encourage  parents of onlies to relax and know that the biggest risk of having an only is worrying too much that you have an only. Many only children I have spoken with want their parents to, as one young girl said, “just get over it. I love being an only child, but my parents are constantly fretting it wasn’t the right choice or I will come out socially lame. The only thing I feel is pressure. I wish they would just relax.” So, there it is—relax!

2. Befriend other only child families.

One of the biggest differences between my sibling household and my single child household was vacations and get togethers. I have found that parents with more kids are more likely to befriend other families purely for practical reasons…sharing child care, commuting together and pairing up similar age kids. Parents of only children do not usually have this need because they have a much easier time managing. Yet, it can be great to befriend families with other only children not necessarily for the help, but for the exposure and company. This can make vacations and get togethers much more exciting for your only.

3. (You have heard this one before, but…) Encourage lots of social activities.

Without siblings to barter, argue and share with onlies do have less opportunities to connect socially. Many parents do this and then peter out in middle school and high school when social skills are most important. Encourage only child teens to also branch out.

4. Encourage the ‘adoption’ of brothers and sisters.

Only children can either have extremely close, sibling like bonds with friends to replace the lack of brothers and sisters or they can have less bonds because they are not used to connecting with people their own age. I have found that many only children do find great comfort in having pseudo brothers in sisters in best friends, cousins and mentors.

5. Don’t let them grow up too fast.

Only children can be quite wise and mature from spending more one on one time with adults. This is great, but also can derail them from just being a kid. Encourage your only children to have some silly, spontaneous things in their life and that they should have a balance of both mature and child-like activities.

These are the tips that really helped keep me balanced in my household and were outlined by our only children interns. What are your ideas?

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2 Responses to “The Only Child: 5 Tips for Raising Only Children”

  1. John W.
    September 14, 2010 at 5:43 am #

    Having raised an only child, I found this to be ‘right on the money’. I especially liked your point about ‘adopting’ brothers and sisters. Our house became a refuge for many of these kids for our son. Very open and wonderful, especially for us. Many of these kids referred to us as ‘mom’ and ‘dad’!


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