Around the only children, more and more numerous, often unfounded topics circulate. In order not to fall for them, parents must raise them with conscience.
Statistics show that Spanish families increasingly decide to have fewer children.
The reasons for this decline in birth rates are more socioeconomic than psychological: the incorporation of women into the world of work, delayed motherhood, fertility problems, the difficulty in harmonizing work with family life, the increase in separations.
These elements come together when it comes to having only one child, so that currently being an only child is almost more of a rule than an exception.
Growing up alone among adults in a home is different than growing up surrounded by siblings, but it is not advisable to incur negative determinism.
An only child does not have to be an overprotected, spoiled or spoiled child. Psychological studies show that these are just clichés and prejudices. That a person acts in a selfish or tyrannical way is usually more the result of a bad education than the fact of not having siblings.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS WHEN RAISING AN ONLY CHILD?
The type of relationship that parents establish with only one child increases the chances that the child has a series of traits that can be potentially negative for their development.
Knowing some of these characteristics can help prevent them:
- Socialization problems. Growing up in an adult family model, without siblings with whom to share their time and games, they can show certain problems when interacting with other children. They may prefer to stay with adults than open up to making friends with children their own age.
- Difficulty tolerating frustration. As they are not used to losing, they sometimes have a hard time dealing with problems and setbacks. It is then easier for them to throw a tantrum or refuse to do new activities for fear of doing it wrong.
- Overprotection. It is one of the great risks that parents of only children run by giving them excessive attention, protecting them all the time from supposed dangers or giving them everything they ask for, even before they ask for it. Overprotection can lead to insecure children, excessively dependent on parents and with low self-esteem.
- Little supportive. Not having to share your things with other siblings can create a sense of ownership that hinders your ability to share; so, they can sometimes seem selfish.
- Too pressed. Some parents with only one child put all their expectations on him and put a lot of pressure on him to fulfill them.
DOES BEING AN ONLY CHILD HAVE ADVANTAGES?
Now, apart from mentioning these risks, it should be remembered that only children, due to the fact of being raised without siblings, have advantages that can be of great help to them. Let’s see them.
- Creativity. They tend to be more creative and imaginative, since spending a lot of time alone they have to manage to entertain themselves and not get bored. That causes games to be invented, crafts, etc.
- Intelligence. They tend to have a higher intellectual level, as parents give them more attention and receive more stimulation than if they had siblings.
- Leadership. They can become small leaders, as they are used to being the center of attention.
- Self – esteem. If there is a good affective relationship on the part of the parents, without reaching the excesses of overprotection, they feel very loved and respected, which can improve their personal security and self-esteem.
- Linguistic ability. Increased contact with adults can promote better language development than other children their age.
HOW TO AVOID THE MOST FREQUENT MISTAKES WHEN RAISING A SINGLE SON OR DAUGHTER
The responsibility of parents, regardless of the number of children they have, is always the same: to provide them with physical and emotional care so that they grow up in the healthiest way possible.
However, as we have seen, having only one child can enhance a series of educational errors: overprotection, isolation, projecting too many expectations on him. To avoid these errors, parents must:
- Teach him to share his things with parents and friends, so that he does not become a selfish child with an excessive sense of ownership. A good way to do this is to invite other children to play or sleep at home, as well as to let them go to those children’s homes.
- Encourage their autonomy. Parents must bear in mind that children are not an object of their property, on the contrary: they are autonomous and free creatures that will progressively develop, and in their evolution, they will discover their preferences and hobbies. Parents must enhance this autonomy and encourage them in the pursuit of their interests, rather than turning all their expectations onto them.
- Set clear limits on what you can and cannot do, what is right and what is not. Scolding him when he does not behave properly is the best way to avoid becoming overprotective and to encourage his sense of responsibility.
- Give them the appropriate affective and educational treatment for their age and characteristics, since with only children there is a risk of seeing them older or smaller than they really are.
- Involving him in the housework is a good way for him to learn that everyone’s effort and collaboration is required, as well as to teach him that he is not the king of the house, but one more within the family structure.
- Encourage their relationships with other children through extracurricular activities (sports, crafts), so that they learn to interact with other children outside the school environment.
- Encouraging him to strive to achieve his goals teaches him to value things and not to believe that everything is given to him on a whim.
- It is convenient to play with them, since only children often tend to isolate themselves in their hobbies and parents can find that attitude very comfortable. This also implies limiting the time they can spend alone in front of the computer, television or video games, since not having to share them with siblings can further increase their isolation.
- Save you arguments. Being alone at home with the parents, the child can more easily witness the discussions that they may have both among themselves and in relation to the child’s education. This type of discussion, which on the other hand is unavoidable and even necessary, should be able to take place in the absence of the child and trying, in addition, not to seek alliances with him to solve the problems of the couple.
WHEN THEY ASK “WHY DON’T I HAVE SIBLINGS?”
This is a question that only children often ask themselves, either because they feel lonely or because many of their friends talk about their experiences with siblings.
As with any other question, parents must answer honestly, explaining the reasons why they do not want or cannot have more children, always in a clear way and adapted to the child’s age.
Each family will have its reasons and there is no need to fear exposing them to the child. But it is never convenient to say that they do it for his or her good, so that they are happier or do not have to share their things or their affection, since, in addition to the fact that this is not usually the truth, the child may feel as an exclusive object for their parents.
TWO ONLY CHILDREN: SIBLINGS WITH A GREAT AGE DIFFERENCE
If there is a notable age difference between two children, for example six or more years, that can induce a raising of these children as if they were “only children”, even more so if one is a boy and the other a girl, or if the parents They did not have a second child from the outset.
In this way, the eldest will have been treated as an only child and the same will be done with the second, but with the aggravation that the first will feel abandoned, which will encourage jealousy towards his brother and generate relationship problems with the parents.
If this situation occurs, parents must act responsibly and give each of their children the attention they deserve, without turning exclusively to any of them, but neither leaving one aside. In this way, the eldest will live the experience of having a brother as something natural and healthy for the whole family structure.
ONLY CHILDREN IN A SINGLE PARENT FAMILY: WHAT DO THEY NEED?
It is increasingly common for this situation to occur after a divorce, and even as a result of an adoption or a pregnancy through assisted reproduction.
In any of these cases, the risk increases, not only of overprotection, but of considering the child an extension of the adult himself, as if he were a part of himself. And although it does not always have to be this way, the father or mother must take it into account to avoid it.
In the other cases, and also according to the sex of the minor in relation to that of the adult, it is necessary to know how to find other adult references of the opposite sex among the family or friends, as well as to understand that the child – no matter how desired it may have been – she has her own life and that her social relationships with other children should be fostered.
In addition to finding these other references, it is convenient to facilitate their relationship with other family members so that, even living alone with their father or mother, they feel that they are part of a larger family and that they are not the exclusive property of anyone. Otherwise, very symbiotic relationships can be generated that do not favor the good emotional development of the child.
Fostering this relationship with the family and with other children will also help the adult to continue having a social life. While the child will perceive that he is not his only center of attention.
ADOPTION WITHOUT FANTASIES AFTER A BIOLOGICAL CHILD
More and more families with biological children decide to adopt, especially in the case of couples with only one child.
Giving your child a baby brother should not be the main motive. A child has to be the fruit of the parents’ desire and not only respond to the demand of a sibling, since the risks of integration will be greater.
Often these parents state in their demand that it is going to be a rewarding experience for their child and think about how positive it can be for the adopter, without considering the difficulties or having realistic expectations.
It is worth analyzing what that child will mean within the family structure and assessing the ability of parents to meet very different needs of their children. Many parents minimize the differences and believe that because they already have a child it will be easier for them to adopt a minor.
The arrival of a child always modifies the family dynamics, especially if one of them is adopted, since, even if it is small, it will not be a baby and there will be more jealousy and rivalries. If it is also an international adoption, there are usually ethnic or cultural differences.