When Planning Your Family, Consider the Pros and Cons of Being an Only Child
When family planning, some people think it is best to have just one child, while others decide to have more, so their current child won't be alone. For those who had siblings as children, it may be hard to imagine what it is like to be an "only". As a grown-up only child, here is my perspective on what it is like, firsthand.
Many kids think it is an enviable position to be an only child. Well, yes, and no. First, only children grow up with only adults to talk to at home most of the time, unless other children come to visit. Since the only child has no siblings to interact with, he or she relies on school friends to help them learn socialization skills, such as learning to share, conflict and forgiveness. Not being around other children as much as their peers with siblings, only kids may be more independent and introspective. I grew up an introvert, but learned in time to be more outgoing through school friends. Still, socializing didn't come naturally to me, I had to learn it by trial and error. Taking public speaking classes was torture, but they brought me out of my shell, big-time. Inside, I am and always will be, an introvert. My demeanor is outgoing, but at some level, I'm still that solitude-loving, independent little kid deep down. The world of an only child can be a bit awkward, since there is less "practise" with interaction skills when there are no siblings at home to fight/love/play with.
Frequently, I used to hear things like, "All only children are spoiled." There are aspects of the only's world that are envious to others, such as having one's parents to oneself. Also, since there is only one child, the parents can spend more money on toys or gifts for the child. Yes, the material things are nice, but things are just..things. It is better to have human interaction than a mountain of toys. Too much gifts and toys can leave the child feeling entitled and always wanting more. Though I did get a few extravagant gifts as a kid (my horse), I learned to work hard for things I really wanted. Reluctantly, I learned that things wouldn't be always given to me whenever I wanted them. Other only children I knew as children were showered with gifts all the time, and some became high-maintenance adults. Becoming adults was hard for them, because the reality of being responsible for themselves came as quite of a shock, initially after being given whatever they wanted as children. A friend of mine went bankrupt at a young age, due to not being able to handle money, and expecting to have whatever she wanted. What kind of values the only child grows up with depends on how the parents handle discipline and distribution of gifts during their formative years. My parents gave me things, but also taught me the value of them. I had jobs and learned how to save money.
Being an only child can be a lonely experience. I like solitude, and can tolerate much more of it than many people I know, but I'm the first to admit that being alone can be difficult. When growing up, I was envious of my cousins, who had seven children in their family. They had so much fun together, playing, interacting, fighting or whatever. Everyone was close, and visiting them was really special to me. As adults, they are still close to one another, for the most part. I grew up alone and have no siblings to grow older with, so my holidays are spent talking to my parents on the phone, or visiting them. No parties, no big get-togethers. It's the three of us, and a guest or two at times. Kind of quiet. Those with multiple children have bigger family get-togethers, and others to grow old with. The loss of family members to an only is highly devastating, so it is important to have friends or a spouse to be there in tough times. My family is alive and well, but my biggest fear is losing them someday, as this is unfortunately, an inevitable part of life.
One of the joys of being an only child is the deep connection shared with our parents. Many solitary children I knew as kids grew up to be independent, yet very attached to their mothers and fathers. I am emotionally close to mine, even if I live far from them. We've had our differences through the years but love conquers all and we value each other, no matter what.
All in all, being an only child can be pleasant and peaceful. I was able to concentrate on my individual pursuits such as horseback riding, art lessons and summer camp, without having to argue with siblings about anything. I didn't have to share my mom and dad with anyone else, but then there were times when I would've liked to. For example, when something broke or went wrong, there was nobody to take the blame but me. So, I behaved as much as possible, to avoid having to explain myself. Better safe than sorry.
When planning your family, think of the consequences of both sides of the "only" issue. Do you want your children to grow up together, form bonds and support one another as they get older? Or, do you prefer having a child who will possibly be more independent, possibly introverted and preferring the company of adults to children. Read up on the psychological traits of only children versus second born or third born siblings. I read about their usual characteristics and they seemed very accurate in most cases, to me. Remember, whatever you decide will affect your child for the remainder of his life, both in positive and negative ways. Weigh out what you think is best for your child and for yourself. Whichever choice you make, make whatever you choose work for you and your family by being there for them. That is the greatest gift you can give, your time and love. With those, any family situation can be handled.
Tags: Parenting , Children , Kids , Baby
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