Families come in all shapes and sizes. There are families with more than 12 children, and others with none. Being an only child has many advantages, but there are disadvantages, too.
Many only children do just fine socially and manage to handle their unique situation with little challenge. Some only children struggle to make friends, and obviously lack siblings for social interaction.
As a parent, there is much you can do to help your child adapt to being an only child and suffer less loneliness.
Consider these strategies:
- Playdates are important. Sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns as a parent. Children that struggle to make social connections on their own might need a little help. Reach out to your child’s teacher and the parents of children your child’s age.
- Many seemingly shy children do have friends at school, but they’re too bashful to ask them to spend time together outside of school.
- Avoid hovering. Some children prefer to spend time alone. If you weren’t hovering over your child, and allowed them to have more alone time, they might be more interested in making connections with other children.
- Many kids are surprisingly capable of solving their own challenges if given a little space to operate.
- Activities create social opportunities. Turn off the TV and the iPad and get your child engaged in some activities that include others. Team sports, a ballet class, art class, and summer camp are just a few ideas.
- What does your child like to do? What activities come easily to your child? Both are good starting points.
- Interact with your child to create good communication skills. Have regular, meaningful conversations with your child and work on developing your child’s communication skills. Some kids aren’t sure how to interact with others effectively.
- If your child tends to lean toward solitary activities, their communication skills are likely lacking.
- Find a good book on communication skills and work on building these skills in your child. Simple things like asking questions, smiling, and making good eye contact can help.
- Avoid relying too heavily on digital devices. TV, cell phones, tablets, video games, and more can hamper a child’s social development. These activities can be isolating and prevent the development of social skills.
- It’s easy to rely on these things as parents, because they are easy ways to keep kids entertained. However, keep in mind that too much “screen time” can negatively affect them.
- Focus on self-confidence and self-esteem. Many kids are socially hesitant because of a lack of confidence or self-esteem. Failing to make friends can make a child even less confident. Seek out ways to boost your child’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Become friends with other parents that have children. Find other moms or dads with kids about the age of your child and spend time together. Include your child in the fun.
Only children do have a greater chance of suffering from isolation and loneliness. Make an effort to help your only child to have a happy and socially successful life. Their social skills will benefit them throughout their lives.