Encourage Friendships With Same-Age Children
Getting along with other children can be challenging for the only child. So create as many social opportunities with peers as possible. Sign them up for music or art classes, and encourage play dates, alternating between your home and their friend’s so they experience the home environment of other children. For older children, allow them to bring a friend to family gatherings to create a temporary sibling-type relationship.
Develop A Sharing Culture
Only children have limited opportunities to share but it’s important that they learn how to do so. The ability to share is what children like in others. Talk about sharing and show your child by your actions that it’s good to share. Encourage them to share toys and other things, meals and conversation with you, family members and friends.
Let Them Solve Some Problems
Parents of larger families have to divide themselves between their kids and tasks so tend to assign children challenges. If you have three children and someone is thirsty, you’re more likely to ask the child to help himself to the fridge. In smaller families, parents are more likely to solve their child’s problems for them. Don’t rob them of opportunities to learn how to solve problems for themselves.
Group Them Up
There are many benefits for only children in being part of a group: through the challenge of being with others they build resilience and learn to compromise and problem-solve. Try group activities and team sports to help only children learn to listen to peers and deal with negative feedback. They’ll also learn how to handle teasing from older children. It can be intimidating for an only child to go into a big group of children, especially with others who have experience with siblings. So start with paired activities, like washing the car or baking a cake. Sometimes they’ll fight, but ultimately they have to work it out.
Give Them Social Cues
Children with siblings develop the know-how to interact with other children. Only children tend to miss out on this. Only children are often very articulate and comfortable speaking to adults but this doesn’t always transfer to the playground. Many need support to talk to children and you can help by briefing them about what to say in social situations and what to look out for. For example, tell your child, “Wait until there’s a break in play then ask the group, ‘Do you mind if I join in?'” Only children can also be quite serious so be playful with him: put on a funny hat, joke around and lighten things up.
Adopt A Pet
It’s important for a child’s development that they have another living being to care for. Children with siblings automatically experience this, whether they’re good carers or not. Having a pet is a good way of giving only children this experience. This is important because when children care and look after another being it kick-starts empathy and tolerance and in some ways learn how to be a parent.
Text: Good Health, Bauer Syndication / Additional reporting: Sylvia Ong