Is Your Only Child Well-Adjusted?

With the number of single-child families nearly doubling since the 1960s, more parents these days are facing both the joys and challenges of a household sans sibling rivalry.

Sharing and socializing

Like all children, only children need to be pushed from an early age to share. Without siblings, say the experts, “onlies” need more socialization with friends and extended family or in group settings like daycare, team sports or music classes where they can practice their socialization skills.

Eighteen months isn’t too young to get started with playdates in both your own home—where toys and parental attention will need to be shared with the guest—and at other people’s homes, where another child’s toys and house rules will need to be respected.

Setting limits

It’s also important not to overstress the fact that a child doesn’t have siblings. As the parent of just one child, be sure that you are setting the necessary boundaries.

With only one child to attend to, parents will jump to their children’s needs right away. Guard against giving in to a child’s demands too quickly during the many hours of one-on-one time they will inevitably have together. This will teach children flexibility and patience when they don’t receive instant gratification.

Children as young as 3 years old can begin to develop a sense of independence. Using a fork, making a sandwich or pouring milk will take them longer, and they may mess up, but mimicking things will help them feel engaged, invested and able to develop those skills.