Family life

Having an only child

More than 40 % of Quebec couples decide to have only one child. After exploring the lives of parents of an only child, here are the advantages and disadvantages we discovered that come with raising and being an only child.

Why have an only child?

There is no specific reason that leads to some couples wanting an only child. The decision varies based on personal values and life experiences; just like the choice to have more children would. Whatever decision is made, what is most important is that the couple in question decides together. In serious life decisions such as the outcome of your future family, it is crucial to have an honest discussion, all while understanding and respecting both partner’s views and values.

If you have an only child and are thinking of keeping it that way, we hope this article will help you decided if that reality is right for you as we try to debunk some popular - but often wrong - assumptions, associated with the only child. It’s important to keep in mind that there’s no wrong choice and that the right choice is the one that will work best for you and your family.

Advantages and disadvantages of an only child

For a long period of time, having an only child was deeply frowned upon and seen as a problem. This child would be labeled selfish, petulant, asocial, amongst other negative labels, all of which contributed to the bad reputation associated with being an only child. The major problem with this false labeling is that it is in no way based on reality or proven with scientific studies, according to psychologists, who instead believe that the stigma surrounding families with an only child is due to the political and demographic context following the two world wars.

In this case, what is the reality? How does an only child differ from a child with siblings? Well, it all depends on how this child is raised and to what extent the parents will go to overcome the lack of siblings that essentially help develop social skills. For instance, being an only child means benefiting from the full attention of the parents, but that can also have a negative impact on the child’s development as he or she will not have the space to learn on their own. If parents are overwhelmingly present in their only child’s life, it will inadvertently prevent him or her to learn essential lessons crucial to his or her development. This means that the advantages and disadvantages of having an only child are unique to each family, and parental attitude plays a very big role in the development of the child’s personality and mentality.

Egotistical: Myth or reality?

A popular thought associated with an only child is that this child will inevitably be spoiled, which would lead him or her to become selfish and egotistical. While it’s true that parents of an only child have more time and attention to devote to him or her (which as seen previously, can lead to developmental problems); it seems that this great amount of attention can also have positive effects on the child, especially in moderation. Being the only center of attention can help the child develop his or her self-esteem, which in turn, will impact his or her whole life in a positive way. The important thing is to avoid falling into overprotection because that would prevent the child from learning to trust others and can also generate poor self-esteem.

On the other hand, it’s essential to let your child properly socialize, as this will teach them the main rules of social interactions such as sharing, resolving a conflict, expressing their feelings and needs, along with other qualities they will gain that are crucial to their life in society. You might also find that your child attaches great significance to his or her relationships with friends, teachers, relatives or others besides yourself and your partner since these other figures will also be shaping his or her personality.

The only child: More mature or less?

One thing is certain, an only child is always - or most often - surrounded by adults and must make their path in a world much different from their own. This atmosphere can influence the child by helping him or her develop mature skills and interests quicker. For this reason, an only child might seem more mature than other’s the same age, because he or she recognizes their skills and talents earlier on, on their own, which also molds their self-esteem.

How to raise an only child

There is no universal technique to raise an only child, just like there is none to raise many children. It is important, however, to keep in mind that your family must be open to exterior figures and places so that your child can be exposed to different ways of thinking, other than the one’s set up in your family and home. This way, your child can create a good social network that will follow him or her through his or her development. Daycare and school are great opportunities to make new friends, but you can also make your child explore camps, sports clubs, cultural classes, outdoor activities or simply just visiting friends homes to live different experiences.

Image de Mariem Melainine

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