28 answers

Child Only Child - Herndon, VA

My three year old son is always talking about his friends, having friends over, how he wishes he had a brother or sister (or cat)... I worry about him being an only child. I didn't worry when he was younger, but now that he can express himself more I see how much he would have loved a sibling. I missed the boat on having a second - I'm 45, but I want to make sure he's not negatively impacted by being an "only". Any advice at all on making him happy and strong (and yes some advice on alleviating the Mommy Guilt would help too...)

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Thank you everyone who responded. What wonderful insight and helpful advice. I need to just relax and enjoy parenting more and stop worrying so much. Thanks to everyone for their kindness.

More Answers

Hi, M., We all want what we don't have, don't we? It is what it is; you can't change it, so please don't feel guilty. There are advantages to being an only, just as their are advantages to having siblings. Are there cousins nearby that you could "borrow" on a regular basis? You said he also asked for a pet - maybe that is a good substitute! Good luck. I'm sure he will be fine.

1 mom found this helpful

I'm not sure what you think the "negative impact" of being an only is. There is no need for you to feel guilty! I am an only child and think I am very happy and strong and have a great relationship with my parents and other people my age as well. Of course there have been times in my life where I wished for a sibling but I don't think I was negatively impacted. Some of the helpful things my parents did were to get me and my cousins together on a regular basis and have lots of playdates with friends. Also I was able to bring one friend (or my cousin who is my age) on vacation with me so I'd have someone my age to enjoy things with.
I think with an only child the parents may have an increased responsibility to make sure to treat the child in an age-appropriate manner. In college there were three only children who lived on my hall and we all were very different in our relationships with our parents and our experience of being "onlys" One was forced to be an adult too soon to fit into her parents' world and not really enjoy her childhood, while the other was extrememly babied by her parents. I think a balanced life is what every parent should strive for, not just parents of only children, but the attention that the parents give an only child is more concentrated when there aren't other children in the family.
Focus on the positive parts of having an only child -- the decision that was right for your family.

1 mom found this helpful

you could bring him over to play with my almost 3yo triplet boys and show him how they never get a moment's peace away from each other. that might make him appreciate being an only for a few minutes!! hehehehehe. ;-)

My son is 3 1/2, and my daughter just turned one. He still talks about having an older brother. We hope he will have a younger one someday, but of course we can't have an older one. (Financially adoption isn't a possibility at all for us, though we also hope to do that in the future.) There has been, especially initially, a lot of complaining about the sister-how she messes up his toys, how she doesn't play what he wants, etc. Please don't think that having a sibling means no complaints! Also, I had always wanted a sister, then we hosted an exchange student who was 15 when I was 16. It went terribly. I was so thankful when she finally left. I had 3 older brothers. My husband, on the other hand, was an only child, and loved it. He got all the presents, his parents didn't "forget" about him. He was their life. He married into a larger family (we're pretty close with our extended family) and enjoys that aspect, but we also love that our kids don't have to compete for affection with his parents. So your son may feel like he wants it now, but there are a lot of benefits he hasn't gotten to yet. Also, he can marry into a big family if he wants that later, and consider brothers-in-law as brothers (which is how it is in my family). But by then, he may decide that big families are insane and not want that at all. His whole life is ahead of him, and him being an only child certainly isn't a bad thing-it's just the way it is! Coming from a mom who loves her big family, don't feel guilty at all!

I'm an only child and my son is an only as well. So, I have lifelong practice at this. There will be times that your son goes through wanting siblings, and then he will go on and forget about it. It does cycle. The best thing that you can do is do your best to let go of the guilt. It never helps anything. Give him plenty of peer opportunities. That means,team sports, playdates at your house as well as other homes, group lessons of many kinds, art, etc. Maybe scouts or community clean up activities are wonderful. Let him know how lucky he is to have your undivided attention. Above all, follow your gut and listen to your son; as he will tell you what he needs.
L. M

Hi M.,

I completely empathize with what you are saying. I, too, am an older mom and when my son turned 3 he was doing the same thing (he's 4 now). I went through so much soul searching. What I now, a year later, realize is that he was discovering how much fun it was to play with other children and developing social skills - he was blossoming. He also started asking for a sister (he seemed to realize that he might want to maul the infant if it was a boy). I think he asked for a sibling because most of the other kids at school had one and he wanted one too. I let him know that having a new baby in the house would mean sharing his time with the baby. He seemed to be ok with not having one after the explaination. I also went through the guilt. But if you look at the statistics for singletons, they grow up socially adjusted, not necessarily more selfish (despite the prevailing stereotype and successful. WHat I realized was that this was more about my guilt (partially brought on by society's expectations and the constant questioning from well intended busy bodies about us having a second) than it was about his request. After all he requests candy every day as well and I dont feel slightly guitly about saying 'no'.

Be nice to yourself. Youve had him later in life which means that you probably really wanted him and hence put much effort into parenting. Youre a wiser mom and he is benefitting from this. No need to feel guilty here.

Some siblings get along very easily - other fight like cats and dogs. When it doesn't work out, the fighting, bickering, hair pulling and endless trying to make peace makes you wish they would hurry up, grow up and move out already. When my son was 3 (he's 10 now) he was very possessive of me. When me and Daddy were hugging, our son squeezed in between us, pushed Daddy away and told him "My Mommy! Get your own Mommy!". They do plenty of Father/Son activities now. When your child brings up how he wishes for a sibling, you can remind him he doesn't have to share his toys or keep them out of the way for a much younger child. He doesn't have to share you or Daddy or with another child. As he gets older, he'll have school friends and there are all kinds of activities that will have him playing and interacting with lots of other kids. There's also something to be said for a child learning how to amuse himself (building with blocks and Legos, making pillow forts, reading eventually, drawing, coloring) without the TV and computer games. At 3, you can play with him a bit to get him started, and then let his imagination take over.
Many 3 year olds do not realize the difference between a stuffed animal and a real one. If you get a pet, you will be taking care of it. There's nothing wrong with being an only child. My husband was one and my son is one and they both happy about it. I have a sister and I spent a big part of my life wishing I was an only child.

M., I hope you heed all the terrific advice below. Like you I am 45 and have one child. As our pediatrician (a mom of three) said, "You get the family you are meant to have. Embrace that and enjoy it." I admire my friends, and I have several, with two-and three-kid families, but they have told me frankly that they can't do things with their oldest that they'd like to do because they have younger kids in the mix. You will find as he gets older that you have time to do things with him; you can take him to events and places you simply could not take him if you had younger siblings along; and you can spend more time volunteering at his schools, Scouts, sports, etc. And one more thing -- Don't feel guilty for not providing a playmate. He's three, and to him a brother or sister means someone to play with. He has no idea at this age that a brother or sister means a tiny infant who does not play for a very long time yet and who occupies all of mom and dad's energy to the point he gets less attention; he thinks a sibling means an instant playmate.... And when he's eight, like my daughter, he may well say what she says now: "I don't want to share you with any brothers or sisters!"

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