Micromanaging Social Life for Only Child?

Updated on January 26, 2012
J.J. asks from Lancaster, NY
15 answers

My daughter is very social, but she's an only child. She does lots of sports and of course goes to our neighborhood school. I am constantly setting up playdates on her request. She has two free weekday afternoons after school. She plays with some neighbor kids, but I don't want to wear out our welcome by constantly having her ask them if they want to play. So, I try to find other kids at school for her to invite over.

My question is...how many times per week do your kids play after school?
Does anyone else have an only child? What do you do to keep them happy and socialized?
How often to you just have them play by themselves?

She's so sad when she's by herself, she just begs to invite someone over, which I usually do, but it would be nice to have her be more self-entertaining. I'm always having to plan ahead and it can be exhausting to contantly be setting up playdates 2x per week!

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So What Happened?

Just to add a few details, my DD is close to 9 years old. She used to be VERY good at entertaining herself, but in the last couple of years she LOVES to be with other kids her age. I usually give in to that since she is an only child...I remember as a kid always playing with my sister and I'm sorry she doesn't have that.

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answers from San Francisco on

My granddaughter plays pretty much every day after school, but not a formal "playdate." I just don't really do the "playdate" thing. She can go outside and play with the neighborhood children - they are all out after homework time. She does on occasion go to friend's house after school - I guess that's a play date but we don't call it that. She's going to a friend's house after school. I only allow that every once in a while, however,. because I like her to get home and get on her homework.

She is an only child in my household, although she has one sister and three brothers (they do not live with me). She is good about entertaining herself; I am not her social director. If she says she's bored, we make suggestions, but it's up to her to find what she wants to do. Some examples of things she does are computer time, play in her room with her dollhouse, play with her DS, art projects, roller blade, bike ride, or just hang out outside.

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answers from Atlanta on

I'm an only child, and I didn't have playdates during the week. If I had time after homework, I would go out and play with the neighborhood kids. It sounds like she needs to learn to entertain herself, which all kids and people need to learn -regardless of siblings. Does she read? Is she into any sort of crafty stuff? How old is she -what toys does she like? She should be able to play with things and read.

As far as the neighbor kids -let them all decide if they want to play. If she asks them every day, and they want to -what of it? I played with the same 4 or 5 kids almost daily and all summer (or any break) long in my neighborhood growing up. Is she going into their houses?

Don't worry about "keeping her socialized." If she goes to school, has friends, plays sports, etc. -she's fine. She's not some special case because she's an only child.

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answers from Dallas on

Our only child is our 17 yr old daughter. NO regrets at all, ever.

I never micromanaged her social life, things always fell into place. We are in a nice neighborhood with lots of kids her age (same house 11 yrs) and the neighborhood children were always going to the park, bike trails, etc. She's always been very active in school... Honors/AP, plays the violin, cheerleader, and has earned her black belt.

When she was younger, the groups of moms in our neighborhood took turns with breakfast play dates, then afternoon playdates, etc. Nothing was really planned because we were all active outside... someone was here most days or daughter was at someone else's home.

Our daughter also enjoys her alone time. She love crafts, designing clothing, etc and the alone time was never a negative.

I let my daughter take the lead in what activities she wanted to be involved, etc. I did not want to be managing her schedule because it is her life. I just guided her and supported her.

She is very independent and thrives on responsibility and structure. I am proud of the young woman she has become. She graduates from high school in 2013 and she has played a very active role in college searches, etc since the 9th grade. Enjoy all the time you have... it flies by... Also, wide open communication is very helpful so she knows she can always come to you.

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answers from Denver on

Even when my first child was an only child, I did not allow play dates during the school week. By the time we got home, did homework, ate dinner, did dishes, it was time to get ready for bed. If she is bored, maybe focus on her responsibilities as a member of the family, such as a couple of chores, help with dinner, read a book, hang out and chit chat with you guys a bit. Anything she can do to help you, will help her forget she is bored and show her responsibility at the same time.

Good luck!

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answers from Phoenix on

I'm an only child. I had a friend that lived on my street and we played together. When we couldn't, I played a lot in our backyard with my dog. I had barbies and matchbox cars and played with bugs and entertained myself. I think you are harming her by keeping her entertained. She needs to learn to sometimes fend for herself. Get her interested in drawing or writing stories or something like that, a hobby. My kids will randomly have neighborhood kids show up, or they will go and knock on the doors to see if they can play. If weather allows, they are always outside in the front (we live on a cul-de-sac) or they are playing indoors. When there aren't friends, my kids are good about doing their own thing if they aren't playing together. My son, the youngest, has the hardest time if his sister wants a break from him. But I just help him figure out something to do and he's good. So I would tell her she needs to have some time on her own. It will benfit her when she gets older and can be more independent. Good luck!

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answers from Minneapolis on

Give the setting up responsiblity to her. You don't have to run her social calendar. She can be the one using the phone to call up her friends and asking if they would like to come over for a playdate. She is old enough. She will learn the importance of planning ahead and having patience. Just be sure she knows in advance what days and times she has permission to invite someone over. And any rules, like one friend at a time, or only twice per week, or whatever. For us, we will only do an after school playdate on a Friday or day there is no school the next day. Or on weekends. If my kids are craving company during the week after homework is done, they go outside and play with the neighbor kids. Often neighbor friends are the quickest and easiest route to company without involving parent running around and planning, so my kids, especially more when younger, will seek them out first. It's pretty common on our street during warmer months for kids to just be outside playing. Our kids know that they are allowed to knock on the doors of their friends and ask if the friend would like to come outside to play, but we don't allow them to invite themselves in. And we don't have neighbor kids in during the weekdays either.

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answers from Detroit on

You didn't mention her age, but if she's in school and sports, she's getting plenty of socialization there. Of course she can have a friend over for a play date, but maybe just limit it to one a week, and only on weekends. My feeling is that she will never learn to entertain herself if you are always setting things up for her and making arrangements for play dates. Set some ground rules, say no when you have to, and let her deal. She might be sad, but oh well - she'll get over it. My daughter is 4 and would love to have an entire gang of kids to play with all the time. She's constantly asking to go to this person's house, or have this kid over, and I have to keep reminding her that we can't just do stuff with other people all the time - other kids have school, their parents work, and today, or right now, is just not a good time. I realize she is only 4, and some kids (and adults) are more extroverted than others, but I can't just keep giving into her all the time or expect others to do the same. She's getting better about it, especially the "playing on her own" thing, but some days are better than others. Just stop and learn to say no, and eventually she's going to have to figure things out on her own.

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answers from Tulsa on

I have an only child who hates organized sports and really just wants to free play. We have the same problem. She is 10 now and most of the kids in this neighborhoood do scheduled sports, dance, and lessons. It is frustrating because they have a playdate right before with their teammate. They also go out of town every other weekend.

I would LOVE to do playdates twice a week for 1.5-2 hours. We found one who can play on Fridays only every other weekend. We are competing with 3 other girls for her time. We do not want to wear out our welcome either. That M. likes all day playdates which seem ridiculous to me, but I am not going to stop it since they have so much fun.

My child entertains herself most of the time. She has plenty of art projects, toys, and instruments to do so. Still, another kid makes it fun in a way M. can't.

I found she developed friendships with multiple playdates with the same girl, but then she wanted that girl to come over weekly or more. I keep hoping someone good will move in with kids.



answers from Denver on

My DD is 11, and an only. I used to feel as you do. But I realized those are my own issues, really. I grew up with 4 of us, so I felt bad that she didn't have the built in play pals. But really, she is just fine. She does sports and activities and is super social. If your DD seems sad, I would guess as well that she is just loving being around her friends! But it is good for her to have alone time. My husband is guilty of this, he feels that we owe her constant entertainment, but what will that make her grow up to be? Someone who needs constant entertainment and can't be alone. Find some crafts or something where she doesn't think about being alone, but is having fun.

One thing to note. My daughter has pointed out to me that when she goes to friends homes who have siblings, she says mostly all they do is fight! And God forbid they all play together, the one who invited my DD over is usually mad if her sibs interfere. So please don't think that kids with sibs are happily playing from dawn until dusk- SO not the case. :-) I really did used to worry a lot about DD's socializing, and thinking she would have only child issues. That is just such an old notion, your kiddo is fine, she sounds happy and well adjusted, and just loves to be around her friends- which would be the case whether she was an only or had sibs.



answers from Honolulu on

How old is your daughter?

It would be good, if your daughter gets used to, playing by herself too.
Not everyday is a play-date or activity.
Nor can you, plan everything for her.
Being self-entertaining is good for a child.

Again, how old is your child????
Most children don't get "bored." Because, they are always doing something, even if of their own invention.
My daughter was an only child for close to 4 years, before I had my 2nd child. She was close to me, but yet, she also was very independent.
Because, I always just did what I had to do, then there was play time too with her and our daily routine. And also play dates. But that was not to the extent that you do.

My kids, play by themselves too. Because they know they can.
Not because I am ignoring them. But that is daily life. And they are good at doing things/playing, on their own, too.

Again, a child needs to know... that they CAN play by themselves too.
For your child, maybe that takes practice. And she needs to realize that.
Instead of being entertained, have her do her own things. Coloring, crafts, puzzles, and what not.
She can do that, right?
She needs to learn: self-reliance.

If you keep having play-dates for her, she has then come to depend on that.
Or you play with her too.

Depending on how old she is, you can explain that to her.



answers from New York on

It varies by week but my girls have lots of playdates and yes, it's exhausting planning all these playdates. WIth 2, it's actually harder bc if I get one set-up, then I have to say 'wait, let me check on child #2 bc it sucks if one has a friend over and the other doesn't". They of course play with each other and there are impromptu playdates in the neighborhood but you're not alone. I don't think 2x a week is a lot at all if you're including weekends. If you're just talking weekdays so 5 days a week she has a playdate or some kind of organized sport etc, maybe 1 playdate a week is enough. 1 day a week by herself seems reasonable to expect her to entertain herself. She should read etc. I did a lot of that as a kid. I did have local friends so played a lot but also self entertained.


answers from San Francisco on

I don't think it's necessarily an only child thing. My youngest has always been this way, always wants a friend over, frequently says she's "bored" when she's on her own.
But I rarely let her have play dates during the school week, it's just too much with homework, sports and other activities. If she had her way she'd have friends over every day!
It's good that she's involved in sports, and maybe she could get involved in another social activity like Girl Scouts, or a youth group at church. That would keep her busy and also widen her circle of friends :)



answers from Chicago on

My kids rarely play after school with a friend. However, I don't ususally pick them up until 4:30 or so when I get out of work. They also play sports and take piano lessons. Between homework, dinner, and practice there really isn't any time to invite a friend over. That's what weekends are for! You didn't mention how old your daughter was. My oldest is 7, and calls his friends himself to see if they can get together. He knows to check with me on a time and recheck on a different time than we agreed on. Of course, I sometimes have to call the other parent for clarification--7 year old boys set time is not always the same as ours. For example "meet at the bridge after dinner." :) I don't know what your evenings look like, but maybe if she wants someone to play with, you are more than capable of doing that...she spent her whole day with kids from school, but didn't get to spend all her time with her family. Maybe she can help you cook dinner or go for a walk together. Good luck, and don't wear yourself or her out. A quiet afternoon/evening at home may be just what the doctor ordered.



answers from Washington DC on

Depends on the week. Some weeks it's none at all. Are you always hosting? Or does she go somewhere else sometimes? Are the neighbor kids good friends? If so, maybe just let them determine when they're all sick of each other. Only 2 days a week might not wear out any welcome. My sks did not play often together so they often looked for playmates, too or just read or entertained themselves. It really varied. Teach her to accept a "no, sorry" gracefully and do something else - read, play a video game, help you with dinner, etc., as appropriate.


answers from Los Angeles on

We have a first grade daughter (only). My husband and I work full-time so she is in after-school care on site from 2-5 p.m. It's a big program, so from 2-5 p.m. she's playing non-stop w/ her classmates and kids from other grades, as well.

We are just starting playdates w/ her close friends from her class on weekends, but that probably happens two weekends a month right now. I just can't do it every weekend because weekends consist of catching up and doing everything that I can't get to during the week (grocery shopping, cleaning the house, laundry, ironing, errands, blah blah blah). All of our family friends have kids that are our daughter's age, though, and we do like to get together w/ them as well.

We do a lot of family games together and I play a lot of Barbies. And she's in Girl Scouts. We do the best we can!

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