Only Child Issue

Updated on October 26, 2009
D.W. asks from Douglasville, GA
15 answers

My 6 year old daughter is an only child with cousins locally that she sees and plays with weekly at her grandparents home. I have her enrolled in cheerleading and ballet and she attends church on Wednesday evenings so she stays busy with extracurricular activities during the week.

My questions is this....when home, she is always trying to get me involved with her playtime. I try to take the time to stop dinner, cleaning, and working out of my home to play with her for about an hour but she plays by herself and our puppies most of the time. Both my husband and I had siblings so we always had someone to play with. I feel so bad for her that she is always alone (we tried for other children but could not have any more). Should I invite a child over to the house during the week for playtime after school? If so, how do I go about it? She really does not have a BEST friend in school and likes everyone.

Any of your thoughts would be appreciated. She is the light of our lives and I don't want her to grow up feeling lonely. A friend mentioned to me this weekend that her 20 year old only child told her that she was OK without a roommate at college because she was always alone growing up and she was used to it. Her mom told me she was heartbroken. Please help!!

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So What Happened?

First of all, "Thank you" to all of the wonderful ladies that responded to my question. I had heard from adult only children and those that have only one child. All agree that spending as much time with your children, whether only or multiples, is the best that we can do. I will continue to spend one-on-one time with my daughter every day and not worry about chores or other tasks. She will be grown before I know it and will have moved on to wanting to spend all of her time with friends and boyfriends. I'm going to treasure it as long as I can.

I've decided to have children over during the week maybe two times per month. I will consider sleepovers when she is 7 or 8.

Thanks again for your encouragement!

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answers from Atlanta on

I wouldn't worry about it too much. I'm an only child, and I always entertained myself. I played with the other neighborhood kids a lot, and my parents did let me have other kids over all the time. I have two children, and my oldest CONSTANTLY wants me to play with him and he has another brother to play with. As to the 20 year old you speak of, her mom should be happy she's independent and doesn't have to have someone around all the time. I lived alone for years after college (and tried constantly to get my own room in college)-and I loved it!

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answers from Atlanta on

My son is 14 and an only child. I had him very young so by the time I even thought about having another, he still would have essentially grown up as an only child anyway. I have thoughts of guilt for him when he gets older and doesn't have anyone except us but I'm not going to have another child just for him or so that there will be someone to take care of us.

When he was younger he would say he wanted a brother but by the time he was about 10, he realized that being an only child has benefits. Enough visits to friends houses were enough to prove that he was just fine being an only child.

My brother is less than 2 years older than me and although we did play together when we were very young, as soon as we started school, we didn't have anything to do with each other and are not close to this day. We are just sooo different. I grew up always wishing I was an only-child b/c my brother had special-needs and it got so much more attention, deservedly so but as a youngster, I didn't really care why he got more attention.

Anyway, play dates are fine but I don't think they're a necessity at 6 if she's involved in other activities and school. In fact I think there are times when I went overboard with activities for my son. We've cut back to one sport, Scouts & church. Even now we have conflicts with overscheduling due to school work. My son loves to skateboard, ride his bike and play drums- activities that he can do whether he's by himself of with a friend. Obviously your daughter needs more supervision with some activities but you can help her find things she can do by herself and encourage those when you don't have time to play with her (puzzles, reading, hoola-hooping, jump rope, etc). Also encourage her to do house work or cooking with you. I'm a firm believer in kids learning to help around the house but it seems like only-children tend to be waited on more, I guess b/c there is only one to do stuff for.

An added bonus for us is that we have really good friends in our neighborhood who have younger children and our son has pretty much grown up with them (they're now 6 & 8 and we've been friends since the youngest was a baby). They're his 'substitute' brothers as we call them. He goes over and plays with them and helps them with their homework and when he's annoyed or out of patience, he can come home and be in peace.

And one last thing, my son doesn't have one best friend either. He's friends with almost everyone and it's almost always a different kid at our house every weekend (now that he's older we allow sleep overs and it's almost every weekend that someone is here). Most of the repeat invitees are more mature for their age and are willing to compromise by not playing video games for hours on end.

All that, don't feel guilty for your daughter being an only child. There are advantages and disadvantages to both situations and I'm sure you guys will make the most of it.



answers from New York on

I am an only child and I will tell you the truth according to me...I too had lots of cousins that I played with all the time but they all went back to their houses together. I was very good at solo play, I had all my stuffed animals and had a great imagination (it sounds like your daughter does too.) My mom made little effort to play so I think its great that you do.

As a child I didn't mind to much, although sometimes I was lonely even if friends came over b/c they would leave and go back to a "family" and then it was just me and my parents. Don't get me wrong I love my parents they just were adults, there was no fun at night with kids close to my own age. But honestly I didn't know any different so it didn't matter.

When it mattered was when I was a teenager. At times like all of us I hated them and had to do it alone. I think its important to hate your parents with someone else LOL. They couldn't relate to having a teenager because I was it and I was expected to be a little adult. They had no gauge with another kid if I was "normal" as far as rebelling. They were also super protective b/c I was it. That was really unfair, I beg you to not do that. I caused a huge rift that has not completely been fixed even in my 30ths.

Finally, I am very comfortable being alone. I don't really need people around although I love being social. I think this is a benefit as an adult. I am content either way. Now what I worry about the most is my parents dying or getting old. 3 reasons why: I am afraid financially I will not be able to care for them (its only what I can contribute with no one else to help). When they die I will be alone. I will have my husband and children but what it was really like growing up with them will only be mine. I have no one to laugh with about funny stories or my crazy mother. Not the way I see my cousins make fun of my aunt (in a lighthearted way, no being mean). And I think I will always feel a little lonely when they are gone. But so would the last surviving sibling.

I know this does make you feel better, but they truth is only children adapt, we are more independent and don't rely on others to entertain us, but really is that so bad? and the loneliness doesn't rule our lives I only think about it when someone brings it up. I think being an only child is much harder as an adult then a child.



answers from Atlanta on

HaVE you considered being a foster parent to a very needy child that's the same age or just younger than her? You can try to meet the parents of some of the other children. YOu might have someone needing some after school care for their child that's the age of yours. Talk to her teacher. It's very hard to find reasonably priced after school care. If money is not needed in your household, you might be a big help to a parent having a tough time right now providing care and trying to work. V.



answers from Augusta on

I have an 8 yr old who is also an only child. She WILL learn to entertain herself trust me. But instead of stopping your "chores" to play with her, why not have her help you. Katie always helps me in the kitchen and during clean up time. Also sometimes she sits in a chair and reads aloud to me while I am cooking dinner during the week. It's a win win for everyone on all levels.

***If you really want another child to love and don't want her to grow up "alone" you can always adopt a foster child close to her age. So many children are right here in the US with no permanent home. You sound like a great mom and any kid would be lucky to have you.



answers from Atlanta on

I only have a few minutes as I am getting ready for work, however, I too have an only child. She is 11 years old and loves to have company. However, my mom died when I was 10, so I have a totally different perspective on spending time with her. We do a lot of things together and I've somewhat sacrificed my house work (much to my husband's chagrin!) Let me suggest a couple of things such as family game night or get her involved in your chores with you. I think it's unrealistic to try and entertain her, every day of the week, by inviting others over. You have her involved in activities and that's wonderful. I tend to find other parents with only children and create a bond with them. Once I'm in a trusting relationship with that parent, we schedule sleepovers, about once every other month.

Regardless of what I do, how many activities, how many sleepovers, my daughter still wants time with us and so we schedule it. My husband is off on Mondays, so they will go out to dinner together when she gets out of school. I hope this helps!



answers from Augusta on

I was an only child for nine years before my brother was born and let me say VERY honestly I was much happier before he was born. I was very content to play by my self or sit and read, and I prefer things by myself. Things are quiet , there is no chaos. Now I have two very OUT THERE , in your face children ( go figure , they must get it from their dad lol).
I had some play dates but was also happy to be left alone with a puzzle , book or tv show. I did have grandparents that would play games with me but it wasn't an everyday thing.

I think being an only has it's advantages, there's no one else there to fight for mom and dad's attention. And easier to learn to doing things on your own.

as for doing a playdate, your daughter can as the friend over for a day on the weekend or after school , or you can call the parent and tell them that your daughter asked if their daughter could come over.



answers from Savannah on

Every child is different with how much interaction they need from other kids and their parents. I was an only child but I don't remember growing up happy or sad over the fact. My parents didn't spend much time with me either as they both worked and my grandparents babysat me. Now I've got 2 kids that are 6yrs apart. My oldest was very independant, rarely wanted me to play with her when she was home alone. But my son who is 3yrs old, is the opposite. He always wants me to interact with him or at least be in the same room as me when he is playing.

Don't feel bad because she is an only child. That's just one of those things. But what you need to do is give her 10 to 15 mins of your time. Color, play a simple board game, read a book, etc. Even if it is broke up while fixing dinner. A child needs interaction with their parents. Just because she has other kids to play with and after school activities doesn't me she gets attention. She wants her mother's attention.

Good luck



answers from Fort Wayne on

A playdate would be fine but I wouldn't stress too much over it...After years of trying my only child finally got a baby sister. Although she adores her sister, who is now a wild 2-year old, she often comments that she wouldn't mind being an only child again ; ) You can't win really. I think there are advantages either way and it sounds like your daughter has plenty of social time anyway.



answers from Spartanburg on

My daughter is younger than yours - almost 5 - but we go through the same thing. we struggled to have another child, and praise God, we did, but he is only 7 months old and so she has had basically her whole life to be an "only child" (and basically still is now - i mean, it's not like she can play with her baby brother). i have noticed that after she has been to church, or ballet, or school, or visiting grandparents, she is totally unable to play by herself. she has gotten used to the entertainment and the company. so i've had to force the issue, which is unpleasant for everyone, but it works! some days it is 5 minutes of whining and suffering that she doesn't have a play mate, and some days it is an hour, but eventually she plays by herself. it's like she has to get over the "hump." so maybe that's what your daughter needs!

and here's some encouragement for you: if you couldn't have more children, as hard as that time of infertility was, it was God's plan for you AND for your daughter. we don't/can't know why yet, but trust in Him - He is Good! :)

you sound like you are doing a great job making sure she is socialized and has opportunity to make friends. i think it sounds like the last thing she could say years from now is that she grew up feeling lonely. :)

lastly, i grew up with a brother just 2 1/2 years older than i am. we played together SOME, but that was the exception. most of my memories of playing that do not involve having a friend over are by myself in my little bedroom! so siblings aren't always the answer - i think siblings very often aren't playmates - they are just helpful for children to learn how to share and how to be a product of divided attention.

i think you're doing GREAT!



answers from Atlanta on

I am an only child and I have to say that it is very difficult. It is difficult as a child and even more so as an adult. My children only have one aunt (my hubby's sister) and only 2 cousins. I am constantly envious of my husband and my friends’ relationships with their siblings. The sibling relationship is one that is almost impossible to build with anyone who is not your sibling. Because siblings know you inside and out. They know your family, your history, etc. As an adult it is very difficult not to have someone who has grown up with you and with your family. It is hard to have aging parents and not have a sibling to share those difficult times with. I often wonder how I will cope with my parents’ death. It will be so hard to plan the funeral and deal with estate issues etc. all alone. Not to mention dealing with the sadness that comes with loosing a parent. I have now watched my Grandparents pass on and each time it happens I have seen my parents and their siblings rally together and I wonder how I will cope with things without any siblings.

I can certainly empathize with your daughter and while I don't have much advice to offer I can tell you that you daughter will face many difficulties as an only child, but she will learn to cope and get through it. Honestly it isn't all bad. There are many positive things that come with being an only child and while it can be lonely at times she will learn to be very independent. That independence will be a necessity as she gets older and must go through life without a sibling. I would say that she needs some time to plan independently and be the only child that she is, but she will most likely have this time no matter what you do. I would suggest getting her involved in something where she will meet others and something that she really enjoys and can do throughout school or life (i.e. rowing, tennis, dancing, whatever she is into). One thing my parents did to try and help me was they got foreign exchange students to live with us for an entire school year. We did this for 3 years. It's a great way to build some awesome sibling like relationships, but those students go back to their "real" families at the end of the year and that is difficult too. Another problem with that is that the student's can bring a very different set of values with them and that can greatly influence your daughter in ways that you may or may not want (the same is true of foster children). Overall I would say to just try and keep your daughter involved in healthy activities and encourage her to make good life long friends.



answers from Columbus on

Well D., I know the feeling. I have a 3 yr old daughter and she is my only one. We just moved to Fort Benning about 5 months ago, I dont know anybody and my neighbors dont talk much. My daughter goes to pre-school and that is basically the only time she gets to spend with other kids. I feel very bad and I think she is often bored even though I play with her all the time and she plays with her dog. I guess it is not the same though, she keeps telling me she wants a brother or a sister but im not ready right now, im trying to finish my college. The best advice I can give to you is maybe try to invite over her friends for the weekends or just for a couple of hours a day, this is if your not planning on having another child. To be perfectly honest, I couldnt see myself not having a brother or a sister, you want your child to always have somebody just in case of anything, and it makes you feel secure. I hope I was a help to you. Take care!



answers from Augusta on

I don't know if you have every thought about adoption. There are so many children in the Foster care system that are looking for loving homes and siblings to love. Check out

It might fill a gap in your family and bless a child in need at the same time.



answers from Atlanta on

Wow! Same shoes! Six year old girl only child who expects me to be her playmate. Guilt. Have been trying for another with no luck.

I've come to this: Only children are great kids too. I don't want mine to grow up being the epitome of a spoiled only child -- and I think I'm doing a good job there -- but she is an only child nonetheless. We've just set up play times and NOT play times. If I'm making dinner, she's doing homework, etc., we do that -- but there is established (an unestablished) play time.

I'm still holding out hope for a second!



answers from Atlanta on

You might want to read a book called – NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children. I haven't read it myself – but have read about it and seen the author on tv. Part of what the book talks about regarding "only children" is very positive. They sell it on Amazon and there is a short video by the author.

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