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Only children need a different approach when it comes to parenting, Ian Munro writes.
While the long summer break can sometimes be a lonely time for the "only child'', being an only child does not necessarily mean a lonely child. All children can be lonely at times, such as when changing schools or falling out with their friends.
Nevertheless, parents of an only child do need to consider different sorts of things in their approach to parenting. These considerations might include:
• Opening your home to other children and getting your child involved in a playgroup as early as is appropriate. However, there's also nothing wrong with only children being able to entertain themselves.
• Ensuring that their company is not limited to that of the adults at events or family functions because they have no sibling to interact with.
• Being aware that you could overindulge. There's no need to deprive your child, but consider carefully whether your child needs this or that particular thing just because you can afford it. Indulging your child can be a form of indulging yourself.
• Being aware that, with only one child, it can be easy to fall back quite quickly into flexible adult schedules for things like mealtimes and bedtime. Routine is important for children for giving them a sense of security.
• Being aware that the amount of adult company they have could mean an earlier end to their childhood. Children should be treated according to age, not as mini adults. Equally, there's a danger that only children could be kept as babies or toddlers when they should have moved on because there will only be that one opportunity to have a baby or toddler around.
• Being aware that, with only one child to deal with, there can be a tendency to continue to help with tasks long after the child should have mastered them. Encourage them to work through their own problems rather than resolving them for them.
• Being careful not to load this one child with unreasonable hopes and expectations. The parental world must not revolve around them. This would be emotionally unhealthy for them and you.
• Being careful to avoid the trap of overprotectiveness. They need the sort of experiences of rough and tumble with their friends that they might have with a brother or sister.
• As they get older, providing opportunities to help a younger child.
• Getting a pet, which can provide companionship, while looking after one teaches a child to be aware of the needs of others.
• Respecting their privacy and independence as they reach their teens and beyond. When children leave home and when they get married it's always hard to let them go, but with only one child to let go of it can be even harder. Resist the urge to hang on and to interfere.