We both had siblings. How do we raise an “only” child?


Q: Hi, Finished your wonderful book, and already feel more confident! The focus on connection really resonated with me.

So here’s where we are still a bit stuck and have a feeling the answer is another book 🙂 The chapter on siblings was helpful, but what about only children?

Both parents here grew up in households with 2 parents, siblings, even cousins, and grandparents, and in the suburbs. Now it’s 2 parents, one child, in the city. It feels like a totally different mindset and parenting approach is needed. Not to mention it’s 35 years later.

What’s your general advice for parenting an only child?

A: General parenting advice for an only child? Huh.

Here’s the thing: you can go down an Adlerian rabbit hole about birth order and all of its peccadilloes, but beware. If you are prone to anxiety and worry, you will use only children data to abuse yourself and create future scenarios full of doom and gloom.

Instead, read enough about singletons to help you navigate transitions and other special issues. Things like friendships and relating to peers is a popular worry among parents of singletons, so you can seek out parenting groups or books that specialize on those topics…but…

Let’s remember this: for as different as every human is, we all process our emotions similarly. All children need to feel their frustration and move it through to become resilient. All children need to belong to a group (and without a built in group of siblings, singletons need to find their people). All children need to feel safe. All children thrive in routine and with limits. All children need to know that they are deeply loved. Yes, it is easy for singletons to rule the roost and, yes, they can mature quickly due to their heavy adult interaction, but don’t worry about these things…just stay aware.

Mostly importantly, just enjoy your child. Don’t let our culture worry you. Every human has their challenges…don’t buy into the stereotypes.

Q: Help! My child has PDA and nobody knows what it is. There don’t seem to be any supports out here and I feel like my whole life has changed trajectories. What do I do for my child? Their sibling? Myself? I am so incredibly sad. And scared. I try one second to focus on the day to day, but the future also has to be considered. I don’t know that I have a specific question. I just need help.

A: For those who don’t know what the writer is referring to, this is not Public Displays of Affection….this is Pathological Demand Avoidance.

I will not admit to fully understanding this disorder, but I do know that when we are paralyzed by fear, getting stuck is likely and dangerous. Dangerous for you, your child, and the whole family since fear will also tell us that hope isn’t safe and change is unlikely.

This is not true.

First, acknowledge that it is okay to feel sad and scared. These words feel big and heavy and permanent, so there is nothing wrong with grieving. While it may take some digging, there ARE groups of parents who come together in person and online to support each other. I will warn you against hanging with too many negative people (it is contagious), but finding others who understand PDA and its effects is freeing.

While you assemble your team of support (pediatrician, therapist, OT, PT, meds, you name it), please look into finding someone who works the Dr. Ross Greene Collaborative Model. Rather than mucking around in diagnoses and how awful the children are, Greene’s proactive approach immediately starts to create pathways to success, even if it is inch by inch.
This diagnosis is not a death sentence. Your child can grow and change. Find your team, find hope, rinse and repeat.

Q: I am interested if you can explain the different reasoning in a recent column and a previous chat. In a recent column, you mentioned that a teen who probably wasn’t going to get in to his first choice college because his grades weren’t great needed some more bonding, because all kids want to succeed, but when a parent from an academically focused (going to museums, libraries, etc) family asked how to help their kid (who wasn’t into that) be more academically focused, you mentioned that some kids just aren’t and we have to accept that.

Apologies if the summaries aren’t great, but am submitting quickly. I ask because I have an elementary school age kid who doesn’t seem to care about academics and is fine doing the minimum needed to get by (though sometimes gets upset when this minimum doesn’t get him to the top), and I can see him in the older teen. He doesn’t have any learning issues and our family has a great relationship. Thanks!

A: Huh. I am shaking the cobwebs from my brain to remember these two pieces, but it really doesn’t matter because your question remains the same: is my kid, who does the minimum, going to be a ne’er-do-well teen? The answer: I don’t know. Children are not A + B = C type of things. You say he doesn’t have learning issues (maybe) and your family has a great relationship (does he feels that way), but what does that guarantee for the future? Not much.

I am not trying to be nihilistic, I just want you to stop this line of thinking.

What to do instead: Find some GOOD resources on what is developmentally typical for the age and stage of YOUR child. (And by the way, children are not meant to sit in classrooms, they are meant to play…our culture has it all mostly wrong, but that’s another article for another day). Next, define what you think the “minimum” is and what this has to do with your own childhood. I will beat you a billion dollars this has some family origin residue all over it, and it is best to clean that up before you pass it down another generation. I would also look at how your family does FUN. Yup, FUN. Aside from your child being expected to love academics, what brings joy? Can that be celebrated? Where is the silliness? And where are they other intelligences coming into play? Surely, there must be more than school. Success doesn’t equal academics.

The antidote for all of this worrying is to accept your son, challenge him, hold good limits, and shower him with love, safety, and belonging…no matter what the academic outcome.

Q: Hi Meghan. My 4 (nearly 4.5) year old is having a hard time with hitting. She is generally a happy, playful, active kid but she gets frustrated easily. She sometimes hits me if I tell her no to something (like if I say she can’t have a cookie or we can’t go to the park). More worrying to me is that when she gets upset that one of her friends won’t do what she wants or says something she doesn’t like, her first impulse seems to be to hit. If I witness it, I usually scoop her up, give her the chance to apologize or apologize myself if she won’t, and then take her to the side to cool down and say something like “It’s ok to feel mad. It’s not okay to hit.” When she’s calm we talk about other strategies she can use when she feels that way and we also talk about how she feels when one of the boys at school hits her. But nothing seems to help. Some of her friends tell her she’s mean and they don’t want to be friends because she hits them, which breaks my heart. She’s generally a sweet, silly kid and I want to help her get her temper in check so it doesn’t get in the way of her relationship with other kids.

A: Hitting is a sign of frustration. Frustration is a sign that something isn’t working for her.

What isn’t working?

You mention that is it when someone isn’t following her directions…anything else? Hunger? Fatigue? Food issues or allergies? Stomach problems? Transition at home? I want to cast a wide net because our culture will tend to laser on “hitting in park” and not zoom out to see that this is a little girl who is doing the best she can with the tools she has.

The first we know and need to accept is that this her go-to and it is starting to hurt her reputation. I would begin by directing the play more and not leaving her to her own devices. She is too immature (nothing wrong with her!) to override her impulses, so I would strongly lead and role-model here. As soon as you see the frustration building (not AFTER the hit, you get in there and run interference. Get down to her level and speak with and for her. This is ROLE-MODELING.

I would also slow down on all of the curbside lectures. It’s not that they are good or bad, they are just aren’t landing on fertile ground. She is too young to carry her intentions forward. All this lecturing may end up shaming her. Just stop and see what happens.

She will likely grow out of this…just watch the impulsivity closely.

Find this on The Washington Post.

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The post We both had siblings. How do we raise an “only” child? appeared first on Meghan Leahy Parent Coach.

We both had siblings. How do we raise an “only” child?