Socialization Strengths of Only Children
Do you have an only child? While most "onlies" would love to have siblings -- and many still will -- there are positive social strengths to be gained by being a homeschooled only child.
A week ago, we did a Quick Tip on the built-in social training-ground for children with siblings. Only children who are homeschooled also have a built-in social training-ground. It may be less obvious to your only child, but it's there.
The first reason for their positive social skill development is because they learn very early that others jump to the conclusion, even before they've met them, that only children must be spoiled! So onlies start out having something positive to prove about not being spoiled and being able to share. Only children in homeschool families also learn very quickly that there's no free lunch when it comes to other children wanting to play with them and be with them. If they want other children to come over to their house, and if they want to be invited back somewhere, they need to be the kind of friend that other children want to have. They also need to be the kind of guest whom other parents want to have in their home.
Onlies learn that complaining is a pain. They learn that sharing is a must. They learn that they need to be a friend worth having if they want to have friends. Even though at their own home they don't have siblings, only children also learn how to wait...they wait for friends.
Families who homeschool only children tend to seek out support group classes and field trips possibly more often than other families. Families who homeschool only children also seek out playmates and sponsor projects at their homes. They tend to invite others over quite a bit. But those activities alone do not build social skills. They are opportunities. Onlies learn how to share, help others, and work things out constructively with other children, or they don't get a second chance with that child who just came over to play, or with that family. They learn how to be considerate, interesting, and not selfish, because when they don't do those things, they are not invited back. It's tough! For onlies, the real world starts right away.
There's a second way that onlies build social skills. While only children may have many things and resources that some children in larger families don't have, there are also very high expectations on them. When grandparents and other relatives come to visit -- there's no question about who will stop playing and come (right away!) to be polite and talk and listen to the relatives. It's not someone else's turn -- it's the only child's turn -- every time.
Onlies do have the benefits that we all see. They tend to be showered with love and attention and lots of resources. But in that shower of attention, they learn how to negotiate with parents for a little less attention, rather than more. If you have an only, help them see the positives. Help them with these opportunities to build their social skills. Give them some space and cut back on constantly bragging about them to others. Relax and see, and help your only to see the value of what they're gaining as an only-child homeschooler!
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My only does a great job in most situations, but she does have issues when in large groups as well as dealing with younger (3-5 years) siblings. We often have her friends here so that they can play without being bothered by little brothers (which most of her friends have) and her friends often like the break from their siblings. KM's friends that are onlies also have most of the traits mentioned. I think that this article really hits all it's points right on the mark!
The only thing I think it left out is the strain that is put on parents who homeschool onlies to be the playmate, teacher, and parent. It can be a struggle, especially on those days when you just can't manage to get a playdate, there are no classes or events scheduled, you are sooooo tired and your only has decided that they NEED your help because they HAVE to build a fort with the couch or that their Barbie needs to buy new shoes but their is no cashier in the store!
I would not trade my only for anything, but I am ever so glad that KM is close with my younger siblings and her relationship with SC is priceless!
Do you have an only? Can you think of any unique challenges that haven't been mentioned?