11 things not to say to parents of an only child

It may seem innocent, but "When are you having a second?" is literally the worst thing you could ask. Here are others that are almost as bad.

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You have one child, and there are unlikely to be any others. Maybe you’ve made a decision to stop at one, or perhaps there are medical, financial or other reasons behind your situation.

Regardless of the reasons behind it, you’re probably going to be asked to explain it to, like, EVERYONE. Because for some reason, having an only child in our society seems to invite a barrage of questions and commentary that will continuously stream in from friends, family, random strangers—but mostly from those with multiple kids.

A young girl hugging a woman's pregnant belly What's the best age gap between kids?Speaking as a mom-of-one, I get that these comments aren’t mean-spirited. You might think your comment is just playful, or that offering your insights will make me think twice about my decision. But take it from me: Parents of only kids get tired of hearing this stuff.

Here are 11 things never to say to the parent of an only child—regardless of your intent—and why you shouldn’t say them.

1. “So, when are you having a second?”  An innocent question, right? After all, you’re just curious. But why would you automatically assume a parent or couple plan to have a second child? What’s more, don’t forget about parents experiencing infertility. These parents want nothing more than to have a second baby, but they are struggling, and your “innocent” question forces them to address it. Even parents who aren’t living with infertility and are simply in the midst trying to conceive Baby No. 2 may find this question overly intrusive. (Hint: If they responded with, “You’ll be the first to know,” that’s a clue that they aren’t pleased.)

2. “He needs a sibling.” Yes, it would be great for my kid to have someone to play with at home, and a confidant on which to rely as he grows up. But having a sibling does not automatically guarantee a close kinship. Some kids end up being closer to their cousins, or even friends, than they are to their siblings. And with arranged play dates being commonplace nowadays, a child can find someone with whom to swing on the monkey bars without having a brother or a sister.

3. “But he’ll be so lonely!” Loneliness is not a problem magically solved by having a sibling. Only children are quite capable of forging close bonds with others, playing on their own and interacting with their parents. Instead of being “lonely,” they might actually develop a greater ability for solitary and creative play; not to mention a more mature sense of self since they deal with adults more than they do children at home.

4. “She won’t know how to share.” Right, because every set of siblings that I’ve ever met exhibits a tremendous ability to share. (Insert eye-roll here.) Only children have the luxury of knowing that every toy in their house belongs to them. But this doesn’t make them any more territorial than kids with siblings are.

5. “He won’t have anyone to lean on when he gets older.” A sibling can be your best friend…or your worst enemy. But an only child will have plenty of opportunities to develop (and choose) lasting and strong bonds with other people, including family and friends. So lay off the guilt trip, and stop making parents feel like they’ve set their child up to live life without a solid ally.

6. “She must be so spoiled.” It’s true that in families with one child, kid-related costs don’t have to be divvied up among children, so the only child might get to do and have some things she wouldn’t have otherwise. But having opportunities isn’t the same as being spoiled. Look around at the brattiest, most overindulged kids you know and tell me none of them have siblings.

7. “You guys have it easy.” While parents of only children might not have to mediate constant fighting among siblings, it’s not like they’re chilling, feet up, with a glass of wine while parents with multiple kids do the “real” parenting. Try to relax on a Friday night while an only child tugs on your shirt sleeve, begging you to play cars or dolls. In a single-child family, the parents are the sibling.

8. “Aww, but who does she play with?” God forbid an only child take a trip to an amusement park with just his parents, or go on vacation without another child to balance him out. He must be staring longingly at those families with multiple kids, wishing that he didn’t have to ride the roller coaster with Daddy again. (Not.)

9. “Must be nice to be able to afford X.” Kids are expensive. And since parents of only children only have to fork out fees for one—whether it’s daycare, sports uniforms or airline tickets—they might very well be able to book that last-minute trip to Cuba. And while this one isn’t a direct insult to an only-child family, it makes the person who says it sound a tad bitter. Plus, even one child is expensive. Not cool to assume that parents of an only-child can afford whatever they want.

10. “He’s doing X because he’s an only child,” To attribute any child’s (mis)behaviour to the fact that he’s an only child is simply ridiculous. If you must assign blame, at least blame the parenting, for goodness sake! And remember that every child misbehaves now and then.

11. “I feel bad for her.” Please don’t. In many cases, only children are creative, self-sufficient, independent humans who have no choice but to learn how to play and be entertained on their own as well as with others. Feel bad for her? No need. She’ll be just fine!

 Read more:
Study: Second babies are more likely to have behavioural issues later in life
Does an only child experience sibling rivalry?
  

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