The official site of the book Better Late Than Never Baby - Becoming a Mother Later in Life, written by Serena Kirby.
If you're over age 35 and about to become a mother - this is the book for you.
Here’s the final instalment in my three-part series on the Only Child.
The single-child family is the fastest growing family unit in the developed world so you’re far from alone if you have just one child. For many of us who became mothers later in life, it wasn’t ‘choice’ but ‘circumstance’ that caused us to have just one child. Reduced fertility and increased fatigue all play a role in the high number of only children to older mothers.
Raising an only child can be challenging, and exhausting. So to help mothers (of any age) here’s my final round of tips for supporting an only child. I’ve road tested all these ideas and do believe they’ve not only helped my only not be lonely but they’ve helped me as well.
1 – Structured care: Daycare may not be everyone’s cup of tea but even the shortest stint on a regular basis will help your child socialise. If your child has difficultly coping with groups of children start by encouraging a relationship with just one particular child first and then branch out.
2 – Take a chill pill: Help build independence and social skills by learning to step back when your child is with other children. Obviously, be watchful to make sure little Johnny or Jenny doesn’t poke someone in the eye with a stick, but don’t constantly jump in to fix things. Step in occasionally to suggest ways to play better together but resist taking over or joining in.
3 -Solo play: Sociologist Judith Black conducted a study on young children’s pursuits and found that only children spent more time listening to the radio and music and reading and they passed significantly more time playing by themselves. To help an only child play happily alone put some effort into building up a range of activities the child can do at home on their own. Rotate the activities to keep them interested and pack away (out of sight) some of their favourite toys so you can bring them out when the child is losing interest in current ones. This strategy is particularly good for interactive toys and items such as Lego, blocks, train sets and puzzles. It’s amazing how much more interested a child is in something they haven’t seen for a while.
4 – Respect for Elders: While every child of an older parent has an increased chance of living without grandparents, the absence is amplified for a child without siblings. If there are no grandparents alive or living close by, build relationships with older people who can provide at least some aspect of the grandparent role. All children (with or without siblings) need to be exposed to people much older than their parents. They bring wisdom and knowledge to a child’s life as well as a way of teaching them about respect. Why not look into the Australian Adopt a Grandparent program which is available through pre-school classes.
5 – Seeking Perfection: It’s not uncommon for parents of ‘onlies’ to hold high expectations for their child. Be careful not to transfer your own expectations onto them and create a child that will only be satisfied if they achieve the highest level of perfection. It’s important to teach them that, while dreams may be perfect, reality is not.
6 – Helping out: Sure, it’s often quicker and easier to do all the household jobs yourself, but try giving your only child their own chores to do. Having them wash the car or vacuum their room will not only keep them out from under your feet for a while – it creates a sense of independence and pride. Allow them to do as many things as possible for themselves because studies have shown that children with self-help skills tend to be happier and more confident.
7 – Extended family: Foster close relationships with cousins as well as aunts and uncles. Should anything happen to you these people will be your child’s first line of support in times of crisis or grief. If your family is far flung try and invest in regular trips to spend quality time with them.
8 – Spread the love: Share your child with childfree friends, they too can provide a support network for your child, now and in the future.
The Child Unique : Of course you could follow all the advice under the sun, read every book ever published and employ every strategy known to mankind (or in this case: child psychologists) and still see your only child demand and boss as if they were the centre of the universe.
Regardless of what you do, the reality is that every child is an individual; with their own personality and circumstances. Being an only child should never be considered as the governing factor of how they feel or behave.
In Italy they call the only child ‘un filo unico’, in French it’s ‘un enfant unique’. Both mean that the child is special… one of a kind. But as every mother knows… every child is unique.
Serena Kirby is a later life mother (of an only child) and author of Better Late Than Never Baby – Becoming a Mother Later in Life. Her book is available on iTunes, Amazon and at www.ThingsIWishIHadKnown.com