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Being an only child

lonely; only child; family; relationships ;


What is an 'only child'?

What do you think about when you see the words 'only child'
Someone who:

  • only childis all alone?
  • has no one to talk to or play with when he or she is at home?
  • has everything he or she wants because there are no other kids to share with?
  • is really spoilt by parents and grandparents?
  • doesn't join in with other kids?

Well I suppose there are some 'only children' who would fit these descriptions, but there are also lots of other kids who would too and they are not the only child in the family.

What some people think about 'only children'

  •  An 'only child' doesn't have brothers or sisters.
    True, but there are lots of families where there is such a big gap in the ages of children that rather than brother or sister, they are each like an only child. Some 'only children' have step-brothers and step-sisters.
  • familyAn 'only child' is lonely.
    Some children may be lonely, while others may enjoy having the full attention of their parents. Some may go to a boarding school where they have lots of people their own age, or they may live in a remote area and be part of a radio class of children like themselves. Many 'only children' live near others and have lots of friends.

    Some 'only children' learn to be very good at doing things on their own as well.
  • An 'only child' doesn't have to share things with others.
    Well, he may not have brothers and sisters but anyone in a family has to learn to share with the others in the family and he is not an 'only child' in the classroom.

    'Only children' may not have to learn how to share early in their lives like other children.
  • playing netballAn 'only child' gets whatever she wants.
    Some children seem to get the things that they want, whether they are an 'only child' or not. Having lots of things does not always lead to happiness.
  • An 'only child' gets spoilt by grandparents.
    Some children may see their grandparents often, while many children may not even be in the same country as their grandparents. In the 'olden days' people grew up and stayed in the place where they were born, but nowadays many people move for their work or family reasons, looking for a safer or better life style for themselves and their children.

    And saying that getting lots of love and attention from your grandparents is 'spoiling' kids, seems to be saying love is bad. Love and attention is good for people so long as we treat each other with respect.

What some kids say about 'only children'

I asked some children about the advantages and disadvantages of being an 'only child', and these are some of their comments.

It's good because:

  • only child"My parents let me have friends over to play so I can choose to have people around when I want to."
  • "I can be alone if I want to be."
  • "I get to spend a lot of time with my parents."
  • "I get a lot of responsibility."
  • "I don't have to do jobs around the house, but I'd like to sometimes."
  • "I get a lot of attention."
  • "You get to eat all the chips in the bag."
  • I get to do lots of things that my parents might not have been able to afford if they had more kids.

It's bad because:

  • "I'd like to show a younger brother or sister how to do things."
  • "I get too much pressure to do well at school."
  • "There's no-one else to blame if I get into trouble."
  • "Sometimes my parents expect too much of me. They treat me like an adult."
  • "My parents are divorced and mum asks me what I think when she has to make a decision. Sometimes that's OK, but sometimes I want to say, 'How would I know? I'm only a kid!'"
  • "It's too quiet in the house."
  • "I always have to organise things if I want someone to play with when I'm at home."
  • "I feel lonely at weekends and holidays sometimes."

Dr Kate says:

Dr Kate"Being an only child does not mean that you must be a lonely child. Everyone needs to spend time alone, time with family and time with friends. Everyone needs time to think, time to share, time for work and time for fun. Whether you are an only child or not each person is alone in his or her mind and we all have to learn to get on with all the other people we meet in our daily lives.

Some 'only' children spend a lot of time looking after a parent/adult who is sick or disabled. If you are in this situation, then you are not alone. Check out this site You can find information which can help you look after yourself as well as the person you are caring for. There is a phone number if you would like to talk to someone who understands and you can read stories about kids who are young carers too.  

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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