Coming from a large family with many siblings herself, her son’s requests for a brother have given Adv. Veerash Srikison perspective on what it means to live life as an only child.
In many instances, parents do not choose to have just one child; fate usually has a hand in that decision. Over the years I have been privy to the life of an only child as I listened to my son’s constant requests for a sibling (more specifically a brother) since the age of two.
As time went on, his request for his birthday present every year since then was for a sibling. By the time he was six years old, he said he was so in need of a sibling to share everything with that he would even accept a sister! My focus this time round is to ask that we spare a thought for those children who are the one and only, especially if they are experiencing emotional trauma within their family environment. All too often we are told children are resilient, and they most certainly are. Yet their resilience must never be taken for granted.
In divorce mediation discussions, divorcing parents tend to lean heavily on to their only child to provide them with support and comfort, all the while trying to manipulate their child to take their side. When there are siblings involved, the children tend to provide support and protection for each other. When I conduct child interviews with an only child, they are completely gutted that their sense of a normal family life is breaking apart, and they feel as if they have no one to lean on when their parents are making them choose a side.
Even more sad, while their parents are engaging in the divorce battle, they have no support from within their family structure to share their fears and anxieties. They are starved of hands-on coping mechanisms. The work then begins on getting these only children to focus on their emotions and to understand that their feelings are not to be feared – but embraced and worked through.
I work on teaching them how to respond to the change in their environment and to find constructive ways to adapt to these changes. We also work on strengthening their inner voice and building their confidence, so that they are able to express their fears and concerns directly to their parents. As a parent, you are your only child’s sibling substitute, best friend, confidante and disciplinarian. The challenges that face a parent of an only child are layered with guilt, exhaustion, fear and anxiety that their child is lonely.
Children are asked to keep a journal to express and release their emotions into words. I ask that parents share this journal with their children by writing words of encouragement and motivation, so that their child knows that they are not alone. So if you are in the company of an only child that shows kindness, compassion and interest in your wellbeing, take some time out to get to know them and let them know that they have your support and encouragement. If you have children who know of only children, tell them to be inclusive of only children in their school group activities or playground games and to make an effort to understand that being an only child is not about being stereotyped as a spoilt brat.
Be sure to protect only children from bullying, other children may perceive them as having it all. It can be that the only child longs to have someone to share their life with and to be treated as part of an understanding society.
Mamas & Papas
Volume 9, Number 85