Being an only child has special considerations in the divorce period. They are not living with another ally who totally gets their unique situation. While parents, a therapist, and close buddies are sympathetic, no one else completely understands what that child is going through with divorce and shared care as a sibling does. Have heard siblings state, “it’s us against the world,” and variations of this theme, and as an only child, I felt that this situation was harder for me. Only children may not express loneliness or feelings of isolation, so it is imperative to monitor how they are adjusting. Consider having them check in periodically with a divorce coach or therapist to ensure concerns or problems are being addressed. Children may seem okay, but are not wanting to burden you about transitions or other custody issues which are stressful. At least have a neutral third party, such as a god parent, have a heart–to-heart with an only child.
Children like to have fun with other kids, so consider encouraging the only child to invite a friend along on some expeditions. Going on thrill-seeking rides at an amusement park can be more fun when sharing this experience with a buddy rather than with an adult. A parent gets to enjoy the company of their kid while they also have a blast with a pal. Mainly being in the company of grown-ups (parents who justifiably want to make the most of their shared time) can get old. Kids enjoy being with others their same age, just as we adults want time with our peers. Getting kids together with cousins is a way to be with them and increase the family bond. When I had visitation with my father, my stepmother wisely sensed I wanted to be with another kid and often invited her niece (my age) to join in our fun.
An only child post-divorce does not have automatic playmates on vacation or in different environments. When I was eleven my mother took me on a group tour of major European capitals. I had other people to talk with and so did she. My mother did not have to constantly provide entertainment since that was the tour guide’s job. We both had stimulating conversations with other travellers. Going on a cruise provides family time and interactions. It also provides kids’ and teens’ clubs where only children meet others while mom or dad have some adult time with other passengers. I enjoyed going to camp for a week or so every summer and mainly being with other youngsters.
As an only child, I got two sets of birthday and Christmas gifts. What helped prevent greed or a sense of entitlement was my mother having me donate goods to charity. We also volunteered, which allows a child to give back to society and not be so focused on herself. I also met kids in an orphanage who had no parents which put my problems into perspective. If an only child gets some duplicate presents, talk about where they would like to donate the extra ones.
Having a pet is an ideal way for an only child to spill deep, dark secrets to a friend who is full of unconditional love. Parents can get caught up in their own divorce turmoil and may not have the time or energy to devote a lot of attention to their offspring. An animal companion dotes on a kid and is a great recipient for confidences. A friendly orange cat got my younger son through divorce and beyond and my older son was attached to his fish; some girls had a favorite horse which helped them get through turbulent times.
When there is an only child in divorce, a parent may have to step in as a temporary playmate with board games, or as an extra for a tea party. It is okay to do parallel activities side-by-side. Your son is playing his video game and you are reading a magazine article. It is a fine balance between giving an only kid plenty of attention and hovering to try and make up for their situation.
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