As a parent of an only child, you have a special responsibility. While some people believe it is easier to focus all of their parenting energy on just one child, that is not necessarily true, and this can become quite apparent when you decide to separate or divorce.
While all children tend to experience some sort of difficulty when their parents split up, an only child might face specific challenges, and this also applies to the parents of an only child. The bond between an only child and their parents is exclusive, which is why anything that has the potential to sever that connection can appear downright frightening to a child. An only child may be left feeling as if they have to care for both parents but cannot rely on them as they once did, and without siblings to talk to, the only child may not have an immediate outlet to share their feelings.
As you face divorce with an only child, you can use some strategies to help your child move forward.
Tell Your Child About the Divorce Together
With your child’s age as your guide, talk to them about the changes that will happen with your co-parent as a group. Of course, this is not going to be an easy conversation, but having all three of you present will help your child feel more secure in what’s happening. Make it clear that you, your child and your co-parent are still a team even though you won’t all be living together anymore.
Encourage Your Child to See Friends
With no siblings around, an only child may struggle to express feelings at home fully. A child’s friends can provide a support system of sorts that is only seen with people who are not their parents and are around their age. Allow your child to see their friends at your home and elsewhere, as it may provide your child with relief to enjoy time with friends in other environments.
Talk to Other Adults in Your Child’s Life
It can be tough to talk to people outside the immediate family about the end of your marriage or relationship, but when you tell other important adults in your child’s life what is going on, they will be better able to handle any unusual behavior your child exhibits. Consider speaking to your child’s counselors, coaches, teachers, the parents of their friends and other adults who spend time regularly with your child. While they don’t need all the details of what is happening, when you inform these key figures in your child’s life, you are helping to create a support system for your child wherever they are.
Keep It Positive
This is a tough time for you and your child, but you will need to provide your child with as much support and love as you can. Your child will only feel more burdened if you are leaning on them too much. Stay positive when you are with your child, and stay strong. Don’t speak poorly of the other parent. For your support, speak to close friends and family members whom you trust. Consider reaching out to a professional, such as a therapist or counselor, if you feel you may need additional support.
Divorce is never an easy thing for a family, and families with an only child may have to handle challenges that are unique to that situation. By being aware of these specific situations your family may encounter and keeping strategies in mind to help your family move forward in a positive way, you will lay the groundwork for healthy relationships after the divorce or separation process is completed.