Parenting an Only Child During a Pandemic

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Since school closures in March, my five-year-old daughter and I have been staying home. Although the stay home order was lifted a few months ago in Arizona, we are taking a more cautious approach and tiptoeing back into the world. My daughter’s regular avenues for social connections included school, ballet, swimming lessons, playdates, and hours spent on various playgrounds. Due to Covid-19, all her in-person activities are on hold indefinitely. In other words, my daughter went from spending her days surrounded by children to spending her entire time with me. In addition to being her mother, I am now her teacher (we are homeschooling) and her playmate.

I intended to be “one and done.” However, I never intended for my daughter to be socially distanced from other children her age for extended periods of time.

In case you are in the same situation and have a young only child, here are five tips to ensure that your child keeps thriving during this unprecedented time.

1. Grieve

Allow your child to grieve canceled plans. Many of us had to change or modify our plans this year. For us, this meant canceling our entire summer travel plans and be separated from family members. No matter what your plans were, allow your child to grieve canceled birthday parties, playdates, time away from loved ones, vacations, etc. Acknowledge their disappointment but make sure that they do not dwell in it.

2. Stay Connected

Ensure that your child can keep in touch with family members and friends. Thankfully, technology now allows us to see people through a screen. Children might surprise you with their abilities to play together during a video call. Reassure your child that this is temporary and that they will reconnect physically with their friends and family members when it is safe.

3. Play

Playing for hours with your child can be tricky because many parents are juggling work and household responsibilities. Setting time aside to play without interruptions is essential to nurture that deep bond between you and your only child.

Many parents of only children are now their child’s only playmate, and it can be challenging.

In our household, I ask my daughter to pick her favorite activity or game for us to do together once we are done homeschooling for the day. When my husband is home, we often play family board games or take turns playing with our daughter. Playtime is a big part of our daily routine.

4. Little Helper

Depending on your child’s age and maturity, give them appropriate jobs to do by themselves or do them together. For us, this includes all the daily chores such as cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. Only children are eager to help, and they might develop skills that will help them be more independent in life and even a little bit more mature.

5. Be Grateful

I indicated previously the importance of allowing your child to grieve what they are missing out on. However, ensure that your child cultivates gratitude too. There are many ways to improve appreciation and various studies have been published on its positive impact on people’s mental health. An article from Havard’s Healthbeat summarizes well some studies conducted on the subject. In addition, the article outlines ways to incorporate gratitude into your child’s life. Depending on your child’s emotional maturity, you can, for example, write a thank-you note, thank someone mentally, keep a gratitude journal, count your blessings, pray, and meditate. You can also develop your own way to practice gratitude with your child.

Final Thoughts

My goal was to outline a few tips that work for us with a young outgoing only child. I feel very fortunate to have the option to be able to stay with my daughter. She is dealing with this pandemic very gracefully, and I am very proud of how easy it was for her to adapt to her new life.

Adults could learn a thing or two from children because they have this effortless resilience and adaptability.

I am still in awe at my child’s ability to find adventure in our backyard and to have fun out of nothing at all. Everybody’s family dynamics are different; thus, I encourage you to share in the comment section what you have been doing to ensure that your only child is thriving in 2020.

2 COMMENTS

  1. These are really helpful! Also parenting an only child (4 years old) while working from home! It’s all so challenging.

    • At this age, they require constant attention. It isn’t easy for sure. One day we will learn more about the effect of social isolation on only children. In my opinion, young ones will easily bounce back without any issues. However, I am not sure how tweens and teenagers are coping with all of this.

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