Only Children: Why "Only" Isn't Lonely

One Singular Sensation: The Pros

One of the most obvious perks of having one child is the one-on-one focus you can give him. There's plenty of time to teach social graces, impart the values you hold dear, and drive to your child's myriad activities.

"I enjoy lavishing my daughter with attention, without feeling like I'm being pulled in other directions," says Marla Paul of Northfield, Illinois, whose daughter is now 15.

Only children benefit from their parents' undivided attention and emotional support in several ways, say experts. They instill high self-esteem, foster maturity, and enable a child to develop a strong identity.

"Onlies typically have strong personalities and know who they are because their needs aren't overlooked, and they don't compete for attention," explains Erika Karres, author of Make Your Kids Smarter (Andrews McMeel, 2001) and an educational consultant who practices out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

What about the reality that only children tend to spend so much time alone? Turns out, it's also an advantage.

"Onlies are often creative and focused because they need to learn to entertain themselves. They'll build that cathedral out of blocks," Karres says. Beth Blumberg of Dresher, Pennsylvania, is pleased that her 8-year-old son can play with toys or draw for hours. "Aaron is very self-sufficient, and he's never bored," she says.

Another benefit to both parent and child: The financial pressure is eased, so you can offer more extracurricular activities, travel, and educational opportunities. "If we had another child or two, our spending would be much more limited," says Paul. "It's not that Elizabeth has limitless possessions, but she takes guitar and tennis lessons, and she wants to start studying voice. I'm glad I don't have to say, 'No, we can't afford that.'"

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