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Parenting an Only Child:
The Joys and Challenges of Raising Your One and Only

by Susan Newman, Ph. D.

I am an only child. Most likely, my daughter will be an only child. While choosing to have an only child seems to be gaining more acceptance, the prevalent view remains: one child is not enough. They'll be all alone when Mom and Dad are gone. They'll miss out on having those special sibling relationships. They'll grow up spoiled, never wanting for anything or learning to share. If you are an only child or are raising one, you've likely heard these comments or even uttered them to yourself. So what do you do if, in your heart, you feel that having an only child is the right thing for your family?

Parenting an Only Child is a wonderfully reassuring book for people raising only children or contemplating having just one child. It provides both support and practical, readily applicable advice to make the most of raising an only. I jumped at the chance to review this book, as I wanted to read it from the perspective of someone who is an only child as well as someone who is choosing to raise an only child.

Dr. Newman's book is divided into three parts: Considering the Only Child; Parenting an Only Child; and, Making the Right Decision. The book is filled with personal quotes and anecdotes collected by Dr. Newman during the course of her study of single-child families since the 1980's. She explores such ideas as the myths surrounding only children (only children are shy; only children are antisocial; and my personal favorite - only children are four-eyed intellectuals and eccentric child prodigies); the pros and cons of an only child being center stage; the pressure from others to have more than one child; and the warning sins of placing too much pressure on your only child.

I particularly enjoyed the section on dealing with things parents of only children might hear from well-meaning friends and relatives. The book goes into a good discussion about such lines as, "You'd better have another one soon," "He needs a brother or sister," "Give him a playmate," and "Two are as easy and almost as cheap as one." And what will your harshest critics say? "What kind of parents are you to deprive your child of a sibling?" Dr. Newman's take on the question?

"A shocking 65 percent of college students reported they were on the receiving end of severe sibling abuse such as kicking, biting, being hit with a fist, or being choked. The residual effects of childhood sibling actions spill over into adulthood and negatively impact adults' feelings of well-being, often in the form of lower self-image."

Does this mean that all sibling relationships will result in these negative feelings that carry into adulthood? Of course not. But does having a sibling guarantee an ideal relationship that is full of love and care? No, it doesn't. And so parents must look within and listen to their hearts when it comes to deciding how many children are going to be just right for their family.

What I like about Parenting an Only Child is that it gives plenty of positive food for thought for people considering, or already raising, an only child. Dr. Newman, herself the mother of an only child, provides compelling stories and research to back up the notion that having an only child - and being an only child - can be very satisfying and normal experiences.

Book review by Jennifer Thompson

To Purchase:
   • Parenting an Only Child at Amazon.com
   • Parenting an Only Child at Amazon UK
   • Parenting an Only Child at Amazon Canada

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