Hudson Valley Parent

HVP - April 2014

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26 Hudson Valley Parent n April 2014 peers with siblings. In another study, Downey found that only children have an academic edge over their peers with siblings. He collected data from 24,599 and eighth-graders and found having more siblings lowers academic suc- cess. As family size increases, each child receives less parental attention and fewer educational resources. And adult only children fare just fine, according to California State University assistant professor at Heidi Riggio. She found that adult singletons make friends just as easily and display similar social traits as adults who grew up with siblings. According to Jeffrey Kluger, au- thor of "The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us," only children have some key advantages over children with siblings. "Only children tend to wind up with better vocabulary and a more sophisticated sense of humor, simply because they grow up in a house outnumbered by parents," he says. Skill-building for singletons Though only children enjoy some ONLY CHILD (Continued from Page 24) advantages, Downey's research shows that young only children lag slightly in some areas of social devel- opment, though the gap disappears later on. Only children have fewer opportunities to key social skills like negotiation and sharing, simply because they aren't living with other children. According to child and adolescent therapist Dr. Kyle Good, conflict is the key to social learning for only children. "Parents often shy away from conflict and want to avoid it," says Good. "But conflict can be a valuable teaching tool." But parents can create learn- ing opportunities by allowing only children to observe parents resolving minor conflicts. Singletons can gain some of the skills children learn from having siblings — including negotiation and joint problem-solving — by develop- ing close relationships with friends and cousins. Childcare can also serve to boost socialization; "Only children can get a great deal of socialization through daycare, because they'll be interacting closely with the same children for many hours a day," says Kluger. Regardless of family size, family play is highly beneficial, says Good. The parent-guided interactions that take place during family play help children develop behavioral regula- tion and emotional understanding. One and only When deciding how many chil- dren to have, today's parents have a lot to ponder, says Newman. "No one can decide what the right family size for you except you and your partner," she says. "The biggest in- fluence on how your kids turn out is your parenting, not how many kids you have." It's a message Austin appreciates. She grew up with two brothers, and remembers feeling left out and excluded at times. Though she never wanted to be an only child, she can see herself raising one. Grace is hap- py and growing up well, she says: "That's what matters." Malia Jacobson is a nationally published health and parenting jour- nalist and mom of three. Raising successful singletons • Encourage healthy conflict resolution: Don't shy away from family conflicts. Instead, use them as a springboard for lessons in negotiation, emotional understanding, and self-control. Only children can benefit from observing parents as they resolve minor conflicts. • Promote extended-family re- lationships: Only children can gain a deeper sense of identity and gain valuable social skills through interactions with extended family members of all ages. • Play as a family: Parent-guided interactions that occur during family play allows only children to develop empathy, social understanding, and behavioral regulation.

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