responsibility

Some recent emails describing the only-child expereince

Bernice: Here are two emails from different parts of the world, both have families and are happy but have had challenges as only-children. A Female only: I am profoundly deaf, age 45 and loving partner with 2 teenagers and a baby. I live in Essex, my father passed away 12 years ago and my mum live in Warwickshire. I’m an only child which I do hate be an only child and often find lonely. It’s took me long time to realise what kind of my mum is and I think my mum might be a Narcissistic because for example my mum and her sister are looking after my grandmother whose have dementia. This week my aunt is away in holiday so I asked mum can she come over to see me because mum haven’t meet my 3 months old daughter yet. So mum said mum is unwell with ear pain, long term sinus and piles which she claimed the nurse [...]

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An email from a partner of an only

I think it is always useful to receive emails from non-onlies who have partners who are onlies as it gives us an outsider perspective. This email, from “June”, shows some of the difficulties I have outlined in my series of posts entitled: Are only child adults difficult partners?  some of the aspects that can arise in relationships. In this email the balance of attention and power in partner relationships versus  parent ones are discussed and I would love to hear some view points from people in a similar position. Bernice  I am the partner of an only child who has a very close relationship with his mother. She is divorced from his father and lives alone in another country. He moved away to live with his father (due to better schooling opportunities/ a scholarship) when he was 13 and I think he has felt guilty about this ever since. His mother re-married [...]

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Do parents of only children tend to be more passive-aggressive and/or narcissistic?

I thought this was an interesting question put to me in the following email: “Is passive-aggressive and narcissistic behaviour usually common among parents of onlies? Because my parents have been that way all through my marriage, and since I’ve stood up to them they’ve been worse, almost to the point of manipulation. I find myself angry a lot because they just won’t be adults and have the emotional maturity to recognize things could be a lot better. I find myself wondering what I should be thinking and doing- I have trouble thinking for myself, and question if I’m right. It’s tough. Any help or advice would be great.” Tom I considered that it might be useful to respond to these questions. However I would also like to open it to others to give their experience.I suppose my first reaction is no I don’t think this statement “Do parents of only [...]

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Bernice responds to “Parent or Spouse” concerning enmeshment and guilt

Dear C,   Thank you for your email, it raises a lot of issues which I will attempt to answer. The four main issues I see are:  Enmeshment, Guilt, Conflict, Anger. However all of the last three are linked specifically to enmeshment so I will look at this first. From your email I think the biggest problem you face is the fact that neither you nor your mother have been able to form an identity separate from each other. This is always more difficult when a ‘family’ consists of only two members. Even in a so called average family of two parents and 2-3 children this can be difficult especially when a parent has not separated emotionally from their own parent or seeks their identity through merging with their child or children. I have written about what I describe as enmeshment between an only child and one or more of [...]

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All By Yourself?

Bernice: I was very pleased to receive this email after my last post – it made me smile and I hope it will do the same for you! S: “Reading all these only child observations, makes me laugh… I was an only child growing up in the 60′s and 70′s. Between Dr. Spock’s book and a community of many multiple children families, it wasn’t easy for me. There is glaring envy/ jealousy from children that come from large families and who perceive onlies as “having it all’. We had a large extended family so I NEVER realized I was an only until I went to school. As years went on, I have always found children of large families to be cruel to each other. They never appreciate their siblings as someone you will have the rest of your life. As adults, most have no contact with the cruel siblings for [...]

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How can you support your daughter as an only child?

Hi Bernice I am the mother of a teenage (14 year old) only daughter. Her father and I have always encouraged her to be independent and courageous. She is talented at sports, excels at her school work and is respected by her peers and teachers. Despite all this, she has few close friends and often seems lonely. She is more serious and mature than many of her peers and she is not afraid to speak her mind – which often alienates her from others. She does not ‘suffer fools gladly’. I am starting to feel guilty for her being an only child as she seems unable to form close bonds with others. I don’t know what to do or how to support her in this. Any advice? Bernice replies: My first response is please do not feel guilty there are a lot worse experiences than being an only child! Clearly [...]

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Why do we expect the world to be fair?

One of the challenges most of us face growing up as an only child, is that we learn to see the world through adult eyes which can led us to expect a level of interaction that puts us at the centre of the life going on around us. At the same time we often have a very ‘positive’ expectation of other peoples’ behaviour. This is not really surprising. Most only children have mature and reasonably responsible parent/s to guide them throughout their early years who do have their best interests at heart. As I have described before, a birth of a sibling gives the opportunity for a child to be ‘dethroned’- that is to have the centrality of our existence in our parent/s eyes taken away with the birth of a sibling. We are no longer the only child in the family, we are now in fact the eldest child [...]

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Only-Child Research: the therapist as only-child

Over the last ten years, of my own only-child adult research, I have also encouraged other people with theirs. Here is a piece of research Carla Preston is undertaking for her Psychotherapy MA. It is particularly specific to people in the profession of counselling and psychotherapy, so I hope anyone in that position will feel able to take part in this useful research so that we can continue to expand the knowledge of the only child experience. Bernice Research Question Being Everything:  An exploration into the relational impact on the therapy when a therapist is an only-child.   Carla Preston I am a Humanistic counsellor studying for my Masters in Integrative Psychotherapy and I am in the process of starting to write my thesis about the experience of therapists who are only-children.  My interest stems from my own work in therapy and discussion about my relating patterns which might be a result of my upbringing as an only child. As a child I felt and still as an [...]

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My Sixteen Tips for parents’ of an only child

I receive a lot of emails from parents who have only one child and feel they are being pressurised into having more. They are often labeled selfish and are made to feel they are doing a terrible thing. Bringing up a child, with or without siblings, is a challenging experience, and we can get it right or wrong either way. Having more children does not guarantee happiness for anyone. Having an only child has its own challenges both for parents’ and the child itself. Ultimately I think it’s best to have the number of children that suits your family. One, or more than one, which ever is best for you. The problems only children can experience being an only one can easily be counteracted, by ensuring that they are not over-protected and are given lots of opportunities to interact with other children. I would never encourage any one to have [...]

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Only-child Challenges and How Counsellors Can Help. ©

The Journal of Counselling Children and Adolescence: October 2006 by Dr Bernice Sorensen An only-child’s experience of growing up without siblings may mean that they are unprepared for many of the emotional and social demands of formal education. Even as young adults, an only-child can find the tension between their need for separateness and togetherness difficult to negotiate. Counsellors can offer a great deal to these young people when sensitive to some of the challenges they face. A recent article in the TES (1) reported that most teachers did not think only-children had special problems. However, a new project was set up to train ‘listeners’, in the Durham area found that 50% of the first referrals were only-children. My own experience of only-children is three-fold. First as an only-child, I am well aware of the challenges I met interacting with others and negotiating both friendships and intimate relationships as a [...]

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