What I want the teachers of my only child to know...
I am a teacher.
I have an only child. Barring a medical miracle, my only will be my only.
I am part of a community called One and Done, Not by Choice: OADNBC. It's not a community people want to be in, but we do have great empathy for each other.
I've come across many parents in my community who often have weird interactions with their child's teacher so I thought it is time to get these things out in the open.
1) Having an only child is not "easy."
All families have different challenges. Having one child means my husband or I are frequently on call to be our child's playmate. When I need a break and can't play with him the Mum guilt is strong. Having an only child comes with a range of unproven stereotypes which leads to my next point.
2) No, only children are not ALL spoiled or selfish or rude (or .....)
We spend a lot of time with our son laughing, playing, reading books and visiting places as well as having him help with tasks, modelling sharing and talking kindly with others. Studies have found that only children are well adjusted and achieve well academically nonetheless, comments from others are constantly around us asking us questions that we already wrestle with such as, "Aren't you worried he won't be able to share?" A child's ability to share, be kind or caring with others has more to do with parenting generally than it does to do with their status as an only child.
3) Parents of only children may have wanted other children but can't.
Some families choose to have one child and some don't. I can't speak for those families that choose to have one child because my circumstance is different, but frankly if that is someone's choice to have one child that is none of my business. Yay for them for making a decision that works for their family!
There does though seem to be an assumption by many that because a person has one child they can have another, or should have another, because you know other people's fertility is something we should involve ourselves with (!)
Due to a variety of factors including, but not limited to, Secondary Infertility, multiple miscarriages, birth injuries, finances, and changes in family circumstances some families can only have one child. Comments from teachers, family members or associates about when another child is going to be born can be particularly painful, especially as the grief for many OADNBC families is often very near the surface.
Here are some things that can help children who are onlies in your class:
1) Consider having books in your library that have an only child as a protagonist.
2) Think about those "All About Me" activities at the start of the year, do they really need to ask how many siblings a child has or ask what a child does with their siblings?
3) Many onlies, like firstborns, have natural leadership and/or creativity skills. Capitalise on this experience in the classroom.
4) Parents of all children, including parents of onlies love hearing positive things about their children especially things that their child is meant to be "bad" at because they are an only. Share with the family about times their child is kind, helpful, thoughtful ...... they mean the world!
5) We are aware of the conversations educators have where they explain away behaviour as "well they ARE an only!" We notice that you don't seem to mention another child's behaviour as being down to them being the fourth of fifth children though. This implicit bias is one we are only too aware of.