Dealing with Loneliness in an Only Child

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" (Proverbs 27:17).

One of the most frequently asked questions from homeschool skeptics is "What about your child's socialization?" For families blessed with just a single child, this question seemingly becomes even more pointed. In this month's "What's on Your Mind," Alpha Omega Publications offers parents helpful ideas to successfully keep an only child from becoming lonely.

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Q: How do you keep an only child from being lonely when there are no homeschooling co-ops nearby or children in the neighborhood the same age?
- Bobbi R., Florida

A: If a homeschooled child has no siblings, it's natural for him to feel isolated. However, as a parent, there are many things you can do to deal with feelings of loneliness in an only child.

• Ask a few questions to yourself and your child. Is your child truly lonely? Has someone else convinced him that he needs to be around other children to be happy? Does he think he's missing out on something?

• Teach your child to entertain himself by playing on his own after a full day of homeschooling

• Practice the seven don'ts of parenting an only child:

    1. Don't overindulge
    2. Don't overprotect
    3. Don't fail to discipline
    4. Don't overcompensate
    5. Don't seek perfection
    6. Don't treat your child like an adult
    7. Don't overpraise
• Pray for godly companions

• Join organizations like 4-H clubs, scouts, and church groups

• Schedule regular outings to the city park

• Attend church regularly and invite families with children for Sunday lunch

• Get together once a month with several mothers with children your child's age

• Start a game night at your home with other children

• Encourage a teen to find a part-time job

• Visit the public library for story time

• Join a recreational sports league in your community

• Plan a special event for homeschool families in your area

• Take advantage of programs in the community (community theatre, chess competitions, etc.)

• Serve others by volunteering to help with yard work or baking for elderly neighbors

Remember, your child's friends don't necessarily have to be in his own age group. He can play with younger children in the neighborhood or connect with elderly seniors living nearby. Like the balance you provide with one-on-one tutoring and independent studying opportunities while teaching, balance your child's interests between childhood and adult activities. In the end, your attitude toward the situation and how much you get your child out to do things will eliminate any loneliness he might experience while homeschooling.

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SHELLEY M 11/05/2009 06:49:11

I am so grateful for this article! We are homeschooling our only child, a 5-year-old boy, and the biggest internal struggle we face is: \"Is he lonely, or are we projecting loneliness onto him?\" We are very active in the church we attend, and I have also taken the initiative to arrange regular field trips with two other homeschooling moms (one of them has a son too, our son\'s age). I do find myself being overprotective sometimes, I must admit; but I am working on that, and trying to encourage him to explore a great deal on his own (within reason, of course!). It\'s good to have all these suggestions, so we can have some even more enriching ideas to stay involved and connected to the world around us. We\'ll keep on keeping on! ^_^

BARBARA B 11/05/2009 11:20:43

We live in a rural area, and I, too, have concerns about being isolated and lonely, and (gasp!) unsocialized. A couple of years ago, we decided to try socializing with other homeschooling families in our neighborhood, with hopes of possibly creating a co-op or just making friends, if nothing else. We quickly discovered that the homeschooling families near us all belonged to the same Baptist church. They constantly badgered us about going to church with them. When we declined their invitations to attend their church\'s services and functions, these same families began verbally judging us, saying we \'obviously\' weren\'t Christians because we didn\'t go to (their) church, and spreading false rumors about us to other families in our community. It\'s apparently human nature to accept stories on face value, because all their gossiping managed to work, as far as alienating us from the neighborhood. Total does the verse read...\"Judge not, lest ye be judged by others.\" The whole experience of trying to make friends and be good neighbors left a really bad taste in our mouths about (supposedly) Christian families. I know there are good Christian people somewhere out there, but unfortunately, my family\'s experience with meeting like-minded people ended with disastrous results that I don\'t care to repeat any time soon. For the time being, we are better off keeping to ourselves, even if it makes us \"unsociable\".

LEANNE H 11/06/2009 19:38:44

I\'ve been homeschooling my only son, who is now 14 and in 9th grade, since he was in first grade. I think the biggest contributing factor to his not having too many bouts with loneliness is that his Dad and I have made the extra effort (and it does take that for us grown-ups) to learn how to play the video games he so enjoys. I HIGHLY recommend that we parents take the time to learn to play, or be involved, in whatever our kids enjoy doing. It is exceedingly important when that child is an \'only\'. I can\'t tell you (but I\'ll attempt to) how much it has paid off for both my husband and I, and our son. We have a BLAST playing with him (after getting over the initial; \"I-don\'t-want-to-have-to-learn-anything-new\" reaction). We find ourselves being the ones begging him to play with us! And our respective relationships with our son are quite close and very rewarding. So, whatever your child is interested in; be interested in it with him/her. Forget about what you would rather be doing for an hour or two. It\'s so worth it. They are worth it. We have got to be selfless in our only-child rearing efforts.

MELANIE E 11/07/2009 23:51:27

To the lady Barbara B--I feel ya. A similar thing happened to us only I feel like I have three \"onlys\" . There is some family out there for me and I am not giving up. Satan is out to divide unity.

BARBARA B 01/04/2010 20:58:33

Thank you Melanie...I am sorry you had a similar experience, but at the same time, I am comforted to know it wasn\'t \'just me\'. You are so right--there\'s folks out there for us, and we will find them when the time is right for it to happen. Thanks for speaking up, and best of luck to you in your homeschooling endeavors. Have a magnificent new year!

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