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Should we have another child so our first isn’t lonely?
Q: My husband and I are trying to decide whether we should have another child. Our daughter is 3 and we are both 40. We were planning that she'd be an "only” but have been feeling tremendous guilt that she will be lonely. She goes to daycare and has many friends, but we still feel like we're doing her a disservice by not having (or adopting) another.
A: Parents are not necessarily doing a disservice to an existing child by not having any more children. And no matter how child-centreed parents are, that decision should not be based solely on how the existing child might react. After all, the current child in the family is not the only one affected by this decision. From a child’s standpoint, a loving one-child family is something of a heaven on earth. Though few of us with siblings would admit it, we probably have fantasized about being an only child. After all, brothers and sisters consume family resources, get love and attention we might want for ourselves, initiate arguments and quarrels, etc. Granted, they also bring many delights, but sibling relations are rarely like those depicted on “The Brady Bunch.”

Singletons can and generally do just fine. They tend to be slightly advanced in language development and problem-solving ability, no doubt in part because they get more adult attention than children occupying any other position in the family line-up. Certainly they need exposure to other children and opportunities to develop social skills. And, typically they have more difficulty sharing and taking turns, presumably because they have not had to do that at home. But experiences in quality childcare and in the neighborhood can help combat that problem. So I wouldn’t worry too much about your daughter.

Key players in this decision are you and your husband. Did you decide to have only one child because you are genuinely worried about the real possibility that the world is becoming overpopulated? If you have another child, will you feel guilty on this score? And how about your emotions? Are you able to spread your love and attention over more than one child, or does the one you have use up most of your emotional energy? And how do you anticipate you will react to the “empty nest syndrome” down the road? With only one child, the nest empties earlier than it does when there are more children. Be honest with yourselves and explore whether that is something you look forward to or a prospect that fills you with fear and dread. When you consider these and other issues I might not have mentioned, you will have the answer to your question.