Does your only child constantly long for a sibling? There could be deeper underlying issues you need to address. Read on to understand.
"I was an only child. I did have kind of like a lonely existence," said the popular actor Robin Williams. True - being a single child can certainly bring in a feeling of isolation. It can be, at times, depressing too. And, in the case of teens, this feeling can get worse, as the adolescent mind finds it hard to manage the rapid transformations happening physically and mentally. So, how can parents help teens in beating these woes? Let's take a closer look at this issue to find solutions.
Let's begin with some scientific reasoning. First of all, we need to understand that the brain undergoes several changes during the teenage years. Therefore, a teenager has a lot of difficulty in reasoning out and solving problems. He might strongly feel that he is lonely and long for a sibling's love and affection. This suggests that there is a lot of rumination within the emotional area. It points to the fact that teens rely more on inputs from the amygdala, whereas adults use the frontal cortex.
Another problem is that, some parents keep minimising the whole issue by saying, "It is better you don't have a sibling, because you don't have to share anything." When parents start doing this, they are not offering a solution to the problem.
The key issue is not that the teenager doesn't have a brother or a sister, but that he feels lonely. He probably feels that the loneliness can somehow be overcome by having a sibling. His plight might even be intensified on seeing siblings around him, who stand up for each other. This usually results in the lack of social skills and the inability to solve problems on his own. He expects a sibling in the form of a knight in shining armour to stand up for him.
We need to clearly understand that though a teenager appears to have many surface level issues, at the deeper level there are two core issues -lack of problem-solving skills and difficulty in emotional regulation. With such deep-lying issues, looking for an external solution will not work. The longing for a sibling is only a surface level expression. Children, especially teens, will never express anything directly. They will never say, "Look here, I'm lonely. Help me."
Remember, adolescence is more difficult for your teen than for you. He is going through a host of psychological and biological changes. It's like an atom bomb exploding inside his head. So, you need to take the utmost care in dealing with his problem. Here are some tips:
Every behavioural problem is only an unmet psychological need. In this case, the parent needs to address the psychological needof the teenager and not just say, "Hey listen we can't have children; we have already got ourselves sterilised." You cannot reason out with your teen. It will not work with an adolescent brain.
So, having a clear understanding of your teenager's feelings, and responding to it with total concern and compassion is the only way you can help him beat his woes. Do this and let your child enjoy his teenage years blissfully, without worrying about being a single child.
Based on inputs from Aarti C Rajaratnam, a psychologist specialising in childhood and adolescent mental health, best-selling author and an innovative education design consultant.
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