So, when your little one, aged between three and six, asks out of the blue for a sibling, it can come as a shock.
“It can be incredibly disconcerting, especially if you’re feeling sensitive, vulnerable or guilty because you can’t or won’t have another baby,” says Laura Haugh, mum-in-residence at MummyPages.ie.
Finding out what’s behind the desire for a sibling can help relax things, says Haugh, who believes this is often just a phase.
“Desire for a sibling might be nothing more than wanting to be like their friends. The child might comment a lot on how their friends have siblings or they might tell lies about their family make-up.”
Haugh’s young daughter, Lucy — who has a brother — recently fibbed about her mum being pregnant.
“She wants me to have a baby girl so she can mother it. It’s a phase because she’s enjoying playing with her dolls at the moment.”
A child’s wish for a sibling might also signify loneliness, a need for companionship. Haugh recommends asking the child: ‘How can we ensure you have lots of fun at weekends and after school?’
Perhaps she can meet up with cousins or a play-date can be arranged or you can get to know neighbours with children her age. Mum and Dad may also need to spend more time doing things with her.
Haugh doesn’t advocate explaining your reasons for not having another child — your little one will most likely want a sibling even more. Instead, she recommends framing a positive statement: “Families come in all sizes — and this is our family”.
It’s best to avoid the word ‘only’ when describing your child/family make-up, instead describing yours as a one-child family. “The word ‘only’ suggests ‘not enough’. And it sounds like ‘lonely’ so the child might perceive only as lonely.”
Ask your child what kind of sibling he’s wishing for— older or younger, brother or sister. Let him know the reality — parents can’t dictate a specific gender and even if he were to have a sibling it wouldn’t be instant.
“Let your child know by the time the sibling comes along, he’ll be outside cycling his bike and the brother/sister will be inside learning to crawl.”
Haugh also suggests highlighting the benefits of being in a one-child family— spending more time with parents, having their own bedroom and being able to do lots more hobbies as there is more money and time.
* Distract your child – desire for a sibling is usually just a phase.
* Establish why they want a sibling — is it that they’re lonely? Create opportunities for play and company.
* Tell them the reality — siblings don’t arrive instantly and you can’t choose the gender.
* Outline the positives of being in a one-child family.