My 12 year-old only child wants a sibling, but I am not able to have any more children. How can I help her be happier?

Brenda - posted on 01/28/2014 ( 2 moms have responded )

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She seems very depressed. She asks me constantly for a sibling. She worries about losing her dad and me and being all alone. Will she outgrow this? Can I make her happier? She has first cousins nearby, but they are in their 20's. She has closer in age cousins, but they 2000 miles away.

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Brenda - posted on 01/29/2014

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Thanks so much for taking the time to reply and thanks so much for your great advice. She is going through a rough year because she changed schools. I will try to keep contact going with her cousins. You're right, 10 years age difference won't matter as much later in life.

Rebekah - posted on 01/29/2014

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I have an only child too. I'm sure it is very normal for them to want a sibling for various reasons. Your daughter's concerns are probably typical for all kids at one point or another (being suddenly aware of and worrying about parents' mortality), but just watch to be sure that she isn't experiencing anxiety that seems above and beyond that of the average kid. Is she worried about losing you both NOW, or is she thinking ahead to later in the life span? How much of this issue is about wanting a sibling, versus a basic fear of losing her parents? What degree is her apparent depression? Is it to the point where she may benefit from supportive counseling? It may help her to learn some skills for coping with anxious thoughts or grief (has she lost someone else recently that stirred this up?).

About the no-sibling issue...
Continue to facilitate relationships with her cousins, both near and far. 10 years difference in age might seem like a lot now, but it won't later when they are all adults and dealing with aging parent issues later in life. For the ones that are far away, can they connect with email or skype? Do they ever have a chance to visit each other? Its still worth building these long-distance relationships, because it may be a foundation to return to when they are older and more mobile. My sister's two kids are like my son's "surrogate" siblings, so I do really value those relationships for him.

The other thing that I tell my son is that "friends are the family you choose." Just because you have siblings doesn't guarantee that you'll be close or get along. Ideally yes, but it doesn't always go that smoothly. But with friends, you pick who you want to spend time with and build that social support there. You hear many times that people describe friends as being "like a sister/brother." She can build those relationships now and through the rest of her life so that she never has to be "alone." Plus, if she's worried about coping with your elder years, chances are good that at that point, she'll have a significant other and whole new family of her own to share in the ups and downs of life. Plus, she can choose to have many children of her own! (In which case, maybe she'll be wanting a little "alone time"...) :)

One more thing... being connected to other groups/communities also helps keep away that sense of isolation. Examples... being part of a youth group at church or involved at church, being part of a sports team, or scouts, or some other group where they can also experience that feeling of cohesiveness and connectedness. Very important both now, and as an adult.

Keep an eye on how she's doing and listen carefully to see if there are other things underlying all this. Good luck.

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