4 Tips for Parenting an Only Child During Quarantine

Updated: May 14, 2020
Parents of only children face unique challenges during stay-at-home orders. One mom offers her tips and advice on how she keeps her only child social and engaged during quarantine.
4 tips for quarantining with an only child

My daughter is bubbly and extroverted...and she has no siblings. As an only child who thrives on social interactions with her peers, it has been difficult to meet her social needs while sheltering in place. FaceTime and Zoom calls and online classes don’t do much for her either—she explained to me that she doesn’t like these things because she wants to “be with the real person.” 

More: 4 Rules It's Okay to Break During the Coronavirus Pandemic

When she told me this, I completely understood what she meant, but I knew I couldn’t do anything about it. She just can’t be with the real person for a while. But I did find a few ways to fulfill her while we practice social distancing. Here our top tips for parents sheltering in place with an only child.

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Tapping Into Our Inner-Children

My daughter may not have any other children to play with right now, but she does have two people with whom she can “be with the real person” - my husband  and me.

The two of us have made an effort to be playful and interactive with our little girl. When she wants us to pretend to be Jack and Annie from the Magic Treehouse series and climb into her playhouse, we make an effort to join the game and make it fun.

Mama's Little Helper

Playing with your child doesn’t sound like the hardest thing in the world, until you factor in the real-life responsibilities of working from home and running the household. Then suddenly, things become a little more complicated.

Instead of shooing my child away to go play in her room (which I still do sometimes and that’s OK!), I try to find ways to involve her in what I need to get done. Whether it’s pouring and mixing for me while I bake muffins, loading the washer, setting the table, I figure out how she can participate. (Hint: Check out 8 Life Skills You Can Teach Your Kids At Home During Quarantine.) I can’t let her play with her friends, and this isn’t what they would be doing if I could, but I am meeting her need for social interaction by doing something together with her.

Parallel Projects

Coming up with ways for my daughter to connect with me while I complete my daily chores has been doable, but attempting the same when I need to work from home as a journalist and editor has not been as simple. I work best when I am fully immersed in my writing, and having a Chatty Cathy there with me has really cramped by style.

The best solution has been setting her up with a project like water colors or play dough right by me at the table. I have had to invest some time and energy into teaching her not to talk to me constantly, and there are times when I just need to save my work until she’s asleep, or let her spend some time in her room. It’s not perfect, but it does help to have her working on her own thing, while still with me.

Zoom Time Together

After my daughter’s favorite extracurriculars, gymnastics and ballet, were canceled, the classes resumed via Zoom. We also used Zoom and FaceTime to catch up with friends and family, but it only seemed to frustrate our little social butterfly more. She really craved real-life connection.

I learned not to push virtual interactions, but I still offer her the opportunity to join me on my own face calls. Being with me or my husband in the flesh while we converse via a screen seems to help her handle it a little better.

It’s not easy trying to help an extroverted child handle months without her friends. I try my best, but I don’t beat myself up when I inevitably fail sometimes. The coronavirus is a temporary situation, however disruptive it has been to our lives. My daughter will be fine without social interaction from her friends for a while. I know that I’m doing my best to meet her needs, and that’s what’s most important.

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