All kids have special friends, but only kids often form attachments to other children that are deeper, more lasting and complex than most childrens’ friendships with one another. Friends often take the place of siblings for only kids. Some only children make friends in nursery school that last forever. One only child met her best girlfriend in nursery school and they have been inseparable ever since. This only child fully believes (and she is probably right) that she could not be closer to this other girl if she were her sister. This is a friendship that flourished and survived because the parents of the only child went out of their way to make sure that it did. They planned sleepovers, outings, and trips with this girl and her family even when they would rather have done other things or when they were annoyed with the girl’s parents.
Establishing and maintaining friendships when children are young takes effort for parents of only children. The parent who has two or more children doesn’t have the same motivation as the parent of the only child. If the child with siblings has nothing to do, the parent can always say “go play with your brother or sister” and not feel any guilt about the child being alone. Parents of only children don’t have the luxury of knowing that their child will be occupied if a friend doesn’t show up. Some real planning is required here… However, once the network of friends is established it pays off. As kids get older they will keep the machine running on their own. You just have to be ready to do the initial schlepping.