Raksha Bandhan 2018: Why is your relationship with your siblings and cousins important? We asked an expert, a parent and three adults.
By Disha Roy Choudhury
Raksha Bandhan celebrates relationships between brothers and sisters and that includes your cousins too. Such a relationship is special; the familial bond often transcends into friendship wherein lies its beauty. It’s a relationship that teaches you respect and responsibility, even while being partners in play and mischief.
Think of the adorable relationship between Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor’s son Taimur, and his cousin and Soha Ali Khan’s daughter Inaaya. The cousin duo, who were born a year apart from each other, are often spotted together having fun on play dates, thus winning hearts of all. Taimur and Inaaya’s pictures may remind many of us of our own childhood and the times we shared with our brothers or sisters, which brings us to the question of how important it is for one to have such bonds.
For instance, what happens to those who are their parents’ single child? Do they experience the beauty of the relationship with a brother or a sister or do they feel the need for one? Express Parenting spoke to family counsellor Dr Nisha Khanna to find out how having or not having a sibling could affect a child’s growth.
“More often than not, a single child tends to be a loner. They usually do not have close relations with people. Another problem a single child usually faces is the lack of a person with whom he or she can share feelings. He or she tends to suppress emotions. The child stops giving importance to the feelings of others because of their emotional setup,” added Dr Khanna.
Debmalya Mukherjee, 25, who is a single child, had a similar experience while growing up. “Initially, as I remember, I badly wanted a sibling, a brother in particular. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t happy being a single child but there were situations where I felt the need for someone with whom I could share things.”
Having a sibling, on the other hand, teaches a child to build relationships, explained Dr Khanna. “Most of the time, siblings bond over doing things together. In some cases, one among the siblings assumes the role of a parent, a guide or friend and takes care of the other. A child’s maturity develops from such relationships,” she said.
Rupsa Roy Choudhury, 21, who has an elder sister, said, “Having a sibling definitely affects a child’s growth. With both parents working, it’s good to at least have someone around. Your sibling is your first best friend-the one you have your first laugh or first fight with. Having a sibling also affects the way one moulds themselves during teenage years. For instance, I would usually look up to my sister and try to follow her path. I would emulate things she was doing. For anything significant happening in my life, I still go back to my sister instead of my other friends because I know that I’ll not be judged and will get an honest opinion on things. There’s, however, a downside-sibling rivalry. On occasions, my parents compared me with my sister, which affected me.”
In some cases, a single child tends to seek attention all the time. “A single child can also turn out to be an attention seeker. He or she may start nagging for everything or may behave in a passive aggressive way. The child may feel unhappy or neglected if someone else visits his or her family. The child might not learn to share and care about others and may tend to adjust with situations less,” informed Dr Khanna.
This is not to say that a single child cannot have a healthy childhood. “In the case of a nuclear family where both parents are working, their single child tends to immerse himself in his own world. The child will tend to prefer me-time, which is when he or she can engage in constructive or creative activities,” said Dr Khanna.
All said and done, a single child tends to crave company. Rahul Ghosh, 28, who is also a single child, talked about how having a sibling would have helped him. “When I look back, I feel having a sibling would have helped me minimise the constant burden I felt of living up to my parents’ expectations. At the same time, I can’t deny enjoying my parents’ undivided attention towards me. I spent a major part of my childhood away from home in hostels, which, in a way, ensured I had friends with whom I could share things that I couldn’t otherwise share with my parents,” he said. Corroborating the fact, Dr Khanna explained, “A single child has to depend on friends for company, in the absence of whom it becomes difficult for him or her to engage with the people. More often than not, a single child would either remain aloof or would socialise way too much. Conveying one’s feelings to parents becomes difficult sometimes, thanks to the generation gap which is of around two decades or more. In such cases, having a sibling often helps.”
So, should a single child be encouraged to mingle and interact with his or her extended family more? “Yes, a single child should learn to interact with cousins and other relatives. Family members should try to spend quality time with their child and that does not involve pampering.”
Debmalya and Rahul, however, had a different story to share. “Yes, I hang out with my cousins but we do not share much with each other,” said Rahul. Debmalya added, “I share a close bond with some of my cousins but they cannot substitute a sibling, no matter how close a relationship we share.”
Sonya Caroline Shah, a mother to a single child, has another take on the situation. “My sister and I both have a single child and we make sure to come up with lot of opportunities for the children to mingle with others, not just during festivals but also otherwise. I have come across parents who have a single child who is super-social. There can also be situations where one sibling is social while the other is a loner. It has to be a conscious effort on the part of the parents to help their child learn to socialise and that’s what makes a difference,” she said.