Dr Richard C. Woolfson
From the moment your baby was born, you began to develop a close emotional attachment with her, a strong psychological bond that grew with each passing year. But now that she’s nine years old and approaching the pre-teen years, you may find that you are not as close as before. Don’t give up – you can still rejuvenate the emotional attachment between you.
WHY THE BIG CHILL?
The new barrier is most likely not there because she thinks you are a dreadful parent, nor is it because she dislikes you or that she wishes she had a different mum and dad. In most cases, the reasons for the weaker bond are:
1. New friendships. She has a lot more close friends her own age than she did when she was younger, and she tends to discuss things with them instead of with you. Of course she still seeks your approval and advice, but she also enjoys having a good time with her mates. This means she talks less to you.
2. Awareness of privacy. She has begun to develop the idea that she is an individual in her own right, with her own ideas that she is entitled to keep to herself. She enjoys the feeling that comes from keeping some things private.
3. Busier life. Your 9-year-old has so much to do in school and out of school. Her hectic school and social life allows less time for chatting to mum and dad.
4. Stronger self-confidence. Now that she has several years of school experience tucked under her belt, and lots of social experience too, your growing child is better able to handle day-to-day crises on her own. Her higher level of self-confidence lets her manage more effectively on her own, and so she doesn’t ask you for your advice as much as before.
ADAPTING TO THE NEW KID
Instead of reacting negatively to the changes in your relationship with your primary school child, maintain a positive outlook. Tell yourself that this is just a natural phase of development, a sign that she is growing up. This adaptation isn’t easy, but it’s necessary.
Some ways to keep the bond strong with your child:
1. Give her space. If your child comes home from school in a bad mood and doesn’t want to talk to you, then she’s entitled to a bit of privacy. Let her keep t to herself at that moment – you can chat when she’s in a better mood.
2. Take an interest. Let your child see that you want to know what she does in class each day, what homework she has and who her friends are. True, she may groan at your questions, but she’s secretly pleased that you care about her.
3. Involve her in family decisions. Okay, so she’s only nine-years-old and you have no intention of letting her choose this year’s holiday destination. Yet you can ask for her opinion and let her see that you take it seriously. Her connection with you and the others in the family will be strengthened when she feels valued and her views are appreciated.
4. Enjoy each other’s company. Make a point of going out together, just you and her. Whether it’s a trip to the movies or a visit to grandma’s, what matters is that you and your child spend time together.
By maintaining a close emotional connection with your pre-teen, you’ll find that although the bond between you changes with age, it will stand the test of time.