I feel like I’m losing my connection with nine-year-old son. Let me explain: Until recently we had a very close relationship, and I really knew everything that was going on in his life. He used to come home from school and tell me all about his day and give me lots of hugs and kisses. Lately, when he arrives home in the afternoons he says school was “fine” and wiggles away from my hugs. The only time he is interested in talking to me at length and cuddling with me is at bedtime, and that’s when I feel too tired to have any long discussions!
You are right to be concerned about the diminishing connection with your son; but rest assured that his actions are totally normal. At the age of nine, he is still learning about his place in the world and testing his independence from his parents. He is discovering how much of his life is in his control and which aspects of his day cannot be changed. Your son is no longer dependent on you the way he was in preschool; however, he still depends upon his Mom in so many ways! Part of the process of emotionally separating from his primary caregiver (you!) is to test where his identity begins and yours ends; to end the fusion of the two of you that was integral to his development when he was a baby.
You write that he is open to long talks and hugs during bedtime, and that is great news. When the sun has set and he is in bed, there are no distractions pulling him away from you, and that is an ideal time to reconnect with him.
On the other hand, when he comes home from school at about 4:00pm, there are a variety of things calling for his attention: games, sports, friends, and homework.
When he is resting in his comfortable bed in the evening, there isn’t much else to do but talk to Mom! Plan to sit on the side of his bed for twenty or thirty minutes each evening, as this is his preferred time for bonding with you. If work this time into your schedule in advance, it will be much easier than if it takes you by surprise every night.
We all feel a little more vulnerable at night; movies are scarier and strange sounds are more frightening than they are during daylight. So take advantage of the intimate mood that accompanies the moon to focus on your emotional connection with your son. He will remember these evenings fondly as he grows up!
Ellen C. Braun is the founder of RaisingSmallSouls.com, a global parenting resource. She is involved in a wide variety of projects to help parents and children. She is currently reviewing safety products for babies, including the Britax Marathon and the Britax Boulevard car seats.