As a responsive parent, I have a strong connection with my children. Now that my son is in school and we are separate for long parts the day, I cannot wait to reconnect. However, every day that I pick my son up from school, I’m excited to see him, to hear about his day, to share his worries and his delights. I wait eagerly in the school playground with all the other parents for him to emerge out of the door and come running to me, as excited to see me as I am to see him.
And you know what, it never happens.
I wait, holding onto his school bag, knowing I am meeting his needs over mine just now, and thinking to myself "it’s okay, we can talk and reconnect in the car".
Once he’s done running that energy off we get in the car, and he barely breathes a word to me, only to answer my questions about school with "I don’t want to talk about it mum, I need silence". I used to wonder why; wonder why he wasn’t telling me about his day, why he wasn’t excited to see me, worried that he was unhappy. But now I understand.
I have realised that he feels safe in my presence to tell me he needs space and time to calm down after a long day at school. He needs to be quiet after having to talk to people all day, to immediately respond when spoken to, or answer questions that require switched on thinking. He didn’t need to debrief his day as soon as he saw someone he loved, like I did, he needed to process it for himself.
Once I was able to allow that calm and space that he needs, he was able to open up, usually at bedtime (!) to tell me about what happened at school; who’s done what, what he enjoyed – everything I was desperate to know as soon as we had been reunited. I got to know, I just had to wait a little longer to be told.
The only slight issue with this is that sometimes bedtime isn't the best time for this. So I started to consider how I could balance both his needs for time and space and my needs for reconnection and for stress free bedtimes. Emily and I (Danielle) used our knowledge and the things we had observed in our children to develop out CalmFamily top tips for beating the reconnection paradox.
Here are our top tips for optimising your chances of getting your child to open up after an absence: