“No Mummy! Mrs Raven says…..”

That feeling when your child says the teacher’s right and you’re wrong!

If you have a child that’s already at school you’ll know that sickening feeling when they say to you, “No Mummy! It’s not that. Mrs Raven says…..” It’s pretty hard to swallow. I know, I’ve been there. You suddenly feel you’re angel, who’s hung on your every word for the last 4 or 5 years has changed allegiance. They’ve betrayed you!

As much as you’re proud of them growing up and thriving at school, you feel you are their first port of call and your opinions and lessons count for me than a teacher they’ve barely met!

So, what’s going on?

I know that what parents dread the most when they think about their little one starting school is that they will lose their close bond with them. They feel they have invested a huge amount in those precious early years and this will be gradually eroded as their child gets more and more engrossed in school and growing up. They fear this is the start of a process that ends in the dreaded teenage years when they are alienated from their once lovable child and can only expect trouble.

But why do parents fear this?

Is it a realistic fear?

All through their early years your child is pretty much dependent on you for everything; food, shelter, stimulation, security, love, guidance, discipline. That’s your job as a parent. And if you’re very honest sometimes that feels great and sometimes it’s a real burden. Parents often say that totally dependent phase feels eternal….
….until it’s over.

When I’ve spoken to parents of teenagers about they miss they often say they miss the toddler stage. What they miss is the unquestioning adoration and being needed. What they forget are the tantrums and the almost total dependence.

As children get older one of the things that should happen is that they gradually become more and more independent. They are able to hear and process other points of view and sometimes they align their viewpoint to someone other than you. As they gain more experience and wisdom in the world they are less dependent on you as their guide.

This is all completely normal even if it feels hurtful for you. It’s also normal to feel a kind of loss. But it’s not something to fear. It’s just a normal part of development. All that happens is that your relationship shifts very now and again.

What is important is that in the early years you build a strong enough bond that can weather the changes that will happen in the future. Think of your bond as a piece of really stretchy elastic. All through the early years you make that piece of elastic strong and securely attached at both ends. To make it stretchy you practise pulling away and letting your little one pull away, always knowing that once it has stretched it will be strong enough to come right back to you.
Whilst it is vital to allow your child the space to grow it is equally important to build a strong attachment for them to grow from. If they have a strong foundation they are emotionally equipped to grow and can take the risk to learn something new (see my blog “Is your child courageous enough to learn?”). A strong and secure relationship with your child allows them that critical pulling away, even rejecting you, because they have a sense of belonging which is critical for wellbeing.

When the times are tough you have to keep the faith. I have a very strong bond with my children and I had to take a very deep breath when my eldest went away to university. I felt extremely proud of him and of course I wanted him to have an amazing time but I felt a deep sense of loss as he was taking a very adult space and I was worried he would love it so much in Birmingham he wouldn’t want to come back to London.

I mad an enormous effort to trust that our strong bond would keep us close, even if our relationship was different. I’m happy to say that he had a fabulous 3 years in Birmingham. He’s back in London. We stretched the elastic and we’ve pinged back together. The next step will be finding him somewhere to live by himself. I’ll have to take another deep breath but I know the strong foundations of our relationship are there.

When your little one says, “No Mummy! Mrs Raven says…..” it’s just one of those times when they are pulling on the elastic.

What you can do

Strong relationships don’t make themselves. They need working at. You can start making strong stretchy elastic today.
• Spend time with your little one doing lots of different things
• Do ordinary things as well as extra special things
• Put your little one to bed as often as you can
• Practise letting your little one do things away from you
• Be consistent

If you don’t know how to do any of this Caterpillar Learners can help! We have groups throughout the year where you can learn together while building your strong stretchy elastic together. You can find a group here.