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Give Your Child Room to Grow

QUESTION: My question is about a parent's involvement in her child's schoolwork. Occasionally, I would inquire from my nine-year-old son what he has learned in school and if we could go through his lessons together. (he approaches me for help in his homework whenever the need arises). However, he is reluctant and sometimes refuses to grant my request. He'll just say something like, "it's ok". I don't understand this behavior. I only want to have a "feel" for his understanding of his lessons and I guess a little more of involvement on my part.

ANSWER: If all is going well at school and your son declines your help, there may be little going wrong. Perhaps you have done your job so well in mothering him that he is ready for a bit more separation and independence from you. Saying "no" to your desire to share his homework may be his way of telling you he needs more space from Mom.

Check this out with your husband. Get his viewpoint about your son's increased distance from you in this area. Are father and son spending time together? Perhaps he needs to share feelings and experience with Dad more right now and with you less.

It is also possible that you are having difficulty "letting go" of your first born. He is the first one to grow up, and you have never seen what independence and separating gradually from Mom can look like before. As he grows you will be needed, but it may take a different form than going through his lessons with him. Perhaps he finds this "babyish". All children are unique. He is expressing a need for greater privacy and independence in this area with you right now. It may be best to simply follow his lead and to support his need for greater autonomy.

Is he involved in any other activities that you might find a place in that feels all right with him? Den mother for boy scouts? Feeding the baseball team snacks? He may be wanting more identification with his father at this time, and may need to distance from you in order to find his sense of what it means to be male. Maybe handing it over to Dad could be useful. Talk with your husband about your feelings and ask him for help. A father-son activity and talk might reveal greater insight into your son's behavior at this time.

Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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