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End-of-the-Day Reunion

Parents can feel discouraged when their children greet them at the end of the day with a whine rather than a hug. In our imaginations, our child runs to us happily, eager to share all the wonderful events of the day. Instead, when they see us, their mood can subtly become more dour and they may make demands, then fall apart when their wishes are denied. This letdown is natural and actually stems from the loving comfort children associate with their parents.

A new study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison points the way to some of the answers. When children have been feeling tension in a situation—having an argument with a peer, trying hard on a math or spelling test—scientists found the best stress reducer of all is seeing Mom or talking to her on the phone. (Of course, children can also feel relief from stress when they see Dad or a grandparent.)

It helps when parents understand that a child may need to decompress at the end of the day after constantly trying to do what’s expected and navigate social relations with others.

Do you have someone or something you think about to help you through challenging situations? Is it your partner, your parent, a friend, or God? Imagine meeting up with a friend after a long day and how they help you recover. When you do connect with your supportive person after work, you might not want to answer questions about what happened during the day. You need a release and want to let down and focus on what fun or soothing activity you might enjoy together.

What children need from us at the end of each day is understanding that they may have a buildup of emotions. They need the offer of a nourishing hug. Studies show that we have the power with close physical contact to flood children’s systems with oxytocin, also known as the "love hormone.” Make time for islands of reunion, and the activities that follow will be more satisfying.


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