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Attunement: What is it?
Being an attuned parent refers to being aware of and responding to your child's needs. The idea of being attuned starts easily as meeting an infant’s basic needs - food, safety, warmth, love. It involves the acknowledging and validating of your child’s emotions. In this article, we will discuss more on the ways to identify emotional ques of your young child to better understand their feelings and better manage their expectations.
01. Tuning in to your child
To do so, give your child your undivided attention, because children are capable of recognizing emotions through body language and voices. They will sense disinterest and unwillingness to address their situation through body postures and tone, as such, do take note of your verbal and non-verbal cues too. Besides that, you can also observe and understand them.
You should know what they like and dislike and what they are interested in. Avoid engaging in gestures that might further aggravate their emotions.
02. Practice empathic listening
Attuning to your child's inner state leads to emotional resonance. This builds trust and welcomes vulnerability, which is really important.
Give them space and understand their perspective
Here is what you should say and not say. You shouldn’t say stuff like “stop crying!”, “there’s nothing to be nervous about!” and “you need to think before you act!”. This might portray an action of disinterest or lack of concern. Instead you should say stuff like "I am here to listen if you need to talk about it.", "It looks like this is hard for you, would you like to talk about it?", "It must've been frustrating/stressful (name their feelings), let's navigate this together.”
03. Help them be aware of their emotions
By understanding their emotions, it helps with self-regulation. Self-regulation allows children to use their internal resources to problem-solve and self-soothe. So in the event when they feel uncomfortable to share certain details with adults, they might have a higher chance of managing their unhappiness on their own. With this tool in hand, it helps expand their emotional vocabulary (eg. describing the triggers and making guesses about what your child might feel), for the purpose of emotional labeling. This allows children to express their feelings and emotions better.
At times, parents would find it challenging to attune to their child due to a number of reasons. Do remember that the process of emotional attuning will take time, but a little goes a long way. Most importantly, be patient and take baby steps; you'll see and feel the difference soon enough!
By : Dr Shawn Ee
BSc. BPsych. DPsych.(Clinical), Clinical Psychologist & Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist