If each child is a tiny seedling, then their parents, siblings, neighborhood and community make up the soil that nourishes the seed and directs it toward optimal health and growth.
As adults, we are often wrapped up in an adult world. For children, their world is intrinsically wrapped up in ours. How adults manage their emotional and mental world, health and wellbeing will inevitably have a direct impact on the hardwiring of their children’s personalities and sense of self-worth. Most parents want their children to thrive and become self-reliant and confident adults. However, it takes more than food, shelter, and school alone. The secret is in and it's being called emotional attunement.
Emotional attunement is being aware of, and responsive to, another. How does your child feel? Are they happy or sad, interested, engaged, capable of listening? Are they in distress, hungry or just needing to be held? According to Dr. John Gottman, it is impossible to nurture healthy relational dynamics in couples without practicing attunement.
Not all parents are capable of providing emotional attunement to their children. Physical and mental health conditions, character/personality problems, emotional immaturity, cultural, intergenerational parenting styles, or substance abuse are all factors that lend to parental narcissism and poor attunement of their children. In this case, it is beneficial for the child to have exposure to other healthy adults, and seek counseling if needed. Life challenges happen, however adult narcissism can be a major barrier to giving children their emotional needs.
What are some ways that parents can stay emotionally attuned to their children in a busy world? Here are a few little strategies to help keep you and your kids strong and nourished.
Step 1: Tune in to yourself.
- Role model: If you are facing a challenge/dilemma in your life, use it as an opportunity to be a role model. When dad is stressed, does he scream at everyone or does he go get some exercise and ask mommy for support. It is okay to show emotion to your children. In fact, they are watching and learning how to cope with their own challenges.
- Seek therapy. Find the empathy and understanding you need from a professional that can shed perspective or help you overcome a specific challenge you are facing. Perhaps past traumas or themes are repeating themselves and you would like to work through them. What a gift to give to yourself!
- Prescribe meaning. Is there is a spiritual belief or practice that gives you strength or direction? Could there be some purpose for your current dilemma? What are you learning from it and how can your positive interpretations teach your children about coping with life?
Step 2: Simultaneously tune in to your children. What channel are they on today?
- Listen with your heart. What is the message behind their words? Sometimes the words are not saying the whole story. Look into your child’s eyes, see their expressions and feel their energy. Give them the word for what they are feeling if they struggle to express themselves.
- Attending time: Besides the usual routine, take 10-15 minutes to spend ALONE time with one of your children. Sit with them and play their favorite game. Let them be the leader. Refrain from criticism, judgment, or guiding the activity. Simply be with. And reflect their interests as if they were your own. Surely, this will be a nice escape for you too.
- Be a mirror: Take a few seconds to act as a mirror and reflect your child’s emotional world. Acknowledge when your child is struggling, happy, bored, or even in disagreement with you. This shows them you get them, they are important, and that your love is unconditional. Then offer guidance, discipline, or problem solve with them.
Attunment is as important to human growth as sun and water is to a budding seed. When practiced, you will feel more connected and bonded with your child, and nothing can break that powerful connection when it is made early.
Wishing my readers lots of emotional nourishment, strength and positive energy.