This content is provided in conjunction with This Emotional Life’s Early Moments Matter
initiative. Early Moments Matter is dedicated to making sure that every child
has the best possible chance at emotional well-being. Find out how to receive
the Early Moments
Matter tool kit
and provide one to a family in need.

This content is provided in conjunction with This Emotional Life’s Early Moments Matter
initiative. Early Moments Matter is dedicated to making sure that every child
has the best possible chance at emotional well-being. Find out how to receive
the Early Moments
Matter tool kit
and provide one to a family in need.

Every parent knows whether or not they are close to their son and/or
daughter. In this modern emotional world, an increasingly common term to define
this bonding or connectedness is “attunement.” Attunement means that
you are attempting to respond to your child’s emotional needs, resulting in the
child’s sense of being understood and valued.
The capability to attune
differs on the personality and temperament of children and how easy or
difficult it is for us to relate to them, given our own individual personality
traits and family experiences. Being attuned or attached in a healthy way to
your child occurs most of the time when he or she is younger. However, that
tends to drop considerably when your child becomes a teenager.

There are many challenges of parenting today such as the stresses of work,
financial worry, marital tension and conflict, the determination for success,
modern day stresses on our kids, and mixed families due to divorce and remarriage.
There are more forces than ever that are tearing at relationships with
children.

How can you increase attunement and connect with your children in a way that
promotes emotional health? When we consider an attachment perspective, it all
starts with safety in the home with primary caretakers.

Below are FIVE SIMPLE CONCEPTS you can use to help promote
secure relationship patterns with your children:

1) Accept Your Child’s TEMPERAMENT – each child is born
with a certain temperament which is developed by an early age. Most kids are
classified into one of four categories: easy-going, challenging,
“slow-to-warm-up kids”, and mixed temperament kids. What really matters is how
well parents adjust to their children’s personalities if parents and children
have mismatched temperaments or if both have difficult temperaments. Accepting
a child for who they are helps them to feel secure and okay with their
personality and identity.

2) Invest in TIME with your children – Most parents make a
distinction between quality time and quantity time. What this can translate
into is “I don’t have much time for my children, but when I do, I want us
to have fun together”.
To actually have quality time with kids, parents
have to spend a lot of ordinary time with them. This time is the kind that
develops trust, learns their love
language, and to truly understand their ways. Quality moments require many
hours of little moments – talking about your children’s day, having
conversations, reading and telling stories. Kids NEED both high-quality and
high quantity time. They need you in healthy doses!

3) Deliberately TOUCH your kids every day – This can be
from high-fives and wrestling matches to strokes of the hair, squeezes of the
hands, and goodnight kisses. Those with babies should hold them gently and
lovingly, not just functionally. Within the safety and warmth of their arms,
children learn that relationships
are nurturing and secure. This can be challenging if as a parent you have an
avoidant attachment style. For parents that have the ambivalent attachment
style, the need to monitor how much the children are touched is an important factor.
It is important to pay attention to their children’s cues and adjust their
behavior appropriately. It is important to know which type of touch feels good
to your children and then respond in that way every chance you get. This may
change as they get older so don’t take it personally if they are not as
receptive; just be willing to give affirming touch when you can.

4) TEACH your children important values and life lessons –
this includes teaching your children the significant lesson of learning how to
handle negative emotions by not ignoring them or pushing them aside. When some
parents use messages such as “just get over it” and “you shouldn’t
feel that way”
this can be harming and ineffective especially as they get
older. Instead as a parent you will need to set limits on how your children
behave when they are upset and teach them ways to manage feelings and solve
problems. When you do this, you create a secure base from which children can
deal with negative emotions. Also, keep in mind that one of the best ways we
can teach our children is by having them see us live out the principles and
guidelines we are sharing with them. Remember, they are constantly watching and
learning.

5) Demonstrate TENACITY to your children – when we stick to
something and remain persistent in the face of stress this is tenacity.
Tenacity helps create a resilient family structure, one that
generates warmth with clear limits and realistic and constructive boundaries.
When families maintain commitments to setting healthy boundaries and fostering
open communication this can help create a healthy and stable environment. It
also lets them know you are not going to give up on them even in challenging
times, which brings safety and security.

When trying to re-connect with children there can be several hurdles to
overcome, so it is important for parents to put on their patience’s hat and to
also have self-awareness of their own personal struggles that can be triggered
in the interactions with their children who they have lost connection with for
whatever reason. Parents can once again find joy in their life after
re-connecting with their children and observing the growth and development of
them in the family.

Below are FIVE PRINCIPLES you can employ during this time
of re-building the relationship with your children.

1) Foster UNIQUENESS. Every family is filled with
individuals who are, though related, are much different than the others. A huge
mistake is to think that you can raise and relate to each child the very same
way. This can potentially build resentment between the children.

2) Be careful with RIGIDNESS in enforcing household rules.
Parents can do a dis-service to their children when they have too many rules.
Trust is the key to building healthy family relationships. It
is essential for parents to articulate their expectations well and follow this
up with consistent, fair consequences.

3) Families need RITUALS that foster togetherness. Embrace
the benefits of families eating together several times a week, having meetings
where each member can have a say, and outings where a son or a daughter has
alone time with a parent (not as a punitive event), but a fun time where you
laugh and learn more about one another.

4) Helping them develop their LEGACY. In helping them
develop as a person, it is important to educate children on the highs and lows
of our extended relationships. You can talk to them about deceased family
members, visit gravesites and childhood homesteads, share memories of your
upbringing, and the good and bad lessons you learned along the way. When you
are vulnerable with your child, it will help them to open up and relate in real
ways.

5) Model appropriate use of WORDS in your communication to
the children and in front of them. Parents can devastate or hinder reconnection
by using ill-conceived language during times of frustration such as “You
always….” Or “You never….”. This can really destroy their confidence in
re-bonding with you and potentially in other important relationships. It is
important that they hear words like “I love you,” “You are valued
and special,” “Thank you”
and “Everything is going to be okay” on
a regular basis. Also, be sure to share that you love them just for who they
are and be specific in your compliments. If you build love in your children,
they will not lack self-confidence.

The above guidelines may seem simple; however, when it comes to reconnecting
with your children, they are very powerful. It is important that COMPASSION,
COMMUNICATION and COMMITMENT are consistently shown to connect with them
through the rebuilding process and beyond.

Resources

Chess, S. & Thomas, A. (1987). Knowing Your Child. New York: Basic Books
and Thomas, A. & Chess, S. (1977). Temperament and Development. New York:
Bruner-Mazel.

This article was originally posted on YourTango.com.
To learn more about Janie Lacy and her counseling services, visit her website.

Go to www.earlymomentsmatter.org
to learn about attachment and to get an award-winning toolkit that introduces
ways in which parents and caregivers can help their children build secure
attachments.

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