Most of us instinctively approach parenting in a way that reflects how we ourselves were parented. But today, parenting is different. We know much more about the emotional, social, and cognitive needs of the child. We know that children who feel safe and understood grow up with a stronger sense of security, are better able to manage their emotions, and develop good coping skills. A child raised in a supportive and secure relationship already has immeasurable benefits that will help him or her succeed in life.
However, we also know that every child is different, and every relationship between parent and child is unique.
What is attuned parenting?
The idea of attuned parenting comes from attachment theory. Some researchers argue attachment theory should be thought of as a regulation theory as there is a biological component to the attachment relationship. Specifically, when young infants or children are afraid, ill, or upset, they need connection with the parent in order to calm down and feel safe. On a biological level, high levels of stress and negative emotion cause increased levels of stress hormones to circulate in the brain and nervous system. Without the comfort of the parent, the child is required to use all of his or her resources to bring the body and emotions back into a state of balance. If this happens continuously, the child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development suffers as when trying to calm down, there is little energy left to do anything else.
Attunement allows the parent to connect and communicate with the child in a way that both reduces the duration and intensity of negative emotions and increases positive emotions like curiosity and joy. It is important for parents to understand that attuned parenting does not require perfection, as children will get upset and “misattunements” will happen in even the best of relationships. It simply means being aware of the child’s needs and responding in a way that will eventually (if not immediately) comfort the child and let them know they have a safe place (the parent) to go to when they are afraid, ill, or upset.
Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy
Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) is relationship-focused, attachment-based therapy for parents and children. DDP is especially helpful for children who have experienced trauma or separation from caregivers. Often foster parents or adoptive parents and their children benefit from DDP as the approach focuses on developing the attachment bond, developing attunement, and helping the parent learn how to respond sensitively to the child.
If you are having difficulties with discipline or having trouble understanding what your child needs, attachment-based family therapy can benefit both you and your child. Therapy can offer both insights and support when you are struggling. Dr. Ryan is trained in DDP and can bring an objective, expert view on what is happening in your relationship and develop strategies to improve your child’s behavior, while focusing on protecting and nurturing your parent-child relationship.
Reach out today
Dr. William J. Ryan is a clinical psychologist in Brooklyn, NY. He provides comprehensive traditional and non-traditional psycho-therapeutic services. If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to call and book your first appointment or fill out the contact form and click Send.