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Guide Overview

Parental Sensitivity

A lesson on how to attune to your child's emotional world.
February 24, 2023
Summary Notes

- Emotional attunement to children is crucial and has been shown through developmental psychology research to increase resiliency and empathy in children.

- The first step in being emotionally attuned to others is being emotionally attuned to oneself.

- An exercise to help become emotionally attuned is to close your eyes and imagine a peaceful scene, then notice the sensations in the body and label them as relaxation. Then imagine a stressful scenario, notice the sensations in the body and label them as fear.

- By developing this mindful attentiveness to your own body states, you can start to become more sensitive to your child's internal experiences.

- The goal is to pick up on your child's shifting emotions, offer them language to link their body states to emotions, and help them develop coping skills to endure feelings calmly.

- Mindfulness meditation can help in developing this skill.

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 Let's talk about emotional sensitivities, about maternal, paternal parental sensitivity. How to attune to our children's internal rhythms. First, and maybe the most important stuff is to believe that there is value in being attuned to our child's emotional world. I can tell you this from developmental psychology research, that we have plenty of data to affirm that this is true, that children who experience a relationship with a caregiver who is emotionally attuned to them experience far more resiliency in their life.

They don't turn into naval gazing narcissists. They turn into people who are grounded and well regulated and empathetic of others. All right, hopefully that was enough to sell you on this. So now how do we develop it? What do we. Ironically, the very first step of being emotionally sensitive to other people is being emotionally sensitive to ourselves.

This is an area that you struggle in. You're like, I don't know. How do I know what they're feeling or what to do? And it's likely because no one did that for you. It's like because you didn't have that experience of someone who was able to stay calm and reflect back to some of your emotional states, run you through a quick exercise teaching you how to do this.

I want to take a minute and close your eyes, take some really deep.

I want you to imagine your body becoming super soft and melty, and you're at a beach and it is a warm, wonderful day and you are experiencing just the right amount of sun and heat, and there's whatever food you enjoy next to you, and there's the sound of seagulls just gently playing in the air. It is a peaceful, relaxing.

Now I want you to notice what sensations are in your body. I can notice like a tingling almost in my body, like with every deep breath I take, and then I relax and notice that my body's getting heavier. This is relaxation. This is the state of relaxation. Now, I want you to imagine that you can't find your car keys or you can't find your bus pass or whatever it is that you need in order to function in your day.

It. On. I want you to sit there with your eyes closed again. I want you to hear me say you aren't gonna be able to find it, and it might result in you getting fired from your job.

Notice how your body constricts, how there's a tightness inside, how even your hands might constrict or your neck. You might not be swallowing like you normally would like. It's harder to. , all of these are the internal experiences of fear. Your body is getting stressed and you're having fear on the inside.

As you go throughout your day, start to develop a, a mindful attentiveness to your internal state. The way that all of our bodies are wired is extremely similar. So what happens sensory wise inside of my body in terms of the specific reactions is gonna be very similar to what happens in your body. It may be in different intensities and it may be triggered by different things, but the state of fear in the human body is going to replicate very similarly across human.

You get to know your body states and find those labels for them. Oh, this is what fear is like in my body. These are the sensations. Oh, this is what shame feels like in my body. These are the sensations. This is what anger feels like in my body. I start to get hot when I am angry. This is what sorrow feels like in my body.

I get clumped and I start to feel those sensations tingling behind my eyes and the tears come out. This study will translate into your ability to be more sensitive to your child's internal. Think about a time when someone accurately read your emotional state. You were feeling something maybe you didn't even know you were, but they were able to come up and say, oh, you look sad or scared, and they were sensitive to what you were feeling.

They weren't taking it on, but they were responding and they were helping to offer you a sense of togetherness. How calming and soothing and reassuring was that the goal of this parental sensitivity is simply to notice your child's shifting. To pick up on it so that they know that you notice. That helps feel, help helps them feel safe in the world, knowing that you're with them in it.

And then offer them potential language to help link their body estates to words. So it might be, it looks like you're feeling sad, it looks like you're feeling upset. , it seems like your body is tense. Are you feeling anger? Right as you're helping them develop that skillset? We call this mentalization, the ability to take this body state and put it into a meaning state that will help them feel more calm when they're feeling feelings, because they're not just feeling a feeling with.

No idea what it is and what it means, right? They can feel that feeling, put a meaning to it. And then we'll talk about this in our next video. You're gonna begin to learn to help them develop the coping skills they need to then endure those states calmly and effectively. I know a lot of people develop mindfulness meditations around this.

If you just Google how to develop a mindfulness meditation, you'll find a million free resources, um, to help you begin to. What's happening inside your body and what's happening inside the body of your children and the more mindful you are, the fear is, if I become more mindful of this, then we're all gonna be like sucked into this feeling quicksand and no one's ever gonna get out of it.

But actually what happens is the opposite. The more we can say, oh, I'm feeling this. We name it to tame it. That's a quote by Dr. Dan Siegel. You are helping your child to take it from simply a feeling state into a meaning state, and you're doing that by allowing your body to enter the feeling state with them, and then to regulate, co-regulate with them within that feeling state.