Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai!
It is a happy time of the year with the festivities now! But have you ever wondered why we feel what we feel? Why we do what we do?
Same questions apply when we think about our children: why do our children feel what they feel? When we discuss emotion, after having a deeper understanding of this topic, I started to understand that all emotions have equal surviving values, or in other words, they serve their own function and purpose. For instance, feeling happy is a positive or pleasant emotion ranging from contentment to intense joy while sadness serves a purpose for us to learn while facing a difficult situation.
By looking into these emotions, we can look for the factor that contributes to a positive emotion or understand children’s frustration and ways to deal with them. Let’s decode the background of emotion. Before we dig into emotion, we have to start with talking about the relationship or a pattern of interaction in a specific relationship, which is called attachment, as this is the element we have ahead before emotion.
Attachment develops during primary connection with the caregiver and this process helps to develop the infant’s brain. A baby’s brain completes its development outside the womb, in the first three years of life, and this development is shaped by connection with parents. Neuroscientists have found that when the parent and the child are looking at each other and paying attention to one another, this magical connection will enable the child to feel “being seen” and “being understood”, and this helps them to develop a sense of who they are. When a baby is loved by parents, it helps the infant’s brain to release a hormone, oxytocin that activates and develops brain connections for babies. The repetitive occurrence of oxytocin release helps develop infant’s right prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in executive function, as well as regulating emotions. It is a surprising fact that this higher functioning is actually embedded in the attachment.
Thus, we know that our brain can grow optimally under a condition of comfort and emotional safety, we have to learn how important relationships are. And we now learn that attunement and engagement are the main part of a relationship.
How to be attuned? We can learn to bring conscious intention to being attuned. We shall practice to relax our body and mind and open to the other person as much as feels right to us. Practice is necessary. Gradually, we will find that paying attention to the other person by being with that person will be a key to being attuned. This kind of attention will stimulate our anterior cingulate cortex which pays attention to attention. Therefore, attunement is a form of mindfulness meditation focused on someone else’s inner world.
Going back to the question previously: why our children feel what they feel, why they do what they do. I do hope this article will help you to understand further on some “inappropriate” behaviours from our children. The behaviour of “acting up”, might be an avenue to tell us that they do not feel safe that cause a chaotic situation of their emotion, and this might suggest that we should do something about it. In short, we have to develop the lens to read the message under a child’s behaviour and that will gradually change the attunement process and also the engagement level from every party.
I hope you gained some insight from getting to know some ideas about emotion and connection and be mindful about practicing creating attunement. I would like to discover more strategies to help you engage your children in the next blog post!