Tools for Your Parenting Toolbox: ATTUNEMENT
Parenting is hard. Period. But it is especially difficult and disheartening when your child is struggling and you don’t know how to best help them. Kids are experiencing unprecedented amounts of mental health issues due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we as parents can support them by using some simple therapeutic strategies at home. This will be the first in a series teaching you various healthy coping skills to implement with your children.
Hi! I’m Kim Hamilton. I’m a new therapist at Louisville Mindfulness Center. I specialize in working with kids, teens, and parents to create family harmony. I love to support parents by offering them tools for their parenting toolbox to handle the stress and uncertainty that comes along with parenting.
Let’s start with attuning. Our lives are busy chauffeuring kids to activities, helping with homework, making dinner, and still trying to fit in our own needs. It is easy to get caught up in the stress of it all and not pay attention to what is actually going on in our kids’ minds and lives. By noticing when they need a deeper level of attention, we strengthen our relationships with them and help them to better understand themselves and their feelings. So how exactly do we do attune?
The first tool for your toolbox is to simply pay attention! Has their mood changed or has there been a shift to their normal routine? Take notice and dig deeper. They are most likely going to say they are fine and nothing is wrong, but don’t let the conversation stop there. Share with them what you are noticing and even offer a guess at what might be wrong in order to get the conversation started.
Reflective listening is another tool that is great to use, not only with your kids but in all your relationships. Begin by listening closely to what they have to say. Then, repeat back to them what you heard them say in a paraphrased way. Lastly, ask your child if your understanding is correct and if you missed anything. For example, if they are arguing with a friend, ask them to explain to you what is going on. You can repeat back to them what you heard by saying, “What I heard you say is…Is that correct? Did I miss anything?” This will allow your child to process their emotions, consider how their actions contributed to the situation, and decide how to move forward.
Lastly, and possibly, most importantly, is validation. Your child may tell you something that you don’t like and is upsetting, and it is important for you as the parent not to react immediately. Just listen. Then validate their perspective instead of dismissing their feelings or trying to change their mind. As parents, we want to fix everything for our children. When we do this, when we fix things or give them the answer, they don’t experience the struggle that comes with the learning process. It’s ok for our kids to struggle a bit. Growth doesn’t happen without some discomfort. Validating doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but by acknowledging their pain, the struggle becomes easier for them and leads to behavior change.
I invite you to experiment with these steps to attune with your children. I’d love to know how it goes! Feel free to email me and let me know: Kim@LouisvilleMindfulnessCenter.com.
If you liked what you read and feel I could be of assistance to you and your family, feel free to schedule a free 10-minute consult with me at your convenience online HERE!
Kim Hamilton, MAMFT specializes in working with kids, teens, and parents to bring emotional regulation and harmony to families and households. She works from a non-judgemental, solution-focused, non-pathologizing perspective that creates win-win scenarios within relationships. Megan Bayles Bartley is excited for Kim to join the team and knows she will be a wonderful resource for your family.
Find out more on Kim’s bio page on the Louisville Mindfulness Center website!
*This blog was inspired by the Washington Post article: “Five skills parents can learn so they can help their children cope”