As a parent, your relationship with your child is key to his or her health and happiness and will form the template for all future relationships. Your infant is born with a powerful instinct to elicit as much care and attention from you as possible. As a species we are hardwired on a cellular level to be emotionally connected to others. Your child seeks closeness to you when he or she needs comfort or is scared.
“Attunement” is the term used to describe a parent’s responsiveness to her baby’s needs and emotions. Parents who are attuned are able to sense what a baby feels most of the time and show empathy for those feelings through eye contact, facial expressions, touch, talk and other behaviors. None of us are perfect and life’s stresses naturally interfere at times, but if you are attuned and responsive to your baby’s needs as consistently as possible, this will create an experience of emotional safety for your child, while simultaneously facilitating brain development.
During the first year of life, hormones stimulated by interactions with you directly affect the way genes unfold in your baby’s brain. The most important part of the brain to grow in that first year is the portion of the limbic system responsible for social and emotional functioning. Not only does attuned responsiveness give your child the ability to regulate his emotions, but it also enables him to develop a conscience and experience empathy. If attuned responsiveness is not provided, too many stress hormones are produced in the infant that can hinder brain development and create a sense of helplessness, hopelessness and fear.
The message to you: follow your instincts as a parent to connect to your child with calmness, love and care as often as you can.