‘Tuning in’ to your child

Being ‘tuned in’ is the way that parents come to know what their children are feeling and thinking and what their children need. ‘Tuning in’ is the basis for secure, positive and supportive relationships between you and your child.

‘Tuned in’ parents let children know that their experiences and feelings are acknowledged, understood and will be responded to.

Children can tell if their parents are ‘tuned in’. It is the way that children sense your interest in and approval of them. It forms the basis for a deeper level of connection with your child and builds the platform for positive relationships as children grow.

When you are ‘tuned in’, you are able to read your child's emotional and behavioural cues and respond appropriately. When children feel responded to and understood, they develop confidence and positive self-esteem.

Babies communicate from birth through sounds (crying, cooing, squealing), facial expressions (eye contact, smiling, grimacing) and gestures (moving legs in excitement or distress and pointing.) Being ‘tuned in’ to your baby begins with non-verbal communication: eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures and the timing and intensity of your response.

As your child gets older, ‘tuning in’ involves both verbal and non-verbal communication.

Getting to know your child

Being ‘tuned in’ to your new baby is critical to the baby feeling safe, secure and loved. ‘Tuning in’ to your baby’s cries will help you to know if he/she is hungry, tired, need changing or wanting a cuddle.

Being ‘tuned in’ to your toddler might include knowing when he or she needs quiet time, a snack or a change in activity. ‘Tuning in’ to your two-year-old child in the middle of a temper tantrum will include not only responding with appropriate limits, but understanding what the emotional meaning of the outburst might be. Is your child tired, angry or hurt?

Be able to ‘tune in’ comes a result of patience, practice and getting to know your child.

Being ‘tuned in’

Remember, every child is unique, with his/her own style of communicating his/her needs and approaching the world. Observe your child. Learn to understand what makes your child ‘tick.’

Understand and adapt to your child’s body rhythms, temperament and personality. How do you know if your child is hungry? Tired? Needing some attention from you? Needing reassurance and comfort?

Be sensitive to changes in the rhythms of your child's movement, the tone of voice and the intensity of their activity.

Learn children’s strengths and vulnerabilities. How do they show you when they are happy? Are they easily overwhelmed? Do they go quiet when they are upset?

Respond to your baby’s gestures, looks and sounds. When he puts his arms out to you, pick him up, kiss him and use simple words, "You want up."

Talk with and listen to your child.

Respect and recognise your child’s feelings.

Be aware of your own body language. Is your verbal and non-verbal communication saying the same thing to your child?