Child development: The importance of emotional connection

Emotional connection, initiated by an adult caretaker, is important because it supports several extremely important aspects of a child’s emotional development.

Connecting with the emotional experience of an infant supports a reciprocal emotional connection from the infant.

Within this emotional connection the infant is supported to be self-aware of their emotions as a result of their caretaker mirroring and reflecting back the child’s emotional experience; including with words that ultimately become the vocabulary with which children can describe their emotional experience.

Within this emotional connection the infant is supported to be aware of the emotions of others, which ultimately manifests as a capacity to feel and express empathy and to regulate their behaviour out of a concern for the experience of others (also known as socio-emotional reciprocity). This is vital for getting along with others and experiencing mutually-satisfying relationships.

By connecting with the infant and returning to calm themselves, adult caretakers assist the infant to regulate their emotions (co-regulation) until the infant can do so themselves (self-regulation).

Through adult caretakers tuning in to the emotions of the infant and helping them to return to calm, the adult caretaker supports the infant’s safe exploration of emotions and a broad emotional repertoire.

Further, within this emotional connection the adult caretaker offers experiences of being heard and understood on an emotional level, thereby supporting positive representations of self and other, reassurance (and, thereby, lower arousal levels), and trust that the caretaker can be relied upon, including for needs provision.

In the CARE Therapeutic Framework and the Triple-A Model of Therapeutic Care, I support parents and caregivers to be more aware of the vital role of emotional connection and how to enrich a child’s experience of it, in support of positive developmental outcomes for children.

I would also direct the reader to my resources supporting trauma informed care and practice in the home and school settings.

About colbypearce

I am a practising Clinical Psychologist with twenty-seven years’ experience working with children and young people recovering from abuse and neglect. I am also an author and educator in trauma-informed, therapeutic caregiving. My programs are implemented in Australia and Ireland, and I am well-known for my practical and accessible guidance for caregivers and professionals alike.
This entry was posted in AAA Caregiving, Adoption, Attachment, Fostering, kinship care, Parenting, Training Programs, trauma informed care, trauma informed practice, Trauma Informed Schools and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Child development: The importance of emotional connection

  1. Steve says:

    Loved your content Colby, interesting and very well-written!
    Thank you for putting this out there. I agree with your opinion and I hope more people would come to agree with this as well.
    Traumatic events take place involving children. It can be something as seemingly mild as a simple divorce, being picked on or belittled by friends or family members, or dysfunctional relationship to something severe as in physical/sexual abuse or witnessing a crime or murder.
    Check this out The Permament Effect of Trauma on Children
    Hope this will help. Thank you.

  2. snehasss says:

    Very thought-provoking content. As you said, emotional connection is not only understanding the emotions of the child but also creating empathy in children to understand others’ feelings. As parents, what we can do is to give them our time and attention and give them that secure feeling. I think the following article adds information regarding this topic.

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