Emotional connectedness is a by-product of interaction. When you are interacting with a person you are likely to feel an ‘echo’ of their emotion. This is a form of empathy that is instinctive and, with few exceptions, we all have the capacity to experience this instinctive empathy.
The ‘echo’ a parent feels of their child’s emotion played an important role in supporting the child’s emotional development, including:
- the child’s emotional awareness – their own and the emotions of others
- the child’s capacity to regulate their emotions
- the child’s capacity to regulate their emotions in consideration of others.
Emotional connectedness is important!
Co-regulation refers to a form of emotional connectedness whereby you express in your tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures your ‘echo’ of an emotion that is congruent with that of the child, and return to calm. Co-regulation is instrumental in supporting children to develop the capacity to self-regulate during their formative years as they ‘follow’ the adult back to calm via the established emotional connection. As the child returns to calm, we feel calm too. Hence, the term ‘co-regulation’.
Emotional connectedness and co-regulation support experiences for the child:
- that their experience is important
- that their caregiver is accessible to them
- that their caregiver understands them
- that their caregiver can be relied upon as a source of comfort and restoration of feelings of wellbeing.
Emotional connectedness and co-regulation are reassuring.
When emotionally connecting with a child intentionally it is important to be aware of the dose. Too much can heighten the child’s emotions. Rather, match their level or, in the case of anxiety, anger and distress, briefly express a toned-down version of the emotion (thus allowing an emotional connection to be made) before returning to calm.
More generally, play and other activities done with the child support emotional connection. As referred to above, emotional connectedness is a by-product of interaction. So play with the child or children in your care, allow yourself to feel what they feel, and regularly return to calm. In doing so you are supporting them to experience emotions as part of the richness of life and not something to be avoided due to their potential to overwhelm. You are also supporting smaller emotions more generally and the child’s own capacity to regulate themselves.
To assist you in this endeavour I have prepared the resource below. You can access a PDF here. Emotional connectedness is the ‘E in the CARE Model. To read more about the CARE Model I would refer you to A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder. This book is particularly suited to those who are caring for children who are recovering from significant relationship trauma. For a general audience (as well as foster carers, kinship carers, adoptive parents, social care workers, youth workers, social workers) I will be releasing a short handbook comprising the CARE resources I have been releasing and some further explanation very shortly.
To purchase A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder (Second Edition), and support this site, please consider doing so from one of the Amazon sites below by clicking on the caption in the bottom of each image:
A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp
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