We’ve talked about attachment in detail on our resources page. But there’s another important concept we want everyone to understand: attunement.
Attunement is the reactiveness we have to another person. It is the process by which we form relationships.
Dr. Dan Siegel says, "When we attune with others we allow our own internal state to shift, to come to resonate with the inner world of another. This resonance is at the heart of the important sense of “feeling felt” that emerges in close relationships. Children need attunement to feel secure and to develop well, and throughout our lives we need attunement to feel close and connected.”
Attunement might look like an adult seeing a baby crying, recognizing that the baby is hungry, and then picking up the baby to feed her. In an adult relationship, attunement might be an adult who knows that “I’m fine” doesn’t actually mean that, and digs a little deeper to find out what’s going on.
When working with kids, attunement comes across as genuinely caring about them. It’s not just asking about their day as a courtesy, but truly listening and caring about their response. It’s about noticing when a kid comes into the room in a bad mood, or when they’re unusually quiet, or when they’re struggling to focus.
One of our therapists from our Huddle Up program shared an example of attunement that she had with a teenager in the program recently.
There is a student in our program who wears a soccer jersey every day. He loves soccer! He’s a quieter kid, so he doesn’t always command the attention of the group or the group leaders, but we all know that he cares a lot about soccer. One day he mentioned that there was a big game coming up. He didn’t say much, but because we know how much he likes soccer, I made a mental note about it. The next time he came back, I asked him about the game. His face completely lit up! He was so excited to tell me all about the game and the outcome. It would have been an easy thing to miss, especially with how many kids we have in our program, each of them carrying their own unique interests. But because I was able to make a mental note to check back in, it made a huge difference. He opened up a lot more after that in group, because he felt comfortable to be himself and he realized that we actually cared about him as a person.
Attunement with kids can be this simple! All it takes is a little effort to show them that we’re here and listening, and that we care about them. Imagine the difference it makes when you’re in the presence of an adult who you know you can trust and who has your best interests in mind.
What ways can you show attunement to a child this week?