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"We're on the same wavelength." Synchronization and the sting in the tail in the parent-child relati

Aerial pilots must be in sync to generate flawless maneuvers in the sky and avoid mishaps. Synchronized swimming swimmers, dance troupes, flocks of birds, and road traffic must all be coordinated to operate together. Our social ties also require synchronization. Confusion, frustration, lack of clarity, and tension are caused when parents, team leaders, service providers, or any other source provide contradicting and out-of-sync instructions.

When and how does parent-child synchronization happen, and is it always preferable? I spoke with Celia Smith of King's College, Cambridge, London, who released an article indicating that neurotic parents' physiological responses to their children are more synchronized than non-anxious parents'.

Can you explain what parent-child synchronization is and what benefits have been discovered in earlier research, Celia?

In a study on the healthy development of children in their initial years of life, parent-child synchronization is a hot topic. Prof. Ruth Feldman of the Reichman University in Herzliya has a good definition of synchronization: it is defined as synchronized and timed behaviors between partners in any relationship. Synchronization can be simultaneous (when X is high in one person, it is also high in another person) or sequential (sequential, a change in X in one person, entails a change in X in another person). When I think of them in biological terms, these processes usually come to mind; For example, is my baby's heart rate high while my heart rate is high? Or does an increase in my heart rate indicates that my baby's heart rate will also rise? Higher levels of parent-child synchrony are found to predict higher cognitive development, school performance, and even empathy in children. One of the reasons I'm interested in parent-child synchronization is that it can help us understand how young children learn to control their stress and emotions.

Your study focused on parent-child synchrony throughout the day using a novel research strategy. Could you elaborate on how your method works in more detail?

Certainly! We're pleased to put our new method to work and see how it compares to traditional synchronization examination methods. Traditionally, studies of parent-child relationships were carried out in the lab and involved a brief footage of the encounter that the researchers decoded later. The degree of synchrony between the parent and the child in this interaction was given a general score. We assessed which characteristics of the parent, kid, and their relationship were linked to this synchronization score. However, this method represents an "ideal" interaction for research purposes rather than living in real life. When we are not being monitored inside the lab, we are more likely to act genuinely with our children. We designed small monitoring devices that fit into the clothing of parents and newborns to get such objective data. The parent and child's behavior and movements seem to be unaffected by these tailored solutions. The monitoring equipment included an ECG monitor, which records the heart's electrical activity, a microphone, GPS for exact position and movements on-site, a camera, and monitors to measure movement and skin temperature. By having parents and babies wear the devices in their natural environments for a day without the presence of the research team, we were able to collect an objective full-day record of their activities.

You discovered that anxious parents had better synchrony with their children, which appears to be a positive finding. However, you've found that being in sync most of the time isn't always a good thing. Can you describe how you came to this conclusion?

According to some developmental psychologists, the higher the synchronization between you and your child, the better the quality of your relationship and the child's abilities in various areas will be. This is known as a linear (consistent) hypothesis, and it recognizes synchronization as a significant aspect that must be maintained as much as possible. On the other hand, other experts suggest that extreme synchronization values (no synchronization or high synchronization) indicate an undesirable developing environment and that a moderate level of synchrony would be preferable. My research supports the second hypothesis. I observed that anxious parents were significantly more in tune with their children than non-anxious parents and were highly responsive to their child's stress, even if it was moderate. As a result of their constant presence and responsiveness, worried parents did not allow their children to learn to regulate their stress independently. As a result, their children could not cope with or control their emotions alone.

Non-anxious parents, on the contrary, were receptive to their children when stress levels were extremely high but not when they were moderate or low, allowing them to learn to control stress on their own and develop better self-regulating abilities.

Given your findings and the parents' desire to be the best parents, what message do you have for future or present parents?

First, I would like to point out that our research is still in its early phases, so my message should be considered as part of a giant web of general messages originating from extensive research on child development in the first years of life. The following is my message to future and present parents: Make sure you have resources for dealing with your anxieties and be conscious that your stress as a parent affects everyone around you, particularly your children. Keep an eye out for anxiety signals, such as being overly in control or extremely aroused by even the tiniest amount of distress in your interactions with your children. If you have a heart rate monitor at home, such as a smartwatch, the device can alert you that your anxiety and stress levels are high, so you can learn to manage them, for example, by breathing exercises. This message is consistent with pediatrician and psychologist Donald Winnicott's theory that parents should be good enough parents. Frustrations are a resource for development when presented in a supportive setting. It enables children to develop and learn skills that are essential in adulthood.


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