Make your home emotionally safe for your child!
Keeping all four kids physically safe was a challenge and providing an emotionally safe environment was just as challenging. As parents, we always tried to authentically validate each child’s unique needs, feelings, and fears…and each of these little faces had their own…you can almost see each of their own uniqueness in this picture!
“Be safe!” “Wear your seat belt!” ” Put your helmet on!” “Don’t jump off the slide!” ” Ride with both hands on the handlebars!” ” Don’t drive too fast!” ” Turn the music down in the car!” “Where is your mouth guard?” “Leave the party if there is drinking.” ” Call me if you need a ride home.”…..I have sounded like a walking safety book with my children. I have tried to create a safe environment for my kids when they were small and impart “words of wisdom” to keep them safe as my kids became older. From the first moment you lay eyes on your child, you have an insatiable need to keep your child safe. Physical safety is a huge part of this….but we as parents also must remember that our children need to be in a safe emotional environment too.
We can buy outlet covers, cabinet locks, bike helmets, and mouth guards, but how do we create an emotionally safe environment that fosters our child’s strengths, helps our child develop coping skills, helps our child recover from disappointments and be prepared for life? I often made the mistake of telling my children, “You are OK..it will be fine.” I was desperately wanting them to just feel better, no matter what they were disappointed about. A better choice is always to listen with empathy, validate their feelings and fears and not simply push those feelings away thinking you are making them “all better.” If we do this, then our child will not learn how to handle these real feelings and move on from disappointment or hardship to figuring out solutions.
So, what kind of “childproofing” can you do to make your home emotionally safe for your child? The home is a place where a child should feel safe to be who they are, to be heard for what they feel, and have no fear that they still will be loved and valued no matter how they act.
- Parents need to work at figuring out what their child needs…not wants, but needs.
- Parents need to stop and truly listen; listen quietly to what their child shares.
- Parents need to stop, breathe, and then speak when their own emotions are overwhelming. Responding to children in a way that is frightening or overwhelming will prevent a child from feeling emotional safety.
- Parents need to validate and respect their child’s feelings, fears, and thoughts even if those feelings , fears, and thoughts seem wrong or silly to the parent. Never minimize your child’s feelings and emotions.
- Parents need to be consistently there for their child when their child needs them, even if the parent can’t fix the problem.
- Parents need to help a child work through feelings and empower their child to develop his or her own strategy or plan to solve the problem, even if it seems easier for you to fix it or solve it for your child.
- Parents need to set appropriate limits and boundaries for their child, even if the limit causes tears or an “I hate you!” response. Limits and boundaries bring a feeling of safety and security to children, even if they don’t admit it.
- Parents need to handle their own emotions, worries, fears, and stress with maturity. Children model behavior of parents and if the behavior they see is melting down, yelling, anxiety or withdrawing; children will use the same strategies to cope with their own emotions, fears, and stress.
So as we are looking at each nook and cranny of our homes to be sure our child’s environment is safe for him or her physically; let’s think about what our home needs so that it is always an emotionally safe place for our child. Our homes need to be safe enough that our child can share who they truly are, tell us what fears they have in their heart, and express what deep emotions they hold without fear that we parents will withhold our love and support, or that we will merely tell them that “it is OK” without truly listening. So today, stop for a moment and think about creating a safe haven in your home for your children…one that keeps them physically safe, but just as important, one that keeps them emotionally safe.
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.