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My Kids Aren't Safe?

The Background

I vaguely remember reading things about children feeling ‘safe’ when I was in the throes of chaos and focusing simply on getting through the day. Meals, clothes, a roof over their head, and driving them everywhere…isn’t that safe enough?!?

Sadly, I wasn’t really getting the point!

I believed that applauding them for doing things well or protecting them from painful things or even making sure they were dressed well at school was also part of making them feel safe in the world. It turns out safety has more to do with moving through challenging experiences for our brain to realize that we can survive adversity.

What is it?

Focus on the ‘move through’.

Children (all of us, actually) have an imperative for safety deeply wired into our minds and bodies. And when our body and mind experience that safety, our brains actually do a better job of listening, empathizing, cooperating…and in ‘my-kid-won’t-listen-to-me’ speak, this means that when children feel ‘safe’, they are more likely to do the chores, sit down and do homework when you ask, control their impulses. Get it?

Safety is about children riding out their emotions. And it is only in riding out our emotions, moving through the challenging experience, that our brain realizes that we can survive adversity.

This is where you come in : a child experiences this safety when the home environment is dependable and trustworthy and loving, especially when they feel out of control with their own emotions.

How to Address It?

Start with the little things. When a child doesn’t get the toy she wants from the store or the part he wanted in the play or the A he wanted on the test, let’s let them feel the disappointment. Once they get through that disappointment and find that they survived it and you still love them….well, that’s safety!

Your Script in Action

Instead of

  • You’ll get toys for Christmas, don’t cry.

  • The drama teacher just doesn’t realize that you’re better than the person that got the part.

  • Oh, don’t worry about that A, your grades are fine.


  • I know how sad you are not to get that fun toy. I’d be sad too.

  • I can understand how disappointed you must be not to get that part. Tell me about the part you did get..

  • That must be really frustrating to have gotten a C. Is there something you’re thinking you should differently for the next test?


Look for easy opportunities to validate and let them sit with it. Complaining about doing chores, the awfulness of online school, wanting to be outside instead of sitting at computer, not getting the grade he wanted. The message your child will receive is: I trust that you can handle the situation, the emotion, the disappointment; I believe in you. Read that last part again: I BELIEVE IN YOU.

You got this!


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