Sometimes as parents we observe the world around our children, and we are worried for them. Scary tings are going on out there. Some are serious and some are common childhood experiences that are part of growing up. As parents, we wish we could shield our kids from so many hurts and disappointments, and from all real danger.
But we can’t, so we try to equip them as best we can. One thing I think many parents overlook is the real influence they have in their children’s lives. We teach them to brush their teeth, tie shoes, button and zip, and to ride a bike or swim. Many of us fail to realize, however, that we can also teach them that we know of a safe haven from the churning seas and blustery winds of life.
That safe haven is a home and family where they find unconditional love, acceptance of who they are, and appreciation for the unique person they are. If that child finds a family who encourages the free, but respectful, exchange of ideas and authentic praise when it is warranted, consequences for behavior when that is warranted, and plenty of good humor and hugs, a child will want to come home.
The child who feels safe and loved will share about their day.
If we treat one another with respect, we foster an environment of harmony and support. Helping a family member can be as simple as setting the table or cleaning up after someone else made the effort and took the time to prepare a meal for everyone. Or it could be as crucial as figuring out together what to do about a bully at school.
A child who knows their parent will really listen will be more inclined to share and ask for support. Even if it is just to tell someone of a frustration or concern, not going it alone can be awfully comforting and can reduce stress in a child’s life. We have learned as adults that keeping something worrisome to ourselves increases our stress and makes it much less easy to bear. The same is true for our children.
We may say, “Of course we care for our child, we’re the parents,’ but does your child know you care? You can directly tell your children you love them, but the smaller ways of listening, setting rules that you enforce for their health and safety and in consideration of others, attending to needs they cannot yet meet for themselves, are all concrete ways of showing that you care.
Our kids need and want to know their limits, and providing those limits clearly and consistently also demonstrate your love for them. And it all provides that safe place for children to feel special when the world outside may treat them otherwise.