Children depend on their parents for love and support. When babies trip and take a fall, they instinctively cry and look to their parents to be picked up. Similarly, as parents, we want to be the first person our children turn to when they are upset. Unfortunately, as some children grow up, they no longer view their parents as their safe place to turn to when in need of help or in times of distress.
When children don’t see their parents as their safe place, they are unlikely to feel supported or comfortable and safe opening up to them. Often, these children learn to internalise their feelings instead of opening up within the boundaries of a safe and trusting relationship. When a child’s emotional needs aren’t met, developmental changes occur in the brain and that affects the way they feel about themselves and the way they relate to others even in adolescence and adulthood.
Your love and presence can help your child develop a healthy self-esteem, promote secure relationships, be more emotionally balanced, and according to researchers from Harvard University, even avoid cognitive issues or relational problems later in life.1
TOUCH Family shares some tips on how you can work towards being your child’s safe place.
Remain calm and acknowledge your child’s feelings instead of responding in anger or with criticism or shaming. If you overreact, your child may fear that confiding in you may always lead to a backlash or scolding. This sense of fear prevents your child from seeing you as his/her safe place. Responding with empathy and compassion shows that you care. When your child knows that he/she would be met with love and without judgement, he/she would be more likely to open up to you.
- Know when to respond and when to listen
As parents, we are programmed to be fixers and our natural instinct is to offer advice or do something to make our children’s problems go away. But sometimes, your child may just be looking for a listening ear instead of someone who dishes out advice to fix his/her problems. Instead of flying into “fixer mode”, learn to listen and respond accordingly. Saying “oh dear, that sounds upsetting”, “hmm”, “what happened after that?” or “I’m always here if you need me” may be all your child needs. Sometimes, your child just needs to get things off his/her chest and feel understood.
Humans are creatures of attachment and naturally, most of us crave connection and value relationships where we can be rooted and nourished in.2 Building this connection helps your child know that you are the person he/she can turn to when things get rough. Build this connection by making the effort to be available for your child, express your love both physically and verbally, be genuinely interested in his/her life, share your thoughts and feelings by asking questions and engaging in regular conversations. Instead of passing judgement, discuss with your child the implications of his/her actions/feelings. Gently guide your child to consider how he/she can respond to a similar situation the next time.
- Find your own safe place
Lastly, understand that self-care is important for parents as they work to build meaningful and nurturing relationships with their children. Parenting requires a certain bandwidth; if you do not feel safe, often feel stressed out or are struggling emotionally, it would be very challenging for you to be that safe place for your child. Parents who have good self-care are also good examples for their children. Learn to put yourself first and parenting may turn out to be even more fulfilling than you thought it could be!
Want to know more about parenting or any family-related support? Contact TOUCH Family at 6709 8400 or click here to find out more.
TOUCH Family aims to build strong and fulfilling families, and promote the well-being of individuals and families in need. It impacts over 12,500 families and individuals each year through family-based services and programmes, and strives to provide a holistic integrated service to serve the needs of every person and family at every stage of their lives.