Tag Archive for safety

What Our Children Really Need

One goal all parents share is the goal of raising healthy children. But that goal includes more than just physical health. We also want to raise emotionally healthy children. A large study out of Johns Hopkins University (published in 2019) found positive childhood experiences promoted the development of emotionally healthy adults…just like we want. Best of all, you can provide these positive childhood experiences in your family. You can also help bring other adults into your child’s life to provide even more. Here are the positive experiences the researchers found fundamental to our children and some ways you can provide them in your home.

  1. Children need the opportunity and ability to talk to family members about feelings. Learn to accept your children’s feelings, their emotions. Label their emotions so they can build a strong vocabulary for emotions. Value your children enough to listen to their emotions and respond to them with empathy and understanding before problem-solving. Use emotions as a starting point to learn about your child’s priorities and sensitivities.
  2. Children need to feel safe and protected by the adults in their home. Creating an environment in which the healthy expression of emotions is acceptable will go a long way in creating this safe environment. Obviously, assuring our children’s basic needs for food and shelter are met will also help them feel safe and protected. Similarly, forbidding verbal and physical violence while encouraging loving communication and politeness promotes safety. Your children will also feel safe and protected when you allow them to witness and experience healthy, positive physical affection. (Learn the Heartbeat of a Hug.) Make sure they witness the resolution of disagreements as well. All this will help them feel safe and protected by the adults in your home.
  3. Children need adults who take a genuine interest in their lives. Show your children their importance to you by learning about their interests. Talk about their interests. Invest in their interests. Ask about their activities and their plans. Learn about their dreams and invest in their dreams. Help them with projects and homework. Join them in an activity of their choosing. Show them through your words and your actions that you are interested in them, that you delight in them.
  4. Children need someone in their corner. We all want someone who is in our corner, someone who has our back. Advocate for your child. Help them face and overcome obstacles. Stand by them in the midst of stress or conflict. Support them in resolving conflicts they can resolve on their own and step in to help them resolve those conflicts that become to intense for them to manage at their developmental level. Believe them when they tell you something…and, even more, believe IN them.
  5. Children need to participate in community traditions. Get involved with your child in community. Community may include your neighborhood, your church, and scouting organizations as well as clubs, athletics, or special interest organizations. Each of these groups will have activities and traditions in which you and your child can become involved. Get involved.
  6. Children need to feel connected at school and supported by friends. Our children will feel more connected at school when we have a good relationship with school. So, attend parent-teacher conferences. Go to the concerts and the plays, volunteer to help at school events. Get to know the teachers. The more connected you are to the school, the more connected your child will become as well…and the more likely they will succeed.

In all these ways, you and your home can provide positive childhood experiences to your children. But there is one more way to provide your children with an abundance of positive childhood experiences. Involve other positive caring adults in the fabric and life of your child and family. This may include parents of your children’s friends, ministers, coaches, teachers, or community and club leaders. The more caring adults sharing a healthy involvement in your child’s life, the better. It will allow your child multiple positive childhood experiences to shape their lives in resilience and opportunity. So, build a village of caring adults around your child.

What Your Child, My Child… Every Child Needs!

Schools continue to struggle to determine exactly how to start this school year. Parents and school districts struggle to determine how to balance safety, economic needs, and educational needs during this time. Sports remain an issue of debate. Will school sports’ teams compete or wait until the pandemic is resolved to enjoy competition? While all these decisions remain unresolved, life has become unpredictable for our families and our children. A lack of predictability will create a sense of insecurity in our children; and, insecurity contributes to negative behaviors and even health issues in our children’s lives. So, we need to find ways to help our children feel safe and secure even during the unpredictable nature of our world right now. How can parents do this? Here are 5 things you can do every day to get you started.

  1. Listen. Give your children the opportunity to be heard. Get curious about their emotions, challenges, grievances, and fears. Strive to understand what lies under their misbehaviors (Read Misbehavior: A Call for Love? to learn more) rather than lecture and reprimand. As we listen and understand, our children will feel more secure. They will become calmer and more able to problem-solve as well.
  2. Establish daily rituals. Rituals help to build daily predictability that will contribute to our children’s sense of security. They also provide opportunities to talk and build deeper, more intimate relationships (Is Your Family Like a Scene from RV? Try Rituals).  Rituals don’t have to be complicated. You can build them into your daily life. For instance, rituals might include eating a meal together, reading together at bedtime, establishing a 20-minute conversation time each day, having a puzzle you work on each day.
  3. Invest in your relationship with your children’s other parent. A strong, healthy marriage contributes to a child’s sense of security. Let your children bear witness to your love for one another.
  4. Spend time with your children. Children spell love “T.I.M.E.” Time is the currency of love and security for your children. When they know you will put down your cell phone, postpone a job for a moment to talk, or make time to engage with them, your children learn you value them and care enough to keep them safe. Make time for your children. (How to Spend Quality Time with Your Children.)
  5. Share healthy physical affection. Give a hug. Put your arm around your children. Wrestle. Healthy physical affection increases our sense of connection and an increased sense of connection makes us feel secure. Give your children a hug! (Six Reasons to Hug Your Family.)

I’m sure there are more ways to help your children feel secure during this time of unpredictability. But, these five will give a great start. What ways would you add?

An Environmental Concern Hits Close to Home

We hear a lot about the environment these days. Just do a google search on “environmental concerns” and around 12,900,000 links come up in a mere .87 seconds. We worry about the polar bears’ habitat, the impact of wasting water and not recycling, and the consequences of global climate change on nature’s backdrop. These are all worthy causes and concerns that deserve our attention. But, in our zeal to address the natural environment, we often neglect an environment just as important and even closer to home, an environment very dear to my heart. If you are a parent or grandparent, it’s probably dear to your heart as well. I’m talking about the home environment in which our children live and grow. This environment will have a long reaching impact on our children and everything they do.  In other words, it will have a long-term impact on our social, political, and environmental world as our children grow up. As a result, the environment in which our children learn and grow needs our full attention.  Even better, we create this environment by our efforts and through our interactions. Let me share three things we can do to create the best environment for our children’s growth and maturity.

  1. Children need a safe environment in which to learn and grow. To keep an environment safe for our children means to keep it clear of anything which poses a significant threat to them at their particular developmental level. This may involve putting up safety gates and installing “baby-proofing” locks on cupboards to keep our toddlers safe. As our children become “middle schoolers,” establishing a safe environment may involve charging cell phones overnight in the kitchen rather than the bedroom. A safe environment also includes plenty of healthy food and sufficient rest. You get the idea. Think ahead and create a safe environment for your children. Creating a safe environment for children also relieves parents of stress. With less stress over their children’s safety, parents can relax and observe their children. They can learn more about their children and grow closer to them each day.
  2. Children need an environment that is cognitively challenging. This will include age appropriate toys and play objects with which children can interact and problem-solve. Things as simple as building blocks, dress up clothes, and balls provide appropriate stimulation. Even objects in nature like trees to climb, bugs to watch, hills to roll down, and water to play in provide opportunities to problem-solve, negotiate, and create. TV’s and video games, on the other hand, rob our children of the opportunities to problem-solve and create. So, the best environment for our children will limit screen-time and provide plenty of “passive toys” (Read Two Observations on Parenting for more.)
  3. Children need an emotionally nurturing environment in which to learn and grow. A key ingredient of an emotionally nurturing environment is an attentive parent. The attentive parent possesses keen observation skills. They use this skill to learn of their children’s strengths and weaknesses, to identify their children’s abilities and areas of growth. Their keen eye will identify ways to modify the environment to encourage positive behavior and stimulate growth, provide success and introduce challenges. The emotionally nurturing parent rejoices when their child rejoices and feels sorrow when their child feels sorrow. Yet, because the parents are not overwhelmed by their children’s emotions, they can help their child temper and manage those feelings in a positive way. Read The Wings on Which Your Children Soar to learn more about providing emotional nurturance for your children.

The environment our children encounter in the world can be harsh and cruel. Create a home environment filled with honor, grace, and celebration…an environment of love. Believe me—it will have a global impact. If you want proof of the potential global impact, check out this fascinating study involving hot sauce and attachment: Hot Sauce Vs. the Power of Relationship.

The Family That Laughs Together…

My family loves to laugh. Just last Friday we were walking back to the car after eating dinner at a local fish fry when my daughter said something that struck her older sister’s happy brother and sister laughing isolated on the whitefunny bone. She started laughing. She laughed so hard we had to stop walking to allow her to wipe tears of laughter from her face. Several weeks ago we were enjoying a little jovial banter around the dinner table when something struck my wife as funny. She started to laugh. My oldest daughter caught the “bug” and joined the “laughter contagion.” My youngest daughter and I looked at each other before sitting back with a chuckle to watch them roll around and cry in laughter. (PS—this happens a lot at our house…my youngest daughter and I actually instigate it when we can). And, we love it. I love to see my family laugh. I love to laugh with them.

  • Laughing together creates wonderful memories filled with unconditional acceptance. Laughter within a family indicates a feeling of acceptance, a sense that one is safe enough to “let go” and laugh. Laughing together bonds us together, increasing “group cohesion.” Who doesn’t want to belong to a family filled with memories of warm acceptance experienced in laughter?
  • Laughing together replaces fear and shame with togetherness, hope and well-being. It reframes fear into moments of acceptance and events that we can manage and resolve, even laugh at. It releases shame and replaces it with the knowledge that we are accepted in spite of our shortcomings, mishaps, and failures. Laughter also increases hope, self-esteem, and well-being.
  • Laughing together builds a sense of safety for everyone present. If we can laugh together, we can approach one another with humor and resolve differences together as well. After all, laughter enhances problem-solving ability, creativity, and perspective. We can all feel safer knowing we approach differences with the creativity and perspective provided by a good sense of humor and laughter.
  • Laughing together is contagious. One person with a genuine laugh will bring at least a smile to the face of each person present. As that smile turns to laughter, our lives become entwined in the joy of the moment. We become more intimate as moments of laughter release the frustrations, tensions, and even anger that separate us.

 

A family that laughs together stays together. So look for those moments when you might share a good laugh with your family…and let it out. Laugh it up…together. (If you have trouble finding something to laugh about, watch this video with your family.)

The Gift of Freedom is Wrapped in Safety

I wanted to present this information with a creative flare. Maybe an inspiring story, a personal experience, or an insightful saying would provide the creative boost I wanted. But, I just couldn’t come up with anything. So, I am just have to say it straight out. I have to stick with the direct approach. Here it is: Children need to feel safe. Feeling safe opens the door to healthy development. Specifically, our children need to feel safe in order to:

  1. Have the freedom to explore the world around them and learn about themselves, others, and the world.
  2. Have the freedom to develop into mature adults based on their unique interests and abilities.
  3. Have the freedom to establish healthy, loving relationships with family, friends, and other adults.

Paper chain family protected in cupped handsWithout a sense of safety, our children’s development in each of these areas is hindered, even delayed. The freedom to grow comes wrapped in the package of safety! Parents play a crucial role in helping children develop the sense of safety that allows for healthy development. Let me share four of the most important ways you, as parents, shape an environment that makes children feel safe. In order to create an environment in which children feel safe:

  1. Remain consistently present in your children’s lives. Make time for your children. Remain present even when you are angry at them. Be available even when times are tough. Rejoice with them. Grieve with them. Cry with them. Play with them. Let them know, come rain or come shine, in good times and in bad, you are available and present in their lives.
  2. Build predictability into your family life. Predictability equals safety in your children’s mind. Morning routines, mealtime routines, homework routines, bedtime routines all add predictable structure to a family’s daily life. Rituals to recognize holidays, birthdays, and special effort or achievement also add structure and predictability to family life. These routines and rituals combine to create a safe structure in which variations and unusual circumstances can be understood and integrated. In other words, when children typically experience a loving structure in their home, they can better handle emergencies. They can more easily navigate occasional changes in routine. They can better manage unusual events. Give your children the gift of a predictable structure.
  3. Discipline with confidence. Children need limits to feel safe. They need to know that their misbehavior and outbursts of emotion will not overwhelm their parent. Give them the comfort of knowing a competent adult can and will enforce a limit in the face of any behavior or emotion. On the other hand, children need enough information to make sense of a limit and the related consequence. Establishing clear limits/consequences and communicating those limits/consequences in a concise manner will increase your children’s sense of safety exponentially.
  4. Discipline with empathy. Discipline most often occurs when children’s behavior or desires are at odds with parental decisions. Having a viewpoint that clashes with their parents’ viewpoint can raise your children’s level of anxiety. To nurture a sense of safety in the midst of these opposing views, parents discipline with empathy. Empathize with your children’s frustration, but stand firm. Listen to their reasons for wanting a change in the limit as they mature; but remember, you still have the final say. You determine the limit based on your experience and your knowledge of your children’s abilities and needs.

 

By establishing these four practices you increase your children sense of safety. In response, they will be better able to explore themselves and the world around them. They will mature into healthy adults. And, they will misbehave less often.

That Was Awkward…

I sat in the car waiting for my daughter to finish her music lesson, come into the parking lot, and hop into the car. While I waited, one of her friends walked into the parking lot, briefly looked around, and began walking in my direction. She stared at her phone as she walked, thumbs quickly tapping on the screen. I thought she would walk right past my car and into her own family car. However, she stopped at my car, opened the passenger door, and plopped down in the seat…still texting away. I sat still, looking at her. “How do I say something without scaring her?” I thought as she continued staring at her phone with thumbs dancing on the screen.  Quietly, I simply said, “Hi” and filled in her name. Her thumbs stopped in mid-motion. She looked at me, eyes wide. “Oh, did I get in the wrong car?” I tried to offer some reassuring words, but she her whole body was suddenly in quick motion. She opened the door, jumped out of my car, and closed the door. “That’s awkward” were her final words as the door closed and she walked away. I’m not sure if she knew who I was or not. But, I got a chuckle out of the whole incident.
 
The whole incident reminded me of news reports about people walking while texting on their cell-phone. There is the “Fountain Lady” (view here) who walked into a fountain while focused on her cell phone and the story of Fort Lee, NJ imposing an $85 fine on people who text while walking (read it here). More importantly, this incident reminded me that we, as parents, need to teach, and “re-teach,” our children safety awareness. We may need to remind our children to put down their cell phone and pay attention to the world around them—to watch where they are walking, to look into the car before they hop in, to observe who is standing or sitting next to them, to make sure the path is clear before stepping into a street, to observe if the dog approaching them is friendly or not… or, to simply enjoy a sunset or a lightning storm. This simple awareness of our surroundings provides a measure of safety in the world. Unfortunately, the rise of cell phones, hand-held games, and ear phones raises another area in which we need to teach our children awareness and caution.  Although I agreed with this young lady’s last statement (“That’s awkward”), I also learned an important lesson. I came home and reminded my daughters to remain aware of their environment; it’s a matter of safety. Let’s all encourage our children to practice that awareness!

2 Parenting Essentials

To state the obvious, parents play a crucial role in their children’s lives. They serve their children as teachers, chefs, administrative assistants, launderer, house cleaner, transportation manager, moral conscience, landscaper, mentor, and trainer of all these areas as well. I’m sure we could add to this list of parenting jobs. However, we can reduce many parenting roles into two jobs: meeting our children’s needs and allowing them to take risks. Let me explain a little more.


Parents strive to meet their children’s every need—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Notice, though, that parents meet their children’s needs, not their every want and desire. For example, these items are wants and desires, not needs (children can live without them):
·         A cell phone
·         A TV in the bedroom
·         The most recent fad in tennis shoes, hairstyles, or clothing
·         A Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Gameboy, or any other hand-held gaming device
·         An Xbox, Wii, or other TV game device
·         Their favorite snack everyday
·         Rides everywhere and unearned cash in their pockets
·         To be constantly entertained
 
What does a child need? Children need parents to provide for their physical needs like food, shelter, and clothing. Parents may have to work long hours to provide for these physical needs; and, they probably spend many hours maintaining the home, shopping for food and clothes, repairing clothes, washing clothes, preparing food, and storing food. But, parents do not stop there. They also provide for their children’s emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. They invest in making a strong emotional connection with their children by spending time with them, playing with them, enjoying activities together, talking with them, etc. They also become a student of their children—learning about their interests, sensitivities, fears, and dreams. By learning about their children, parents build a stronger relationship with them. They also gain the knowledge necessary to effectively teach and discipline their children. This knowledge allows a parent to guide their children in values and beliefs that promote a healthy lifestyle. And, children respond best to discipline from a parent who knows them, has invested time in them, and has developed a strong relationship with them. Meeting our children’s needs builds trust, relationship, and security.
 
Parents also allow their children to take risks. When children have parents who meet their needs, they are free to explore the world around them. They trust that their parents will protect them. They have a sense that the world is a safe place. They want to explore and learn more about their world. Sometimes this exploration will create risk—risks like crossing the street for the first time, driving across the state alone, climbing up one branch higher in the tree, or deciding whether to study abroad for a semester in college. Sometimes, parents rush to protect their children from the possible threat or harm of exploration and risk. In this rush to protect, parents prevent exploration. By discouraging exploration and risk, they nurture fear and timidity. They rob their children of the opportunity to learn from their decisions and the consequences of those decisions. They stunt their children’s growing ability to make thinking ahead to consider the consequences, problem-solve, and make wise choices. They encourage children who “play it safe” rather than children who “step out in faith” and “enjoy the adventure.” 
 
Parents who encourage curious exploration and risk, on the other hand, nurture children who think ahead, consider the consequences of their actions, make better decisions, and practice effective problem-solving skills. These children become more mature, have a healthy sense of independence, and a greater willingness to seek out help when needed. So, go ahead…take the risk of letting your children take a risk.

Family, A Haven in a Heartless World

“The family is a haven in a heartless world.” ~Attributed to Christopher Lasch
 
Each morning my family leaves our home and enters the discouraging, oppressive world of work or school. That may sound harsh, but true none the less…just watch the news. Students enter the “sacred halls of education” through metal detectors and security guards to sit in classrooms as canine police sniff out lockers for paraphernalia. In the classrooms and hallways, kids strive to satisfy an unquenchable thirst for attention at the expense of their peers. Queen bees slander other students and top dogs humiliate those under them on the social ladder. Each month, we witness multiple news reports of bullying and media harassment; or, we listen as our children tell us about all the “drama” that goes on between students. 
 
At work, we find ourselves pushed to work longer hours, accomplish more, and meet productivity standards established by financial demands rather than human need. Even shopping has become potentially dangerous. Congresswomen and judges risk getting shot in the mall. On a smaller level, fights and arguments break out in stores as stressed staff wait on angry customers. Police and security guards patrol the halls of most malls. Is it any surprise that we come home exhausted, frustrated, and agitated from a day of work, school, or shopping in the “heartless world”? But, we do come home. Home sweet home, a haven of rest amidst the chaos of life.
 
Hopefully, our home does provide a haven of hope, an oasis of encouragement and peace. Family provides the shade from the hot desert sun, the refreshing drink that quenches our thirst, the cool lotion that soothes our burnt skin… alright, enough with the cliché metaphors (sorry, got carried away). Let’s get to the point. How do we make our families a safe haven, an oasis of peace and restoration? We do so by establishing three distinctive traits in our home and family life.
 
First, turn your home into a place of honor. Honor one another with polite speech, encouraging words, and loving praise. Listen attentively to one another. Serve one another without complaining. Treat one another with kindness. Express gratitude for kindness received. Learn about something that interests another family member. Do something nice for family members on a regular basis. All these actions, and more, show honor and, practiced regularly, establish honor as a hallmark in the family.
 
Second, turn your home into a place of grace. Give one another the gift of your time. In the midst of your busy life, remain available and attentive to one another. Give the gift of your attention, acknowledging the value of each family member’s presence in your life. Give respect and kindness even when the other person does not deserve it. Sacrifice your own desires in order to satisfy the needs and desires of your family. Expect nothing in return. Simply treat your family with love. You will find that such grace breeds more grace and more love, more respect and more sensible living.  
 
Third, transform your family into a celebrating community. Celebrate successes, failures, and everything in between. Enjoy another’s company during meals. Laugh together. Play together. Have a game night, movie night, or some other activity night. Celebrate birthdays and holidays. Make up your own days of celebration. Give gifts for no reason at all. Actively seek out ways to enjoy celebrating with your family any chance you get.
 
By practicing these behaviors in your family, you transform your home into a celebrating community of honor and grace that will serve as an oasis of rest and peace, a haven in the midst of a heartless world.