Are you a safe place for your child? I mean, a truly safe place?
I know we all like to rush to answer yes to that question.
We ensure they are physically safe in our care. We make valiant efforts to keep them safe from strangers, safe from crossing the street.
We feed them, we clothe them, we care about their education; we provide the best entertainment, toys, and electronics we’re able to. We give hugs and kisses, tell them that they can tell us anything and we’d jump to their defense if we needed to.
But are you a truly safe place for your child to tell you anything? If it turned out to be something you didn’t want to hear, or something you never thought was even in the realm of possibility?
There are so many hot-button issues out there today, and people rip each other to shreds over disagreements on so many different things. Political candidates, Target bathrooms, gun control, breastfeeding in public, homosexuality, addiction, bullying, religion, racism — the list is long.
Our children spend a great deal of time in our presence and likely have no doubts where we stand on any given topic. If you’re on the phone with a friend, talking with friends in public, or even typing an opinion on the Internet (that they could very possibly see one day), they know what you’re vocal about.
What if you’re describing a situation that could one day affect your child? Would they feel safe coming to you and asking for guidance about it? Are you truly a safe place about anything and everything?
It doesn’t mean that you can never have an opinion or disagree with anyone, and it doesn’t mean that you have to accept everything in the world today.
But great care should be taken in discussing those things. Things get downright nasty very quickly in Internet discussions. People take turns beating their proverbial chests in arguments without any intention of changing anything or hearing anyone else.
Our kids learn everything from us. I had to reel myself in on the phone with my mom the other day. We were discussing addiction and another family member, and I had to dial back my strong words because I realized my 8-year-old son was in the next room listening.
The passion was warranted and I will always have strong feelings on the subject, but if any topic surrounding addiction ever came up in my son’s life, I wouldn’t want him to be scared to approach me because of my views on it. I don’t have to tiptoe around it, but I need to choose my words and tone wisely.
We can’t predict the future, and we can’t know the issues that will come up in our children’s lives, large or small. But it is our job as parents to be a safe place for them no matter what. Even if we’re caught off-guard.
I know a man in his 40s who tearfully told me he will never, ever come out to anyone in his family because it isn’t safe. He chooses to live far away from them, and he has struggled emotionally for many years. He had all of the necessities growing up, but never felt like he had a safe place because he knew that would not be accepted. He is still too scared to say anything. And that’s a long time to live that way.
Early on, I also think we sometimes take for granted that our kids just know we’ll love them no matter what. We can’t always know what’s going on with them, and I regularly take the opportunity to say it. Often the best time to do that is when they have done something wrong.
They often just see the situation for what it is: that we’ve become angry with them, and depending on the scale of that, they can feel pretty down. Kids needs discipline, of course, but after the situation has died down, I make sure to tell them that I was angry because of something they did, but that they are always loved, no matter what. Even when they’re in trouble. I think kids need to hear those specific words so they always know.
Everyone has a hot-button issue they feel strongly about. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and the way they feel. You can still stand for something while simultaneously letting your kids know you’re there for them — always.
Everyone deserves to be heard and feel like they matter. And that goes for our children too. Be a safe place.More On