Create a Safe, Open Home Environment

by Lex Solberg, ASU Public Ally Fellow, Casa Grande Alliance

The need to feel safe and stable at home is important to everyone, but children especially need to feel safe. Children who feel a connection with their caretakers and their home go on to exhibit fewer risky behaviors later in childhood.

To establish a meaningful relationship with your child and prepare them for what lies ahead, you must make a home that always feels safe. There are many simple ways you can help make a child feel whole and happy in the home. Here are a few from the Children’s Bureau, a child welfare arm of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:

Don’t yell
Children should be taught that it’s OK to make a mistake without worrying about feeling shamed or mad at. Shouting can cause fear, reciprocal anger, and withdrawal in children and may adversely affect your future communication with them.
The next time you find your child pushing your buttons or constantly acting out, try speaking to them softly instead of raising your voice. This technique helps strip away your anger or impatience and gets them to listen to what you’re saying. Speaking in calm, hushed tones can make them feel as if you’re treating them as more of an equal and will increase the chances of taking what you’ve said to heart.

Let them be kids
Playtime is absolutely necessary for positive child development, as well as learning good motor and social skills. Encourage curiosity and creativity by allowing them to discover their world in a safe, controlled manner, allowing them room to play, imagine, build and dream. Make sure the books, toys and games available to your child are age appropriate. Stimulating and engaging toys and activities allow them to learn better and grow.

Set good examples
Children notice everything. Always be aware of your actions and words in the presence of children. These quickly developing little mimics look to adults for direction in life, and setting a good example can mean anything from being honest and kind to others to not smoking to eating healthy foods. Let them see you making good life choices.

Be honest
Phrases like “because I said so” or “those are just the rules” are not helpful to a child trying to navigate the confusing intricacies of being a part of and fitting into a family. Explain to them why these things are important. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” What’s important is to nurture their desire to learn about the world around them and fuel their curiosity. Use their questions as an opportunity to bond with them and suggest you find out together.

Display affection
The importance of this can’t be overestimated. Hug. Cuddle. Show concern when they are upset, and ask questions about why they are feeling a certain way. Talk to them about their day or things they like. Allow them to express their feelings; let them see yours. Showing your child that you love and care for them helps foster their ability to develop empathy for others.
So much of a child’s success in later life depends on early experiences in the home. Don’t just give them the basic life tools, give them the extraordinary advantage of healthy emotional development by knowing your unwavering support is there for them every step of the way.