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Everyday Practices to Help Your Child Feel Safe in a Scary World

The world can be a big, scary, unpredictable place for a child. These simple everyday practices will help your kids feel secure, safe, and loved.

By
Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #563
supporting child
The Quick And Dirty

Raising well-rounded kids can be challenging in today’s hectic and unpredictable world, but you can provide them with the emotional tools they need to feel secure.

  • Create secure attachment by helping your child feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure (The Four S's)
  • Establish boundaries and routines
  • Be mindful of how you talk to your child
  • Minimize and supervise access to media violence
  • Practice loving actions

Raising well-rounded kids can be challenging in today’s hectic and unpredictable world, but you can provide them with the emotional tools they need to feel secure.

If you want to cradle your child with a loving security blanket when life seems scary and uncertain, here are some everyday ways you can keep him feeling safe and sound.

Provide your child with “The Four S’s”

As a huge fan of audio books, I’m thrilled to find a good listen that will help me better understand what makes my kids tick. I recently found a fantastic title that gave me, a veteran mom of eight, some helpful advice for helping my kids feel protected. It's The Power of Showing Up by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.

Stress is a common part of every child’s life. When they feel a secure bond with their parent, they can navigate through these insecurities with less anxiety and tension. In The Power of Showing Up, Siegel and Bryson promote “The Four S’s." That means helping your child feel:

  • Safe
  • Seen
  • Soothed
  • Secure

Find ways to disconnect with the outside world. Turn off your phone when you’re having dinner as a family, schedule regular time to hang out and play a board game, or talk quietly after a meal. These are just a few simple but effective ways to show up and be present on a regular basis. These will become times you and your kids treasure and hold sacred.

"When children feel safe, seen (being known and understood), and soothed (being helped to feel calm and good again) most of the time (not perfectly), they develop security (where their brain wires to expect that people will see their needs and show up for them). ...Parenting isn’t easy, but showing up and being present is something we can all try to do."

Tina Payne Bryson

Establish boundaries and routines

One of the easiest ways you can offer your child a safety net in today’s hectic world is to establish boundaries and routines. Our kids not only need guidelines and structure but they actually crave them. Yes, I kid you not! Deep down, all kids (even moody teens) crave boundaries regardless of individual temperament. When they have structure, routines, and rules in place it offers them a sense of security because they know what’s expected of them. Boundaries help your child thrive by teaching them responsibility, consequences, and respect for others as well as themselves. This, in turn, helps to build their sense of self.

The key to success in this arena is your ability to be consistent.

In my episode Are You a Pushover Parent? 5 Ways to Stay Strong, I addressed the importance of routines and why boundaries are so important. Here's an excerpt:

Not only do routines help keep order and structure in your home (though your kids might never admit it), they also help kids thrive and keep them grounded. In an article on pushover parenting, Dr Aric Sigman, author of The Spoilt Generation, says, 'Parents are in charge and children need rules and boundaries to make them feel secure. We need to trust our own instincts and not shirk our responsibility of being a parent.'

Implement routines and structure in your home environment and you’ll easily create a secure family foundation.

RELATED: How Routines will Improve Your Life

Choose your words and tone carefully

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” I learned this growing up, but there’s nothing that seems further from the truth. Words hurt, and they can stick with us forever.

Kids are bombarded with negativity in school, through peer interactions, and social media exchanges. If they’re exposed to criticism and cruel comments in their own homes, the damage to their self-esteem and ability to feel safe can be devastating.

Words hurt, and they can stick with us forever.

When your child makes a mistake, think before you lash out and reprimand her. My 14-year old daughter recently photographed her 17-year-old brother’s messy bedroom (eek!) and shared the photos on Instagram because he wouldn’t lend her money for the movies. I saw her act as a double-whammy—not only did she misuse her social media priveleges to retaliate against her brother, she shared a glimpse into his private life.

Had I acted on impulse, I could’ve said something hurtful like “What the heck were you thinking? You’re much smarter than that!” Thankfully, I counted to ten (make that 100) and asked her how she would’ve felt if he had posted a picture of her bedroom on a morning when she couldn’t decide between 20 different outfits for school. This approach helped her to understand that she'd made a bad choice. She wrote a huge apology to her older brother and quietly accepted the loss of her social media privileges for the next few weeks.

Another tool to help foster security is your tone of voice. People, kids especially, tend to respond to a request when they hear a pleasant voice rather than someone shouting or overreacting with an emotional tirade. In the case with my daughter, my tone of voice kept the tension levels low and allowed her to learn from her mistake rather than feel attacked.

RELATED: How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids

Minimize their access to media violence

Exposure to violence in media—including television, movies, music, and video games—affects how safe children and adolescents feel in their surrounding world. 

Give your child the chance to share his opinion. Now you have a golden opportunity to put things in perspective for him.

Research shows that by age 18, an American child will have seen 200,000 acts of violence via the media. Taking charge of the content our kids have access to on a regular basis can play a big role in how well they're able to separate real life from fiction. When you watch TV together, take the time to comment and ask your child questions about any episodes that might be problematic. Don’t ignore an uncomfortable scene. Instead, give your child the chance to share his opinion. Now you have a golden opportunity to put things in perspective for him.

Check out this list of resources for parents on how to limit a child’s access to television and video games that contain violent and inappropriate content.

RELATED: Kids Gaming - How to Keep Your Video Gamer Safe

Practice loving actions

One of the simplest (yet often overlooked) ways to build your child’s sense of trust and security is to show them the love! If you were to ask my eight kids what I do without fail each time I see them or say goodbye to them every day, I’m positive they’d all give you the same answer. I hug them (and I do mean hug!) and tell them I love them. Showing affection to children encourages them like nothing else can.

Showing affection to children encourages them like nothing else can.

When your child hears "I love you" or notices that you stop what you're doing to greet him with a loving smile when he enters a room, it means the world to him. That's true even for teens and college kids, although many would never admit it. 

When you display affection to your kids and other family members, you validate to them how important they are to you. That affirmation sends the best positive message you could ever deliver. It helps to build their sense of trust and feelings of safety and security in many areas of their life.

Mommy Pro Tip: Try not to be in a rush when sending your child off to school or scurrying to pick her up from practice. Take a moment to make eye contact, smile, and let her feel how much she means to you.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!