Today is International Youth Day. Observed annually on 12 August, it is a day created by the United Nations to draw attention to legal and cultural issues around youth.
The theme this year is Safe Spaces For Youth. This got me thinking about how we, as parents, should create a home that is a haven for our children (physically and emotionally). And importantly, how our home should be a safe space for our children to voice their feelings and opinions.
Giving your children a sanctuary is an enormous gift. It allows them to go out and do battle in the world, and return home to recharge. It also gives your family culture the cozy nest it needs to thrive. Finally, research shows that adults who consciously create homes where they find nurturing and beauty report better moods and less stressful lives.
So what can you do, in this busy world, to create a safe haven for your family?
Stress makes us less patient. Slow down! Spend more time at home as a family. Adults and children are so over-scheduled these days that even family dinners are difficult. You’ll find your children behave better when you do slow down.
Children need to contribute to the household. However, when you are at home don’t over structure their time with chores and routine. You want a relaxed atmosphere.
Provide Some Structure
Kids also need routine for things to run smoothly. Lexi functions much better when she knows what to expect. The only routines we have in our home (and need for things to run smoothly) are mealtimes and bedtime. Of course, this is dependent on your lifestyle and how many children you have. The more organised a home is the less stress for everyone.
Have you ever noticed how your children’s behaviour deteriorates the more screen time they have? Parents also need to put away their devices and be more present when they are with their children. Try one tech free day a week!
Tech free time allows us to be more available to our children when they want to talk.
Be Open To Talking (even if it is uncomfortable)
I often tell Lexi that she can tell me anything and I promise I won’t be angry. The key is to stay calm when they do tell you things that make you angry. Lexi has often come to me to chat about things that have happened and I have had to stay calm and neutral.
Validation is the most important part of any safe relationship. Validation is saying “Your perspective is important to me and you make sense.” Validation is not agreement. Validation is: “That makes sense you were so angry when your friend took your stuff without asking.” If there is a behavior that is inappropriate, such as your child hits the friend for taking her stuff, you can validate her anger but also let her know that hitting someone else is not okay.
She also knows that there are sometimes consequences. We discuss natural consequences and sometimes I have to enforce consequences.
Let Your Children Know Their Worth
A child’s worth is more than their achievements. Allow them to be who they are and let them know that they are important and loved for who they are. Self-doubt in childhood leads to anxiety in adulthood.
Have Their Back
Let your children know that you have their back, no matter what! Giving unconditional love means having your children’s back whenever they feel threatened, unsafe, bullied or vulnerable. Even if you don’t agree with a position or feeling, you can give unconditional love without giving unconditional approval.
Children who feel shamed, scared, intimidated or don’t feel they have a place to talk about their feelings openly can be predisposed to feeling fearful, unloved and plagued with self doubt. Feelings like embarrassment and frustration cause the brain to go into “fight or flight” mode. This has a strong impact on learning, which is why it’s important to cultivate emotional safety in the home.
Children who grow up feeling safe and secure at home grow into well-adjusted adults.