If I ask you, Do you think your child feels safe with you?
You would automatically answer: Yes, absolutely.
And to some extent, you would be right (kind of). Yes, your child feels safe enough with you, of course. However, why is it that after a point in time, when children have more advanced cognitive functions, they hide things from you, don’t tell you when they are being bullied at school, don’t tell you when they struggle in class, don’t tell you when they fall in love etc?
Safety is a complicated thing. It goes way beyond physical safety, and “but you know I love you” is NOT enough to make a child feel safe.
Also, safety is not a given. It is not guaranteed, just because we are good parents.
Safety is also fleeting, unstable. It comes and goes. The expectation that a child will always, or most of the time feel safe around us is naive.
Because the nervous system is so fragile, and safety is fleeting, I propose we learn to ANCHOR instead. In other words, instead of expecting safety (which comes and goes in the nervous system), it is better to teach ourselves and our children how to come back to what anchors the relationship.
You will have to figure out what would work best for you and your child as an anchor, depending on the child and on the child’s age. No two siblings are alike, right?
Examples of possible anchors are:
- Words like: No matter how bad the situation is, I am on your side. I am here to listen. We can figure this out together. You are important to me.
- A hug with big open arms.
- A smile.
- Getting down on the child’s level.
- Laying down on the floor (alone or with the child).
- Self- hugging.
- Touching something that calms us. (a tree, a bracelet, a crystal)
- Body movement.
PS: This same concept applies to your couple relationship, and any other adult-adult relationship. All relationships take work and commitment exactly because the nervous system is complicated, and safety is fragile. We move in and out of safety constantly.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”