What does it mean to make a child feel safe and secure? For some of us, creating a safe environment at home for our children means to provide them the fundamental needs for survival such as food and shelter. It is without a doubt that those are essentially the factors that are needed to nurture children however, there are other aspects that are sometimes overlooked by parents.
With the effects of Covid-19, creating a secure and stable environment at home has become more crucial than ever. Everyone, especially children, will need a safe place -- both physically and emotionally -- to come home to, where they feel protected. This is not only vital to their emotional and mental well-being but a safe environment will allow children to have more open and real conversations with parents.
Over the course of 3-weeks, we underwent a project titled 'The Hands That Hold Me', as part of our upcoming Narratives Of Our Children Exhibition showcase; where we had onsite and virtual conversations with the children of Art Wonderland (Singapore) and Kulidan Space (Bali) about what 'safe' and 'secure' means to them. We unfolded many of their personal stories and experiences including events that we never thought would mean a great deal to a child. Some of these stories revolved around a child's day-to-day routine while others were special events that included their family members and loved ones.
Check out what went on behind-the-scenes:
So what can we do as adults or parents to create a sanctuary for our children?
With the insights that we have gathered, here are 3 simple ways that you might want to try out:
1. Accept your child for who they are and build on their strengths (lots of positive reinforcement!)
Each and every child will have their individual strengths be it in academics or their extra co-curricular activities outside of school. Whatever it may be, parents and adults play an important role in shaping a child's self-image. Identifying your child's specific strengths and working with him/her to push their potential will ultimately give them a confident boost. Children are also more inclined to trust parents and adults who are able to praise and highlight their strengths and hard work. Avoid comparing a child to another, even if you are tempted to do so. Constant positive validation from parents and loved ones seem to be what drives children to be the best versions they can be; and by comparing them to another child or by focusing solely on their negative traits will only lead them to feel less worthy of themselves.
2. Ensure your child has their own physical space to learn & make mistakes (where they are safe from fear or high levels of stress)
Every child seeks to learn something new and putting them in an environment where they might feel pressured will only discourage them from learning. Try to set aside a designated space at home —either a separate room or in a shared room— for your child to learn and work comfortably. Even as adults, some of us admit to being productive only when we are in an environment that allows to be and this works the same way for children. In the case where you have multiple children at home, you may want to alternate the space and learning resources, thus, having a schedule can help to minimise conflict.
3. Have empathy and stick with them (through thick and thin!)
Undoubtedly, there will be instances where your child might be going through something that they might have difficulties in voicing out or expressing in a healthy way. Or, there will be times when they would be eager to share with you things or experiences that might be unimportant to you at that point in time. Whichever scenario arises, avoid dismissing it as a trivial or a 'small' issue that does not matter. Through the perspective of a child, the issue faced might be too overwhelming for them that they are unable to comprehend or even speak up about it. Instead, be open to listening —no matter how 'small' you think their problem might be— and allow them to come to you to express themselves without having the fear of judgment.
All in all, the process of creating a safe space for children might be something that all parents would want to achieve in the end but is not as easy as it sounds. A lot of time and effort does come into play in ensuring that our children are physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. Rest assured that once you are able to create a nurturing environment for your children in your home, everything else will eventually run smoothly.
All the best, parents!
Iffah believes in two-way communication of ideas when it comes to creative work. Growing up, the subject of Art/Design was taught passively; where there was little room for experimentation and self-exploration. Today, she aims to become the bridge that brings Art/Design to everyone, especially the young generation, to grow into critical and creative thinkers in order to fuel their passions.