At Adams County Children Advocacy Center, the focus is on helping kids to be safe, how to keep kids from being hurt and also help them if they have been hurt. Emotional safety plays a critical role in a child’s well-being. When parents and caregivers are aware and invested in the child’s thoughts and feelings, they are better prepared to raise emotionally healthy, well-adjusted children.

As the mother of four, including a set of identical twins, I know firsthand that parenting focuses a lot on “doing,” the physical aspects of caring for your child. By also focusing on “being,” emotional care giving, we can help our children develop their own identity, learn to trust themselves and learn to more easily navigate the ups and downs of life. We can help them to feel truly safe, inside and out.

How? Here are some tips for making your child’s emotional safety a priority:

• Remember that our everyday interactions with our kids have a big impact on their emotional well-being.

• Stop everything you are doing (put the phone down, turn off the T.V.) and give your child your undivided attention. Establish the habit of giving your child individual, undivided attention each day and maintain that habit consistently as they get older. When they are teenagers and not so interested in spending time with you, you will be glad you did.

• Allow your children to ask questions, and give them honest, age-appropriate answers. Don’t shame them or make them feel guilty.

• Listen, rather than teach or lecture. Offer differing ideas without criticizing what they are telling you.

• Allow your children to express how they feel, even when they are sad or angry. Be their “safe person.” Rather than reacting negatively, help them to work through their feelings and develop positive coping strategies.

• Allow your children to be children; don’t burden them with adult problems and issues.

• Give your child the opportunity to make decisions for themselves (in an age appropriate way). Making decisions helps kids develop problem-solving skills and will help them when they are faced with new or difficult situations.

• Understand that sometimes a child’s perceived failure, such as losing a game, or receiving a bad grade on the spelling test, is really a life lesson in disguise. Be your child’s greatest cheerleader and supporter as they pick up the pieces.

• Rather than tell your kids who to be, help them to discover for themselves who they are.

· Most of all, make sure your kids know how truly awesome they are.

Elida Murray, M.A., is the executive director of Adams County Child Abuse Center. The center is dedicated to a community where children are safe, families are strong and kids can be kids.

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