• Making Your Home an Emotionally Safe Place

    You’ve plugged the outlets, gotten rid of the poisonous cleaning products, and locked up the alcohol and medications.  You try to do everything you can to keep your child healthy and out of harm’s way.

    But have you considered all kinds of safety?  The examples above are all about physical safety, which is where we tend to focus.  It’s easier to understand physical dangers and also to come up with solutions to avoid them. Emotional safety is just as important, but it’s something we don’t always think about.  Just like keeping knives and dangerous items out of your child’s reach enhances physical safety in your home, there are steps you can take to provide emotional safety in your home.

    When people (of any age) trust that their feelings will be responded to with sensitivity and respect, they feel safe. They will be more honest and vulnerable with you if they know they are in a safe place. Think about how you act with the people you trust the most. You feel free to share your deepest thoughts and feelings and you value the feedback you get from that person.  It works exactly the same with your kids or teenagers.  If they feel safe with you, they will express their thoughts and feelings more, be open to conversations with you, and listen to your feedback.

    However, if a child feels even a little bit unsafe, they may be more fearful of criticism or rejection from you. Again, think about when this has happened in your own life. Has someone created an environment where you felt unsafe expressing yourself? How did you handle this? You probably stopped sharing your true thoughts and feelings with that person.

    If your child feels unsafe, they will not want to share their true thoughts and feelings for fear of being criticized.  They may just tell you what they think you want to hear because they think this is the best way to keep themselves as safe as possible.  Their feelings may come out through their actions since they don’t feel safe opening up to you using words. They will likely behave more defiantly, act more defensively, and seem more uncooperative. They also will probably not be as open to talking with or listening to you in general.

    By providing a more emotionally safe environment, you can have a stronger connection with your child, and at the same time, improve their behavior.

    The following points are some guidelines that are intended to make your home more of an emotionally safe place for you and your family. These are rules that parents and kids should both be expected to abide by. Everyone in your family, including parents and kids, deserves to feel emotionally safe at home.

    What makes a home a safe place?

    • There is no physical violence.
    • There is no emotional abuse
    • There is no shaming.  Shaming someone makes them feel bad about who they are as a person. They get a sense that your view of them as a person is negative.  Examples of shaming statements might be, “You are such a bad kid,” “You are a selfish person,” or “You never do anything right.” These tend to make your child feel bad about themselves and feel unsure if you truly like them as a person.
    • Apologies are given sincerely when someone feels hurt by something someone else said or did.
    • Everyone treats each other with respect. This means that there is no name-calling or sarcasm.  Everyone feels like they are truly listened to by the other family members. Think about how you show respect toward other people such as your boss, a friend, or even strangers. Why would you show your child any less courtesy?
    • All thoughts, feelings, and opinions are acknowledged as real and treated as important.   No one tries to change or invalidate another person’s feelings. Statements such as “You’re not really sad” or “You’re just being too sensitive” can make the other person feel as if their feelings are wrong. (Note that this does not necessarily include actions. For example, your child should be allowed to feel angry and think “I’m angry” but that does not mean they are allowed to hit someone else.)
    • Physical and emotional boundaries are respected. For example, if your child doesn’t want a hug, you don’t force him to. Or if they ask a sibling for some space, the sibling respects that request.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on emotional safety. Have you had any personal experiences where you felt unsafe?  How have you tried to make your home an emotionally safe place?

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40 Responsesso far.

  1. Lauren says:

    Good tips! I also like how you differentiated between feelings and actions.

  2. This is such a great post. Most often we would think of these things as a “given” when it comes to our children but I can see how they might become more of a challenge as kids become teenagers. I always make sure to apologize sincerely to my children even though they are 3 years and under. If you start these practices at birth they should feel safe their whole lives.

    • Kristi says:

      That’s such a good point – I think this can be easier or harder depending on what age your child is, but if you start it at birth, it definitely is easier to continue. Love sincere apologies too for sure!! Good idea for another blog post! 🙂

  3. Krystal says:

    It’s true that these little things are BIG things to the eyes of a child. Thank you for the reminders. #SITSBlogging

  4. Great post. I am glad I am not raising kids now, I am a Granma to 5 ages 17 to 11 and I think it starts from birth knowing you have a safe place to fall no matter what! #sitsblogging

  5. Lindsey says:

    I have spent the last three years trying to make my kids feel safe at home. It is well worth all the effort! Of course, it is also easier to start from a place of safety.

  6. Leilani says:

    I’m not a mom but I am all about home being a safe place. It’s sometimes reeeeeally hard to hold my tongue with my husband, but being able to be yourself in your own home is priceless.

  7. Laurie says:

    What a great post. I work with women who are in abusive relationships. Emotional safety is so very important and often disregarded. #sitsblogging

  8. Such a powerful post with great information! As a soon to be mom it’s important to think about all of these things when we are getting ready to create a healthy, happy, safe home!

  9. Honestly, I’ve never heard of emotional safety, but however you term it, I do believe it’s important to create an environment for our children that is loving, respectful, nurturing, and safe. Great thoughts here. #SITSBlogging

  10. Great info! People don’t think about emotionally safety proofing but it is a great concept to go along with all the other baby-proofing you need to do! #SITSBlogging

  11. Kristi says:

    Super list! I am reading a book about perfectionism and how shaming is a huge component. We try to be very careful about discussing the behavior as opposed to the person.

  12. Wow, what a powerful post! I didn’t realize there was a term for making sure your kids are comfortable enough at home to talk to you about important things, but it definitely was important this past week when my oldest was dealing with a bullying situation at school. She was able to tell me what was going on without hesitation, and she also reported back to me about what the school did about it. #SITSBlogging

    • Kristi says:

      Thank you so much Lena! That’s so true, if your daughter hadn’t felt safe at home it might have gone on so much longer before she said anything.

  13. Laina Turner says:

    Such an important topic.

  14. Hi, this is such a great post . Emotional abuse is just as harmful as physical abuse. Kids will grew up scarred by both of them! People don’t realize that name calling and picking at a child is emotional abuse . I really enjoy reading your post. Thanks for sharing! #SITSblogging


  15. Laura Cyra says:

    What an amazing post! I am always looking for new ways to talk about being respectful and making the home a safe environment for us and our friends. I also agree with Lauren about the way you differentiate between feelings and actions. Thank you for sharing these great tips 🙂

  16. krissajeldy says:

    Wow, such a great post. I don’t often think about this, but of course I want my kids to feel safe emotionally! Thank you so much for a good reminder! Stopping by from the SITS Girls Comment Love Tribe! ~Krissa (http://www.morethanmundane.com)

  17. Fantastic post! I totally agree 100%. My kids LOVE being home, they actually don’t like to be anywhere else more than home. It blesses me so much that they love each other!

  18. lakita1378 says:

    Great tips! I was raised in an environment where I did not feel emotionally safe and it has impacted my life in many ways, so I make sure that my child always feels emotionally safe and able to come to me with anything. Parents sometimes forget that we were all kids once. #SITSBlogging

    • Kristi says:

      So true! It’s so important to remember your own experiences as a child in order to be the best parent to your kids.

  19. Laura says:

    This is so true. My ex used to verbally/emotionally abuse me & my oldest daughter & once she hit those teenage years, she had so many problems (drug use, cutting, attempted suicide) & my ex was clueless to it all. It thought he was preparing her for the real world. I was finally able to leave & got her into counseling, but even at the age of 23, she has severe anxiety & has to take meds. But her self esteem has improved a great deal. #SITSBlogging

    • Kristi says:

      Laura, I’m so glad you got out of that situation, for you and your daughter. It takes time to recover from abuse, but it is possible – counseling is definitely a really important piece of that.

  20. This is good to remember. Sometimes we think more about the behavior than the way we get the behavior we want from our children. Visiting today from #SITSBlogging

  21. Kimberly says:

    I loved the tips you shared in this post. I grew up in an emotionally unsafe environment. It’s really affected me as an adult. I struggle with anxiety and perfectionism today because of the unrealistic expectations and conditional love placed on me as a child. I try to be a loving, supportive mother, and make home feel like a safe place to be. Because of my own experiences, I probably over compensate, which isn’t necessarily the best plan either.

    • Kristi says:

      Kimberly, thank you so much for sharing your experience. I think there are a lot of people reading this who can really relate to everything you said. Understanding who you are as much as you do is a huge step in itself, as I’m sure you know. 🙂 Even just being aware of that is already making you a better mother.

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  23. Lauren says:

    Awesome post. I try to follow these tips and on occasion when I don’t, I certainly talk and apologize. I was raised where parents don’t make mistakes and I hated that I never got treated with the same level of respect they required from me. Still bothers me to this day.

    • Kristi says:

      Ugh, I can imagine. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s so unhelpful to everyone to pretend that’s not true.

  24. Leah says:

    Thanks for these tips! Good reminders, all!

  25. This is a beautiful post with great reminders that all of our actions and words affect our children. Thank you for this…

  26. Lauren says:


    I would love to have given you a comment on another article, to spread the love. But this article is just so well written and important for parents to actively work on. It can be difficult for an adult to understand how a child is thinking or the way their words may weigh more heavily on an impressionable mind. I think these are great thoughts to bring to the fore-front of minds and conversations when dealing not only with children but with our peers. Thank you, truly!


  27. Leslie says:

    Thank you for sharing. These are great reminders not only for the kids in our lives, but the whole family. #SITSBlogging

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