Creating Emotional Safety for Children: Understanding Behavior and Building Connections

by LukeAdmin

By Alita Blanchard, Parent Coach

Children need to feel emotionally safe, seen and soothed to feel secure. It seems obvious that this is what we want to provide for our children but it can get tricky when our children cry, tantrum, hit, scream, whinge, meltdown or become aggressive.

Build your ability to regulate your emotions

When you are more regulated in your nervous system, you have more capacity to be present with your children to help them feel safe, connected and be able to co–regulate with them. Especially when their behaviours are intense or tricky.

You will likely need daily nervous system care practices that help you to ground, soften, be present and to build pathways in your brain so you can access your own regulation. This often starts with education first.

Some foundations of building nervous system regulation

  • Awareness and information – child development, brain, feelings, needs, triggers
  • Education on the nervous system
  • Practice the pause daily (mindful awareness)
  • Listening time to feel heard and seen
  • Somatic tools – breath, tapping, touch
  • Sensory calming tools – cold, crunchy, movement, pressure, deep pressure
  • Co–regulation with other empathic adults – safe friend, therapist, coach
  • Sharing our truth / vulnerability
  • Self compassion – “I am good enough!”.

These together can help to bring access to more felt safety!

Look after yourself so you can look after your children – you matter!

It seems obvious but it’s easy to let our own needs go unmet in motherhood.

  • Eat good nutritious food and drink lots of water
  • Move your body – slow and simple is fine, stretch, jump, dance, shake
  • Make yourself your favourite hot drink – use this a ritual to slow down
  • Write down your feelings and needs – “I am feeling….I am needing….”
  • Ask for help – you must learn to do this
  • Nature time everyday – micro moments.

Practice awareness and be curious

  • Pay attention to what is happening in your body – notice sensations, name your feelings and express what it is you need
  • Notice your children’s behaviour and get curious about their possible feelings and unmet needs
  • Practice active listening with your child. Aim to be fully present with them at least once daily
  • Build your compassion for your child by being aware of their unmet needs.

Be aware of sensitive nervous systems

Children with highly sensitive nervous systems may not thrive with lots of people, lots of activities and too much sugar and adventure. Slow life down.

Snacks can help children to regulate when you don’t have much capacity

Some days you will feel tapped out, exhausted, overwhelmed, tired, sad or depressed. Sensory calming snacks can help your kids regulate when you aren’t overly present with their feelings.
Examples –

  • Cold icy drinks
  • Crunchy snacks
  • Chewy snacks
  • Cold snacks.

Notice your tone and body language

  • Tone and body language can be perceived as a threat and continue dysregulation of a child
  • Avoid sarcasm
  • Always repair any ruptures when you have yelled, shamed or used fear /threats
  • Try not to cross your arms or put hands on your hips when connecting with your child
  • Be approachable – when you child says “I want to play” they really mean “I need your connection and safety”.

Lots of play everyday

Every child needs lots of fun, play and silliness.

  • Play games – chase, tip, hide and seek, run crash, grizzly bears, magic wand
  • Get involved and play – even 5 to 10 minutes can be a game changer

See under the behaviour

Almost all behaviour is a child’s communication of an unmet need for safety or attempt to regulate. Ask yourself – what is my child showing me with their behaviour? What is the feeling? What is the need?

Do not personalise your child’s behaviour

If you make all your childs behaviours your fault, you will suffer. Children are messy and defiant, they rage and hit, or they are anxious and shut down, and they cry and wail and make messes and throw and hurt the baby. None of it is easy. Most of it makes sense.

Focus on softening, slowing down, compassion and loving them as they already are. Teach limits through connection when you are all calm. Many hundreds of times over. Aim to be their one safest person in the whole world.

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Alita Blanchard – The Aware Mama Alita is a mother of 4 young boys (including a stillborn son Remy) on the NSW Central Coast of Australia. She is a Conscious Parent Coach trained by Jai Institute of Parenting, Women’s Circle and Rites of Passage facilitator. She provides mothers circles, events and parenting support sessions. Alita is passionate about creating a safe space for mothers to feel heard and seen in the intensity of their motherhood journey and support them on their most important growth journey. / Socials: @alitablanchard_parentcoach Email

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