There are many complications you may face in life – some of them may even make you feel unsafe. As the world deals with these unprecedented and complicated times, you may feel challenged by a new level of crisis. Restrictions have led to school cancellations, parents having to work from home, and temporary shutdowns of places and events you typically go to “get away from it all.” No doubt, it can be unsettling as you work to ensure the family is secure outside your home. But here are five ways parents can make home feel like a safe and deeply secure place for you and your family.
1) Acknowledge the Problem
According to Dr. Ken Ginsburg, Co-Founder here at the Center for Parent and Teen Communication, it starts with acknowledging the difficult situation you are experiencing. Regardless of whether it’s global or only affecting your community, show your understanding of how it’s making things complicated. Let your children know the situation may increase nervousness and tension in the people around them. If the problem requires you to spend more time at home together, also acknowledge that it’s common for people — even loved ones — to become more tense when their space is limited.
2) Model Flexibility and the Power of Family Connection
Your ability to be flexible may not come naturally. But with external forces that are out of your control, you must work to be flexible – especially with your family. Be intentional in your actions and your words. Let your teens know when it feels like things are out of control, it’s important to support family members. Draw strength from each other. Be kind to them. Do your best to let go of their little irritating habits. Instead, tell them you love them. Let them know how resilient they are, even when things get tough. Model a home at peace.
3) Watch Your Tone and Body Language
Children and adolescents draw their sense of safety from their parents. It’s not only the words you use, but it’s also the tone and body language you choose. If you are feeling panicked yourself, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to create a safe feeling among others. You might need to first find a private space for your little freak-outs, especially if things are getting tense in close quarters. Ginsburg says, “Give yourself space. Work it out. Run in place to let go of the anxiety hormones. Take deep breaths. And keep reminding yourself you’ll get through this.” After letting out your feelings, you’ll be more effective in offering a sense of calm to others.
4) Show Them Information is Powerful
During times of extreme stress, there is lots of misinformation to be found. Information can be powerful — as long as it’s credible. Use time at home together as a chance to teach your tweens and teens the importance of having useful information. Ginsburg suggests being direct in finding out what’s accurate by saying, “Let’s go to a source that we know we can trust.” If you’re trying to keep your home a safe haven, unplug and commit to only checking-in a few times a day with credible sources.
5) Get Back to the Basics Together
Take advantage of family time at home. Have fun and get back to the basics. Bring back “Family Night” but expand the concept to different times of day! Play some of your favorite board games. Sing songs Karaoke-style. Put together that 1000-piece puzzle that’s been tucked away. Cook a family recipe together. Do a home-exercise workout. Watch some old family movies. Find something you’ve been wanting to fix or change around the house and do it together. Choose healthy escapes that allow you to take your mind off the stressful situation and concentrate on being together and enjoying the moment in your family home. Above all, listen to and respect each other. There is no more basic way to show your love.
For more on making your family home feel safe, as well as valuable lessons for teens about supporting others in the community during a time of crisis, check out this piece in Psychology Today.