Is Your Home a Safe Haven?
“Home is a shelter from storms—all sorts of storms.”
~William J. Bennett
Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz instinctively knew—“There’s no place like home.” She longed to leave the chaos of Oz to be back in her safe spot, with her Auntie Em at home in Kansas...before the terrible tornado struck. She knew what to expect at home—security, and love.
Would my kids feel the same way? Gulp.
I think a lot (maybe too much) about what kind of home life my kids, spouse, & I experience as a family. Is it a spot that everyone yearns to return to so they can have some peace & encouragement and be recharged? Or is it a place so full of tension and judgment they long to escape? I’d like to think it’s more a peaceful spot than a place to avoid, but there are times… when the virtues of compassion, contentment, and acceptance are not on display like they should be. While every family experiences chaos, disagreements, and tension—that’s normal and part of the roller coaster of life, those things should not be the pervasive feeling in the family dynamic. Family and home life should offer a safe harbor from the storms that are brewing in the world. But it can’t be if parents are constantly arguing with their kids over homework, chores, tech time, etc. Creating family rules and following protocols provides good and necessary boundaries for everyone to adhere to, but when we try to control our kids or spouse, to exert our will over theirs—things get dicey.
The authors of the book, “The Self-Driven Child,” stress the importance of making the family a refuge for everyone. They consider home a “safe base.”
Just as in baseball, when you reach home base, you’re in a place where you can catch your breath and not have to worry about being pegged with the ball or being called out, home should be a place for kids to rest and recover. They are facing stressors each day, from school demands to social dynamics. You want home to be the place they can go to seek a respite from it all, where they feel safe and loved unconditionally, where they can fully relax, so that they can gather the energy to go back out. But if home is a stressful environment—if parents are an anxious or controlling presence—kids will seek that respite somewhere—or somehow—else. And most of the time, it’s a place you don’t want them to go. Or, if nowhere can be that safe base, they are really in trouble, as being chronically stressed is about the worst thing imaginable for brains, especially developing ones. That’s why we tell parents that one of the most important things they can say to their kids is,“I love you too much to fight with you about your homework,” and why we want them to move in the direction of being a non-anxious presence for their kids.”
Does that mean we should eliminate rules, standards, and natural consequences at home?
In fact, when those things are securely in place, it means we parents can back off and allow kids the chance to mess up. The problem is we mistakenly don’t let up. We often feel anxious about them making mistakes, rather than working to offer compassion, understanding, counsel when kids need and desire it. This is true for spouses as well. Once the framework of a loving marriage is in place, we need to allow our husband/wife space to do what they think is best, rather than micromanaging or trying to control what they bring to the table as spouse or parent. It doesn’t mean you should be content with marital troubles—I’m not advocating for a laissez-faire attitude, but trying to micromanage someone or “fix” them doesn’t even work. It backfires and makes the environment turn stressful, hostile, and toxic.
Hostility does not equal a safe haven. When family members are met with warmth instead of judgment, they feel safe enough to be vulnerable. And this is how families come together and successfully communicate. Tap into the timeless wisdom of Dorothy—There’s no place like home!
If only it were as easy as clicking our heels…
Don’t lose hope. Instead, this evening ask yourself, “Is the family home a safe haven for my kids, spouse, and for me?” Bring the topic to the Family Huddle, or an evening dinner. Engage the whole family in coming up with mutually agreed upon steps to take to ensure that everyone feels safe enough to be themselves and make mistakes? Consider, are you fighting too much over tech time, homework, chores, getting out of the house on time? How can you come to an agreement that offers safe parameters while giving them some control? When you encounter conflict, remember to take the “safe haven” mindset and approach each challenge with kindness, and an open heart. Easier said than done, I know. But the storms of life are coming. Where do you want your family to seek refuge?
Character strength is the foundation of a home that is a safe haven.
If you’re looking for ways to build communication, cooperation, and mutual appreciation as a family, check out Adventure into Character. We’ll take you through the essential steps that lead to a family life that feeds and satisfies rather than depletes. Your family will be having so much fun, they won’t even realize they’re building moral character! It’s the journey of a lifetime for your disparate band of travelers. What are you waiting for? Adventure awaits!
If you have an issue you’d like our help with, drop us a line at Hello@FamiliesofCharacter.com. If you’re experiencing a problem, chances are thousands of other families are in the same boat. We’re ALL in this parenting boat together!
Remember to tap into our Thrive Community on Facebook. It’s free and our team’s very own clinical counselor offers helpful tips and encouragement to parents who are adventuring together.