As a teacher, it is not hard to identify which kids feel safest in their home, and which children feel safer when they are at school.
Here are some signs that a child probably feels safe at home:
1. They smile when they talk about the things they do at home with their family.
2. They know how home “works” – they know their bedtime, they know where their parents are during the day, they know when they eat dinner, etc.
3. They discuss upcoming plans with their family. Maybe a sister’s surprise birthday party, a trip to Grandma’s house, an appointment with Dad to help work on the car… then they tell about the event after it happened.
And some signs that they may feel safer at school:
1. They are nervous at the end of the school day.
2. They are unsure of routines at home – who will pick them up from school, can someone help them with their homework, what will happen if they go home with a note from their teacher about a behavior problem, which bed (or in who’s house) they will sleep in, etc.
3. They generally do not share openly about their home or family, but…
4. They are aware of stress in the home. For example, they may want to talk about their family’s financial situation, worry about parents fighting with each other or excessive worry that their parents will be disappointed in their performance (grades, sports, so on).
I believe my children are safe at school, thank goodness. I believe that their teachers are caring for them and about them, and I think my kids feel that. They are always ready to go to school and willing to talk about their day after I pick them up – well, as long as we’re in the car and they have nothing better to do. But as grateful as I am that we currently have a good school situation, I always want them to feel safest at home. So how do parents do that? By making sure that they feel…
1. Safe to relax. This is multi-faceted, so stay with me. If a child does not know the routine at home, he cannot relax because he doesn’t ever know what to be prepared for. So stick to a rough schedule. I’m not talking an account for every 5 minutes that ticks by, but a general guide. First we do homework, then I can play, eventually we’ll eat dinner, then I’ll take a bath and get ready for bed. Here’s the catch, though – an over-scheduled child cannot relax, either, because he doesn’t have time. Just make sure you build in time for children to make their own choices in evening activities – time to choose between playing on the computer and sitting to read a book or going outside.
2. Safe to talk. This is pretty simple, actually. You just have to listen to them. They need to know that you will listen to them when they have something to say. And that they will be taken seriously; they will not be teased about it, rushed through it, or regret it. Here are some good tips on listening to your child.
3. Safe to dream. When a child feels allowed to dream about the future and share it with her parents, it breaks the limits of her self-confidence and creates a desire to work, to produce, to achieve. It sets them free. Encourage them to dream at home by asking questions about their future and their ideas, and giving them resources to learn more about whatever they are interested in.