Creative Child

Is Your Child’s Heart in Safe-Keeping?

by Rebecca Eanes

Has parenting become a competitive sport? Are we now more concerned with having the best-behaved, best sleeping, fastest reading, most accomplished, and most obedient child, or are we concerned with one of a parent’s most important duties – keeping their child’s heart safe? In circles and groups around the country, parents are showing great concern for having accomplished and obedient children. They read books and scour articles and ask their doctors and friends – how can I get my child to do what I want, when I want? How can I make them as inconvenient as possible?

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The crucial question that is too often going unasked is this: “Is my child’s heart safe with me?”

 

Why is it important to keep a child’s heart safe? Because a safe heart is open to attachment, and attachment is the key that makes the relationship strong and the child open to your influence and instruction. A safe heart is resilient. A safe heart has a layer of protection against the world’s cruelty. A safe heart allows a child to grow into who he or she was meant to be. Without it, they harden. They rebel. They suffer. And so one of our first and foremost tasks as parents other than keeping our child physically safe is to hold their heart in safe-keeping.

 

But how?

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The best way to keep a child’s heart safe is to always try to “do no harm.” According to Dr. Gordon Neufeld, the three most wounding interactions to children are 1) separation, 2) shame, and 3) alarm (feeling unsafe). Drawing from my own experiences, I will share here ways I believe we can avoid these three wounding interactions. Please note that the following is not necessarily the view of Dr. Neufeld but my own.

 

1. Separation – Certainly physical separation can be wounding to some children. When we must physically separate, it’s important to help a child form an attachment to whomever we are leaving them with. A child must feel safe in that person’s care. Therefore, give your child an introduction to their new teacher, babysitter, or caregiver in advance and allow time for your child to form a bond. It can also be helpful to leave them with something of yours that makes you feel close you are away – such as a t-shirt with your perfume or photograph.

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