￼10 Signs of an emotionally safe homeNovember 29, 2022 2022-11-29 12:04
￼10 Signs of an emotionally safe home
How to recognize 10 widespread “parenting styles” that have no place in an emotionally safe home
We all know that children need love, security and an emotionally safe home when they grow up. Most parents do their best to provide for their children’s basic needs. What we don’t know is that some parenting styles that are widespread and are still acceptable in many societies actually harm and traumatize children for life.
Most people think of trauma as a horrific experience like an accident or extreme abuse. What they don’t know that children can be traumatized by not having their physical AND emotional needs met.
Despite their good intentions, all parents will hurt their children, fail to meet all their needs, and project their pain one way or another. This is because parents are human beings, not machines. However, if they have self-awareness, they will quickly own up to it and do everything in their power to make it right and help their children feel safe again.
Unfortunately, not all parents have this level of self-awareness or have done the work that goes with it. As a result, they inadvertently traumatize their children.
This blog is not aimed at targeting parents and turning them into scapegoats for all our “misfortunes” in our adult life. It is only meant to raise awareness into what could be a traumatic childhood experience. With awareness comes the right course of action. Never forget that adulthood is about taking responsibility for your life and giving yourself what your parents couldn’t.
Here are the 10 signs of an emotionally safe home in childhood:
1. Your parents took responsibility and apologized when they lost control of their emotions and hurt you
Even the most loving parents can lose control of their emotions sometimes. Despite their efforts to be good parents, they can lose their patience, snap at us, shout or have a reaction that might feel threatening to our feeling of security. Such reactions can have us feel unworthy, rejected, afraid etc. and grow up fearing people’s reactions with all the “side-effects” that this might entail. It can lead to people pleasing, avoiding confrontation and so forth in our adult life unless the parents own up to their actions, explain to us why it happened and offer us a sincere apology.
This type of mature parental behavior not only reassures us and restores our feeling of security within the family but it also teaches us accountability and how to mend relationships.
2. You were not parentified (made to do adult things)
Unfortunately, some people become parents without having actually “grown up” themselves. They remain immature and seek to fulfil their needs through their own children. They can treat their children as their confidants, for example, telling them about marital issues. Or they can assign to a child the task of being a caretaker to a sibling. Another very harmful parental behavior is to use a child as a pawn to control a partner. Or, making children responsible for adult emotions or issues. These and many more such behaviors constitute parentification.
By treating the child as an adult, it is clear that parents are not aware of the child’s emotional limits. They cross a boundary that should never be crossed and, as a result, teach their child people pleasing or that their own needs don’t matter. Others always come first.
The role of the parent is to meet a child’s needs and not vice versa. If your parents met your physical and emotional needs, you are more likely to grow up to respect your needs and relate to others always respecting your boundaries. This is what growing up in an emotionally safe home feels like.
3. They asked you how you felt, what you thought and validated your emotional experiences regularly
Some parents don’t seem to understand that children comprehend a lot more than they can express about what is going on in the household. Especially when adults talk about things a child should never be concerned with. Or, when children witness situations that can upset them. It could be something as simple as overhearing something or dealing with a new experience. In such cases, children can manifest their feelings in various ways; acting up, withdrawing, changing their behavior and many more.
It is a parent’s duty to regularly check in with a child to validate their emotions, soothe, explain and make the child feel heard and understood. This restores the sense of security a child needs to feel and also teaches the child to listen to and trust their emotions in adult life.
4. They taught you healthy communication
Not knowing how to deal with their own feelings and “self-soothe”, some emotionally immature parents might deal with their difficulty with coping with the challenges of being a parent (or of life for that matter) with some very unhealthy behaviors. Instead of discussing, explaining and modeling healthy communication, they resorted to rage cycles, guilting, shaming, blaming or giving the child or others the silent treatment. As a result, the child learns that it is not safe to express emotions and they use emotional manipulation like their parents did.
When parents know how to self-regulate and communicate, children will learn how to do it to which will lead to their having healthy relationships in their adult life. They thus create a safe home for their own children.
5. They believed you when you told them that something happened
While it is true that children have a vivid imagination, it is the parents duty to approach their kids with honest curiosity. Parents must always try to figure out what is happening and/or why the child said what they did. Parents must investigate, while at the same time, show their trust in their children. If it didn’t actually happen, they should support their children emotionally and try to find out why they would make it up. There is always a reason behind a child making something up. Seeking help from an expert (child therapist, councillor etc.) should be on the table too.
Children should feel that they have the unconditional support of their parents and any help they might need to overcome issues. This is how we learn to trust ourselves and to seeking help when we need it.
6. They did not gaslight you
Gaslighting is a term used when someone tries to make us question what we perceive as our reality. The difference between not being believed (sign 5) and being a victim to gaslighting is that the latter signifies a conscious effort on the part to the parent to blindside their children for personal gain. It can take the form of denying that something happened altogether or presenting “accounts” or “facts” that something else did. It is one of the worst forms of manipulation.
Gaslighting can have us question our sanity and turn us into puppets at the hands of whoever knows how to distort our reality. Gaslighting never happens in an emotionally safe home.
In an emotionally safe home, parents acknowledge children’s feelings and what they perceive as reality. They then validate their children’s point of view or, if there is a misconception, help their children grasp what really went on. This way children grow up to trust themselves and their own perception in adulthood and not fall victims to manipulation.
7. Everyone was free to feel different emotions
In some households, one of the parents sets the mood for everyone. The emotional climate of the home is controlled by a single person. If they are sad, angry, frustrated or happy, no one is allowed to feel anything different. Should the child show signs of a different emotion, they are shunned, shamed or scolded. This is very common in homes with narcissistic parents and constitutes another much less known form of emotional abuse.
Thus the child grows up having learned to create a sense of safety by using people-pleasing behaviors to avoid conflict. We call such behaviors “fawning”. Fawning is a coping mechanism that these children adopt to “appease” their parents and their abusers later in life.
What children need is the freedom to express how they feel independently of how other people think they should feel. Parents need to create this safe space where children can be themselves and feel accepted no matter how they feel. This way, in adult life, they learn to be at peace with their emotions, express them and give space to other people in their lives to do the same.
8. They encouraged and nurtured your individual development
Unfortunately, there is a very unhealthy parenting style called enmeshment in which personal boundaries are permeable and unclear. Children never feel free to pursue their dreams and lead full lives as they are constantly pulled back to the “parental home” to meet the parents’ emotional needs. These adult children of such parents are haunted by a constant underlying feeling of guilt any time they “stray” from their parents’ expectations. Even worse, when they feel they need to choose between a parent and their own significant other. For kids having grown up in enmeshed homes, being in a mature adult relationship can feel like a betrayal to the parent. These adult children cannot fully commit to a partner as much as they would like to. They feel constantly torn between what they feel like doing and the sense of “duty” to their parents.
One of the parental roles is to prepare their children for adulthood. Therefore, parents should give their children unconditional positive regard and never place conditions on their worth. They must value and nurture the children’s independence and not force or pressure them to meet their own needs. Children need to be in a safe home to get all the necessary “tools” that will help them become independent, fully functional adults continually working toward becoming self-actualized rather than worry about what the parents would want them to do or be.
9, They were present with you
While some parents make sure they meet all their material needs of their children (food, clothes, school etc.), they disregard another basic need . Children need to spend quality time with the parents; connecting, playing, feeling seen and heard. Such parents may need to work hard to provide for their children which leaves them with little or no time to spend with them. The truth of the matter is that human contact with the parent is as important as nourishment. I am sure we have all seen examples of children who never lacked material possessions to grow up to be unhappy adults and many movies have portrayed such situations.
Children need parents who engage with them in play and nurture their emotional world regularly. Only this way can they grow up to be emotionally balanced adults able to enjoy life. This is the way children learn to feel secure and not feel alone or helpless when the unavoidable “ups and downs” of life occur.
10. You did not fear their “wrath”
Working as a life coach, I have realized that many adult children of emotionally unstable parents perceive highly abusive parental “disciplinary” actions as normal. Abusive disciple damages the parent child connection and has children feel constantly fearful of the consequences of their actions; any action.
Unfortunately, such parental behavior affects their lives as adults. Children who grew up like that don’t see any connection between the constant looming threat of being beaten to a pulp by a parent they experienced in childhood and the anxiety or panic attacks they suffer from in adult life. Nor can they explain the extreme stress they feel when they undertake a task.
Parents should let children know when they cross a boundary without damaging their connection with abusive discipline. There are many healthy ways of teaching children the concept of consequences as well action and reaction which do not involve traumatizing a child.