When I was growing up there were some things you could rely on – banks were the trusted pillar of the community, owning your home was almost a ‘right’, prime ministers served out their elected terms, and families mainly stayed together.
Today, none of those things can be taken for granted. Here are three ways that parents can create a sense of security and stability for their children:
1. Show appropriate affection with your spouse
If you went into a building where you knew the roof was structurally unsound, you’d be nervous, always on edge, looking around for signs of impending collapse. The same is true in the family structure. To help children feel secure, they need to know that the authority structure over them in the family – the parents, is relationally sound.
My Dad and Mum have always loved each other; they enjoy one another’s company and have no trouble displaying affection. I can’t overstate the sense of stability and security; this brought when I was growing up.
The added benefit, according to a marriage and family therapist, is that children who witness affection shown between parents are less likely to struggle with intimacy in their relationships. They may say “eeww!” when they see you kiss or hug, but seeing Dad and Mum demonstrating affection conveys the message ‘we’re OK, our foundations are solid.’
2. Role Model Healthy Disagreements
I’ve talked with adults who, as a child, never saw their parents disagree. Consequently, when they had their first disagreement with their partner, they thought their relationship was over or in real trouble.
According to the Australian parenting website – raising children, “When your children see you working together on conflict management, it helps them learn valuable life skills like how to negotiate and solve problems. It can also be reassuring for your children to see you being optimistic about working out your differences”.
3. Make your children an integral part of the team
Everyone longs to be needed, to feel like he or she are part of a team. Whether on the sports field or in a corporate sense, security and loyalty are enhanced when members see how their role contributes to the overall good of the team. The same is valid for families.
How do you create a sense of team within the family structure? It’s crucial to include everyone and, even from a young age, give children age-appropriate responsibilities in the running of the house. For Miss Six it might be setting the dinner table each night, for Mr Fourteen – cooking dinner on Wednesday nights when Mum and Dad both get home from work a little later.
It’s essential that they have some accountability for something, i.e. if they don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. Shared responsibility, e.g. all the kids are responsible for setting the table, isn’t the same because there’s potential for one sibling to carry the load.
We’ve been surprised by our children’s willingness to help and the pride that they take in knowing that their contribution matters.