This week is ‘National Child Protection Week' in Australia. Those of us in leadership in church life have the responsibility to ensure that our local churches are safe places for children and young people. This must be core to our mission, vision and values. The following article is written by one of our incredible team who has worked with Hillsong CityCare in providing workshops for parents and carers so that they are equipped to understand abuse and how to set up preventative strategies for their family. Lean in and take notice…
National Child Protection Week
Right now, as I write this, I am watching my beautiful tiny baby girl sleep. Nothing reminds us more of the innocence and beauty of children than newborns, whose lives are like fresh canvases, yet to be painted on. I can't help but compare this to the children I work with day in & day out, who are wearing the battle scars of abuse.
It's interesting that some of these children still have that glint of hope in their eyes and grow up to be confident and happy, whilst others experience long term pain and brokenness. So what makes the difference?
Well, from my work with these children, I've observed that a huge factor is whether or not these kids have what's called a 'secure base'. Basically, this refers to a good quality relationship with a significant adult (often a parent), which acts as an anchor and enables the child to have a safe haven to return to when they feel unsafe and a safe spot from which they can confidently go out to play and explore. This is a crucial factor in determining how resilient children are in the face of adversity, whether this is abuse or other stressful life events (for more information about developing a secure base, see the following link:www.circleofsecurity.net).
So how do we make sure that our relationships with our children act as secure bases? Here are a couple of beginning ideas:
* Learn to tune into your child. So often, when children ‘misbehave’ or act differently to usual, there is a reason. You can create a supportive family culture by noticing these cues, and being there for them to offer comfort, and support, rather than trying to solve everything, or simply seeing them as ‘naughty’. (For more information, why not check out: Gottman, J (1998) Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting, Prentice Hall, UK. www.gottman.com)
* Set your child up to win when trying new things. Often we make the mistake of either throwing children in the deep end of new experiences, expecting them to swim, or doing everything for them, not allowing them to learn. If we can get the balance right between giving them enough help to learn, but not taking over, they are likely to feel more confident and supported by you.
*Be aware of ‘your buttons’. You may find that parts of parenting ‘push your buttons’ in unexpected ways. It could be that you find it challenging to ‘let go’ or feeling ‘close’ to your child makes you feel awkward. Sometimes when these ‘buttons’ are activated on an ongoing basis, they impact on how we relate with our children. If you have noticed this, why not check out the following book: ‘Siegel, D.J; Hartzell, M (2003) Parenting from the inside out: how a deeper self-understanding can help you to raise children who thrive, Tarcher Penguin: NY.
Lets all work together to ensure our children are anchored in positive, healthy relationships, so that when the storms of life come along, we can stand strong together.
BSW, Grad Cert MH (Child & Adolescent).