Child Safety

Child Safety

Child Safety

Books are excellent tools to facilitate challenging conversations with your little ones. Our books on child safety focus on a myriad of important topics, including internet safety, bullying, consent, and boundaries.

Dr. Charlotte Cousins, a clinical psychologist who is the Lead for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services within Sage Clinics shares her expertise on the subject. 

For parents, the thought of something happening to our child or children is deeply distressing and unthinkable. The responsibility of keeping them safe is a task that can feel scary and overwhelming at times, especially in the modern, ever-evolving world we currently live in. 

When thinking about the safety of our children we might think about this in several different areas, such as physical safety, stranger danger and online safety. In this article we are going to talk about psychological safety. Psychological safety is an aspect of safety that is crucial for our children’s social and emotional development and well-being but is not well understood or commonly spoken about. 

What is psychological safety?

Psychological safety is a term that has traditionally been used to describe culture and dynamics within a workplace. However, it is just as relevant and important to think about within families. Psychological safety refers to creating an environment of safety, security and trust in which children feel able to share their thoughts, ideas, concerns, and mistakes without fear of judgement, humiliation or punishment. This allows children to take risks, make mistakes and learn from their experiences, which all help to develop resilience. In this article, we will explore the significance of psychological safety in children and offer practical tips on how you can foster it.

Why is Psychological Safety Important in Children?

Emotional Well-being: Children learn to identify and manage their emotions through their interactions with their primary caregivers. When their caregivers create an environment of safety, in which the child’s emotions are met with validation, care and concern they learn that it is safe to express their emotions and are able to learn healthy and effective ways of managing their emotions.  

Learning: Children are born with a natural curiosity for the world around them. When they feel safe and secure, they are more likely to explore, ask questions, and engage in learning experiences. 

Social Skills: Children learn how to interact with others through their relationship with their primary caregivers. Children internalize the interactions they have with their caregivers and use these as templates for interacting with others. When a child feels safe, secure and trusting in their relationship with their caregivers they are more likely to seek out and build positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. They learn to trust, empathize, and communicate effectively.

Self-Esteem: Forming a sense of identity and self-esteem is an essential part of child development. Providing children with a sense of safety to express themselves, without fear of judgment or ridicule allows children the freedom and confidence to develop a unique sense of self and self-confidence. 

Resilience: A safe environment helps children learn how to cope with challenges and stress. They discover that it's okay to make mistakes and that they can learn and grow from them.

How to develop psychological safety (activities section) 

Psychological safety is a complex concept, and you may be feeling a little unsure of how you can foster psychological safety within your family. I hope that the suggestions below will give you some ideas of how to foster psychological safety within your family. 

Developing security and trust: We instill a sense of security and trust within the relationship with our children by the way in which we interact with and respond to our children. When we are available to our children, able to accurately identify and meet their needs, they build up an internal felt sense of trust that we can meet their needs and will keep them safe. As well as meeting our children’s basic needs such as eating and sleeping, they need us to delight in them, play with them, support their exploration but also be a safe space for them to return to when they need protection, comfort and support to manage their emotional distress. 

Validation: Our children learn to identify their feelings through us as their caregivers identifying their feelings for them at a young age. When we validate our children’s feelings, they feel accepted, heard and cared for. In turn they learn to validate and manage their own feelings. Here are some examples of how to validate your children’s feelings: ‘It looks like you are feeling really sad that Maya didn’t want to play with you’ ‘I can see that you are feeling really angry’ ‘I know that made you feel really disappointed, it’s really hard when we feel disappointed’. 

Boundaries: Boundaries and being consistent with our boundaries are essential to developing a sense of safety, security and trust for our children. Children might not like the boundary and consistently try to push the boundary, but this is because knowing what the boundaries are and whether the boundary will be maintained is containing for children. 

Validation and Boundaries: Often people think that when we validate our child’s emotions, we excuse any undesirable behavior that might happen because of the emotions they are experiencing. We can validate and hold a boundary at the same time. Let’s look at an example of this. 

Examples for different age groups - Your toddler starts to hit you when you tell them that it is time to stop playing and go and have a bath. You can validate the feeling by saying something like ‘I know you really want to carry on playing and so you probably feel really annoyed that you have to stop playing and go and have a bath. I understand that and it’s really hard when we have to stop playing. Then you maintain the boundary and make it clear that the behavior is not acceptable. ‘It’s not acceptable to hit mummy when you feel annoyed.

Let’s think together about how we can manage those annoyed feelings on the way to the bath’. Here we are validating the feeling and holding our boundary i.e making it clear that it is the end of play time and time for them to have their bath. 

Your child hits their younger sister because they snatched a toy from their hand. You can validate the feeling by saying something like ‘it looks like you feel really annoyed because your sister just snatched that toy from your hand. I understand that. I would feel annoyed too.

Then you maintain the boundary and make it clear that the behavior is not acceptable. ‘It’s not acceptable to hit when we feel annoyed. Let’s think together about what else you can do to manage those annoyed feelings whilst I get the toy back from your sister.’ 

Your teenager shouts at you and uses rude language when you tell them that they cannot go to their friend's house tonight. You can validate the feeling by saying something like ‘I imagine you feel really disappointed, and that’s understandable, I would feel disappointed too.

Then you maintain the boundary and make it clear that the behavior is not acceptable. ‘It’s not acceptable to be rude, even when you feel disappointed. Shall we think together about what you can do at home this evening, maybe we could watch a film together?’ 

Encouraging them to share their opinion: Children learn that it is safe to express their thoughts, ideas and opinions by being encouraged to do so. Try and seek out as many opportunities as possible to ask your child to share their opinion on things, big and small! Encourage them to share their thoughts and opinions before sharing your own, so that they have freedom to express what they truly think rather than what they think you might want to hear.

Offer praise and validation when they share an idea or an opinion, to encourage them to do this more often. You could say something like ‘It’s really great to hear your thoughts, I love to hear different perspectives’ ‘You always have such an interesting way of looking at things’. 


Responding to mistakes: Mistakes are golden opportunities for learning. Try and respond to mistakes gently and encourage your child to reflect upon what happened and what they could do next time. You can try saying something like this ‘I know that didn’t work out as you had hoped it would, what do you think happened? What could we do differently next time around?’


Modelling: Our children learn by watching and observing how we behave and respond to situations. Therefore, how we respond to ourselves is just as important as how we respond to our children. Think about how you respond to yourself and your husband or wife when they make a mistake or are upset? Are you gentle, kind and compassionate or do you find yourself saying things like ‘that was so stupid, how did I mess that up’ or ‘I only asked you to do one thing, how did you forget?’ or ‘I can’t believe I am upset about this, it’s so stupid’. Often, we say things to ourselves or our partners that we would never say to our children, but what we forget is that if this happens in front of our children it will still have an impact on them. 


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