Creating a home that is safe for your child is a fundamental part of supporting your child’s development. A “Safe” environment can have several meanings, but in this case, we mean a space for your child to feel comfortable expressing themselves and exploring the world around them. When you provide your child with this type of environment you can decrease their anxiety and reduce the impact of daily stressors while providing them with the sensory input they need to grow and develop. Understanding your child's unique needs and providing them with the tools and structure in your home will create a positive living environment. Today, we are going to explore several ways in which you can create a positive and supportive home environment for you and your child.
Daily routines allow your child the ability to know what to expect next. It elicits a sense of control and predictability throughout their day. Also, allowing your child to feel safe and secure in their environment. Examples of how to create a routine are to engage in activities at the same time each day, waking/bedtime, meal times, dressing, grooming, and playtime. Additionally, creating a visual schedule that your child can easily view to check what's next can provide a sense of independence and control of what is happening during their day.
Sensory input is all around us. Whether we notice it or not, it is constantly challenging our brain and body to receive, interpret, and alter our plans. During school or out in the community, we are unable to control the amount of sensory input our bodies are receiving. At home, it is important to assess your child's needs and create an environment that provides options to meet those needs. Start to observe if your child responds positively or negatively to certain inputs. Then, you can provide the input that is regulating and/or calming for your child. You can do that at home by providing a space with reduced noise lighting and eliminating visual stimuli by decreasing clutter. A great example of this is to create what we call “a womb space.” A womb space is a fort, tent, or quiet corner that decreases visual distractions, low lighting, and decreased auditory input, allowing your child to engage in a calm space. Items you can add to this space include a light machine, sound machine, fidgets, or weighted stuffed animal. Tailor the space to your child's needs and provide preferred items to encourage engagement in the space.
Providing choices will allow your child to feel a sense of control. Throughout the day, it's important to have a sense of control versus feeling controlled by others. Parents can choose the options provided, with your child having the ability to make the final decision. Examples of when you can do this include asking your child what they would like to do with option a or b, discussing mealtime options and/or snack options, outdoor activities, or books before bed. Providing choices throughout the day will help your child navigate their day feeling confident, in control, and safe!
Teaching your child to communicate and recognize how they are feeling can be a tough skill to learn. Encouraging your child to communicate through peer play, sibling interactions, or parental prompting is a great way to develop the skill of communication. As your child develops it is important to actively engage in communication about how their body is feeling or labeling feelings during day-to-day activities. Ways to increase communication is to utilize a feelings chart with happy/sad faces and label what feelings belong with each face (get creative using emojis or characters from a preferred movie). Also, communicating “I see that you're angry, frustrated, or happy” is a great way for your child to make the connection of identifying how their body is feeling.
Creating a safe home environment for your child is an important and ever-evolving task as they grow and develop. Providing a consistent, predictable, safe environment for your child takes planning, thought, observation, and communication.