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Core Childhood Needs: Safety

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

As they grow and learn to navigate the world around them, children may come across many different types of dangers, both physical and emotional. Providing children with a safe environment is key to ensuring positive development. If children constantly have to worry about being physically or emotionally harmed, their alarm system will get more and more sensitized. As a result, they may expect danger everywhere, leaving them anxious and distressed. A brain that spends all its time focusing on how to stay safe, removes important processing resources from development, learning and healthy growth. Lack of safety may not always be a result of active safety violations or abuse in a child’s social environment but can also result from neglect or wider issues, such as poverty, conflict zones or environmental disasters.

So what can we do as adults to help to fulfill the need for safety in our children? Here are a few ideas:

· Ensure access to potential dangers in the house and other environments is limited

· Use positive reinforcement, praise and attention for good behaviour

· Refrain from the use of verbal or physical intimidation and physical punishment

· Create a nurturing, warm family environment in which children feel safe and valued

· Have open conversations about realistic risk and danger

Fulfilling children’s need for safety allows them to explore their environment with confidence that if there is a problem, they will be able to seek support or handle the situation. This permits them to focus on learning and developing resilience.

The need for safety remains relevant for us as adults. In particular, if we did not have this need met as children, we may have developed anxieties, expectations of danger, and withdrawal or avoidance behaviours to keep ourselves safe. This may impact how we engage with new opportunities and how we manage our emotions. However, regardless of our childhood, with the right tools we are able to meet this need in adulthood without letting the past control us. The way we would treat children now, is the way we can also nurture our own inner child.

To find out more about how to help your children feel like safe or to successfully meet your own need of safety, book a consultation with psychologist in Hong Kong Dr. Terrighena on (852) 2521 4668 or

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