Psychological Safety

by Jen Pool (3 minute read)

As a consultant, I write, train, and talk about psychological safety in the workplace. However, as a parent, implementing psychological safety at home, especially during the back-to-school adjustment period, is really important to me. The transition from the sunny carefree days of summer to the structured demands of the academic year can trigger feelings of anxiety and uncertainty among kids and teens. In this context, the home should serve as a space where our children can find comfort, understanding, and support. “Psychological safety” might sound complex, but it’s a straightforward concept – feeling comfortable and secure to be yourself, share your thoughts, and express your feelings without fear of judgment or negative consequences. Parents can foster this environment through active listening, demonstrating open communication, and sharing their own experiences of facing challenges. This paves the way for their child to express their emotions freely, and when children know their home is a place where they can do all this, they’re more likely to navigate the back-to-school period with resilience and confidence.

As a former martial arts instructor, I’ve witnessed the importance and key components of success through consistent and guided practice. Using martial arts as an analogy, we as parents can help our children understand and experience the concept of psychological safety through practice. Just like learning a new martial arts technique, mastering a complicated move takes time and practice, as does adapting to the demands of a new school year. When (not if) our child makes a mistake or faces difficulties, we can emphasize that it’s part of the learning process. Challenges are opportunities for growth, much like repeatedly practicing martial arts leads to improvement. Drawing a parallel, the idea of psychological safety is about valuing progress over perfection.

Perhaps you grew up in an environment where psychological safety was never prioritized, leaving you uncertain about how to navigate complicated feelings from the past. Here area  few suggestions to consider:

  1. Encourage open discussions about feelings, thoughts, and experiences
  2. Refrain from criticizing or belittling your child’s ideas or emotions. Even if you don’t fully understand or agree, validate their feelings and offer support
  3. Be consistent and reliable – children should know they can rely on their parents for emotional support and guidance
  4. Model vulnerability within proper boundaries, and share your own struggles and mistakes. This normalizes imperfection and encourages your children to be open about their own challenges
  5. Set clear boundaries and consequences, safety doesn’t mean a lack of accountability

By demonstrating acceptance, understanding, and encouragement you are laying the foundation for psychological safety and building a strong emotional connection with your child. Embodying these principles creates a home environment that cultivates harmony far beyond the start of the school year.

Jen Pool is a Board Member for Grit Plus Gumption Farmstead. She also works as the Director of Community Development for another 501(c)(3) outside of Washington D.C. and is a certified Life Design Coach, Enneagram Coach and ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Trainer. 

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