• If your child feels secure in themselves and their relationships, they will be better able to deal with life's challenges

  • Dr Joanna North, author of Mind Kind, shares her advice for parents

  • We have therapists who specialise in working with adolescents and children – find them here

The good news about creating an all important felt sense of security in life for your children is that it is something you can observe and work on a little at a time and it’s for free – not something you can buy! 

Children have been through strange times since the pandemic and even the most stable of children feel less secure about a lot of things. But attachment security is a universal law that applies to all of us. What it refers to is the sense that we have reliable people in our lives and children of course need reliable attachment figures who are consistent and predictable in their care. Here are some areas where parents can look to help their children along. 

A secure world

For secure children the world feels like it is a good enough place to be. This sense for children relies very much on their felt sense of safety and predictability, or at least on a parent to whom they can turn in times of trouble or stress. 

You don’t have to be the perfect parent to achieve this with your child because all parents will have small failings and their own stresses to manage. But you can create this sense of safety in your home and make it the focus of your parenting. 

This can be achieved through good structures in the day, a sense of engagement from you, a sense that you will nurture and value your child and that you are curious about their lives and will challenge in a supportive way areas where they may be going wrong.

Children who can be rated as having a secure attachment generally can find a balance between positive and negative in life. A reasonable perspective on life would be that it’s great when good things happen, but they don’t happen all the time. Sometimes tough things happen, and a child would feel that they can cope with challenging times with the help and support of their parent. 

Today I hear a lot of parents discuss the idea that they wish for their children only to be happy. This is an understandable but not a realistic view of life for either yourself or your child. Whilst we don’t want to create unhappy experience, we will create more stability if we help our child feel they can face difficulty and get through it balancing the positives and the negatives. 

An emotional vocabulary

It is without question a very helpful skill in life for children to be able to label and express emotions. Emotional Literacy refers to the ability to note how you are thinking and feeling and what emotions you are expressing and going through. This is so that those emotions can be managed with the help of an adult. This skill applies to you too as a parent. We have to model this for children and create an emotionally sensitive environment where emotions can be communicated and understood.

A felt sense of feeling deeply accepted for who you are is the gift that is beyond any material reward in this life. If we can help our children – whether they are birth children, adopted or Looked After – feel they are deeply accepted in mind, body and self, then this will fuel their sense of security in their relationship to you. 

This is such a deep human need to feel we belong in our group and it starts in the family group with parents. A small sign to your child every day that you love them and accept them for their unique characteristics and that you wish to support them even if they are failing is the rocket fuel to a secure sense of self and a less anxious life. 

An organised mind

A coherent and organised mind is only achieved with the support of a kind and mindful adult who is invested in helping their child sort out their problems. If our children’s brains are overloaded with work and unsolvable problems, they will become troubled, and it will quickly show in their behaviour. We need to help our children calm and settle and organise their problems. 

Obviously for babies and small children this is shown in the care that you give. With older children over the age of seven it is more likely that you will discuss problems and put them in place. You don’t need to provide magic solutions, but you need to show you will listen and that you feel confident that you will get to a good place in the end. 

Children are very alert to information about relationships and become increasingly so as their lives head to independence. They are curious to know what people are thinking and they are alert to judgements and the rules of social groups. They are particularly concerned about their social lives as they head towards middle childhood and teenage years. The question ‘what are people thinking about me’ is foremost in our minds. We need to support children in this curiosity and give attention to their small problems such as arguments with friends that will upset them. 

Neurodivergent children may appear not to be so bothered about social relationships but their felt sense of security matters a great deal, in fact even more so. There is never an instance when children do not need our advice, support and mindfulness when they ask for it. 

In all, you don’t have to be a perfect parent to help your children feel secure in an age of insecurity. But you can work your way towards creating a better felt sense of security by giving your mindful attention to your child’s life and ensuring that they feel safe and accepted. 

Dr Joanna North is the author of Mind Kind: Your Child's Mental Health

Further reading

7 key skills for social success in children

8 internet safety tips for keeping your child safe online

3 steps to raising confident girls

Tips to help your child manage big emotions

Watch Dr Emma Svanberg, author of Parenting for Humans: