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We are all created from two entities – body and soul. While we take steps to fill our homes with the physical manifestations of safety, like locks and alarms, we may not be as conscious of the importance of emotional safety – the need that each and every one of us has to feel accepted and loved.

What does an emotionally safe home look like?

It is a home where we can live free from criticism. People erroneously believe that if they constantly criticize and point out the faults in others, then others will change. To the contrary! Constantly reminding your spouse or children of their faults will not encourage them to change; it will persuade them to avoid you.

Criticism is painful and our instincts are wired to avoid pain. We can understand this in the physical sense. If we touch a hot iron our nerve endings register the heat and our brain sends our hand a message to move away. Our emotional wiring runs pretty much the same way – we tell ourselves to avoid things that are painful. And so it is a good idea to look at our interactions with family members and reassess our desire to “help” them. If you are trying to change someone, or “teach” him or her a better way of being, your message may not be heeded if it contains criticism.

In emotionally safe homes family members are allowed to express their feelings openly and respectfully. It is vital for people to express how they feel without being criticized for those feelings or being talked out of them. Validation– understanding how
another person feels and acknowledging it, even when you disagree – is a loving and accepting practice that creates a safe environment for all.

An emotional safe home puts limits on behavior. In order for children to function in the larger world, they must learn to socialize appropriately. If they are allowed free reign in the home, permitted to act out and bully their siblings or parents, they will have a difficult time following any rules or limits set on them by the outside world. Children who cope with frustration and anger feel better about themselves and are more successful socially
and academically.

Creating an emotionally safe home is not as simple as putting on cabinet locks and door guards. It requires us to encourage our children, appreciate our spouse, and set limits that teach appropriate responses to strong emotions. It may sound daunting, but the minute you make the decision to protect yourself and your family, there will be no stopping your progress.

Mozelle Forman is a clinical social worker in private practice for 20 years.
She welcomes your comments at