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How to be your child’s safe space

Rest matters because it frees our attention. When we don’t have to look for love, we can start to figure out who we are.

How to be your child’s safe space

The greatest gift we have to offer our child is an invitation to rest in our care. This isn’t the type of rest that comes from sleeping, but from an enduring invitation for contact and closeness, a sense of significance and mattering. as well as sense of belonging and being known by the people a child is most attached to. To be a safe space for them.


To invite a child to rest is about inspiring them to depend on us to meet their relational needs.

As creatures of attachment, we crave connection and should seek relationships in which we can become rooted and nourished. To bring a child to rest relationally is to assure them that their hunger for connection will be satiated. It means they can take our relationship for granted and that it is unwavering across context and conduct.

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To bring a child to rest means they will not be driven to pursue an answer to the question, ‘Am I loved and cared for?’ It means we have become the answer to their greatest hunger by assuring them our care taking has no expire date.

Why is relational rest important? When kids are at rest they grow. Just as arms and legs grow while sleeping, selfhood unfolds when a child is in right relationship with their adults.

Research in neuroscience and attachment science is unequivocal in their findings that the brain is wired for attachment and will pursue this need above all else. When these needs are met, the energy and bias in a person will move away from seeking attachment and towards developing a separate self through play, discovery, learning and trial and error.

Rest matters because it frees our attention. When we don’t have to look for love, we can start to figure out who we are.

The challenge is we cannot grow if we are not first rooted in healthy relationships. The unfolding of healthy personhood is firmly grounded and sprouts from relational rest. As Gordon Neufeld states, “We liberate children not by making them work for our love, but by letting them rest in it.”

Three ways to invite a child to rest + become their safe space

We cannot make a child rest in our care but we can work to create the conditions that will foster this. There are three things we can do to give our kids an invitation they cannot refuse.

1. Let your kids know they are valued + wanted

When we accept that the person in charge of the parent-child relationship is us, we won’t hold a child accountable for preserving a sense of contact and closeness. It isn’t their job to mend fences or to cross bridges, but for us to hold onto them across conduct and in the face of immature emotional expression. To hold onto a relationship with our children means we can’t outsource all of their caretaking to others, we need to actively engage in our role.

We need to convey to them a sense that they are valued, desire, and wanted.

Working at keeping our relationship strong means we will also find ways to hold onto them by bridging the distance when separation happens. It means we work to give them a sense of security in our relationship and convey that it is enduring.

To accept the work of the relationship is to keep our fingers on the pulse of whether our children feel close to us, depend on us, and trust us. If our relationship feels strained or weakened, we need to move to repair and protect it.

To take care of our relationship means we make it safe for a child to depend on us and refrain from using separation based discipline methods. We aim to use our relationship to influence a child and not to control them. When we understand that a child’s desire to obey, follow, attend, listen, share the same values as us, all come from having a strong relationship, we will take the lead in preserving and protecting it.

2. Assume the alpha role in your child’s life

To assume an alpha role means we vulnerably accept our position as the one to lead and assume responsibility for caring for a child. We see it as our work to ensure a child has a secure home base to grow in and to keep them safe. We aim to preserve their dignity when their behavior is difficult.

To claim an alpha role in a child’s life is to act as their compass point and to help them make sense of the world around them. It means we don’t simply meet their demands but take the lead in answering their needs. It means we don’t turn them into consultants when it comes to their caretaking by asking them too many questions.

We need to seize the lead in nurturing our kids and to comfort them when they are facing all the things that cannot change. It means we sometimes have to help them accept the futilities that are part of life, like no cookies for breakfast or our limits to technology use.

To invite a child to rest in our care, we need to portray a strong alpha presence so that they feel we are in charge and can handle whatever comes our way. From their tantrums, to resistance, to emotional outbursts—there is a sense that we are holding onto them and will find a way through the impasse. To claim an alpha position in a child’s life is not about having all the answers but communicating we are the answer.

3. Provide more than your child is pursuing

To fill a child’s relational needs we will need to do more than just give them what they ask for—we need to give them more. The only way rest can be achieved is through knowing there is more there than you could possibly consume. Like a banquet or buffet table brimming with food, it is generosity that puts one at rest because you can take the invitation for granted.

To help our children rest in our care we will need to give them more attention than they demand and more connection than they seek. If they ask us for a hug we can hold onto them and give them a swirl and a kiss, too. We need to give more approval than they are looking for and more significance than they deserve. At every turn, we need to communicate we are generous with everything they need, and they can take it all for granted. Even when we have to say no, we can be generous by giving them space to express their feelings.

Why rest is the answer we all seek

Wendell Berry writes in his poem, The Peace of Wild Things, “For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” It is this freedom, this sense of security, this idea that one can rest in someone else’s caretaking that is transcendent like in nature.

The reason it matters for kids is when they are at rest they are free to play. It is in the relational playgrounds we create for them where they steadily morph and shapeshift into the mature forms we long for.

We cannot control our children’s growth—we can only provide the rest they need to flourish.

We cannot make our children depend on us, we can only invite them into relationship with us. We cannot make our children become their own person, we can only ensure they are at rest in the relational roots we nourish and cultivate.

To rest in another person’s care is a vulnerable place. We can get hurt, mistreated, or ignored. It is much easier to be the one to lead and to care for another than to be the recipient of that caretaking.

Our fulfillment as parents lies in inviting our children to rest in our care and having them take us up on our offer. For both caretakers and the ones cared for – this dance of relationship is where true rest lies.

Originally published on Deborah McNamara, PhD’s Kid’s Best Bet.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

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Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

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If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

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Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

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Washable Breast Pads

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Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

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The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

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Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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