There were times during the weeks that followed my daughter’s birth that she would cry, and I would wonder why. She was warm and dry and well-fed, but she still cried. I remember holding her in my arms and rocking her and suddenly realizing that she missed the security of my womb. She wanted to crawl right back up inside me where she was completely protected from the world and all of its chaos. But she had boarded a train bound for independence and there was no turning back.

That’s what childhood is—the journey toward independence. I held my baby girl close so that she could feel safe and know that she was not alone. All children from birth through their teenage years need to feel safe and know that they are not alone. We recognize this need in infants, but often lose sight of it for adolescents. They start to look grown up, and we feel them pushing us away. We forget that kids need to feel safe and connected at home and at school so they can venture out into the world with an awareness that leads to independence. They still need a safe place.

Kids who live in a stable, nurturing environment have a good inner barometer for assessing risk and avoiding dangerous situations. Kids who live in chaos where abuse and neglect become their normative state have to disconnect their inner barometers to survive the volatility of their home life. They may actively seek out dangerous situations, especially if they have no safe place to reset their barometers regularly. Our child welfare systems are intended to keep kids safe and protect them from abuse and neglect yet even at its best, government can never replace good, loving parents.

For kids with a troubled home life, a safe place may be school or church, a friend’s house or a foster home. A trusted adult who is caring and reliable can become a “safe place.” There are even books that can help kids find a safe place in their own minds to reset their inner barometers or encourage kids who are already in that safe place to take another step toward independence. St. Francis of Assisi said, “There are beautiful and wild forces within us.” Literature can help kids see beyond their present circumstances and discover those beautiful and wild forces.

There are so many good books that offer kids hope and encouragement. Look for books that create the opportunity for adults and kids to connect and talk openly about what it means to grow up and become independent and discuss important issues such as dating, friendship, and family issues. The enduring value of a good book lies in the questions it raises rather than in those it seeks to answer. Adults who help kids find these books and make themselves available to talk with kids about books, are really providing a safe place for kids to know themselves and create their own safe place in this world.

Author's Bio: 

A former high school teacher, experienced trial attorney and child advocate, Laurie Gray is the founder of Socratic Parenting LLC. In addition to her writing, speaking and consulting, Laurie works as an adjunct professor of criminal sciences at Indiana Tech and as a bilingual child forensic interviewer at the Dr. Bill Lewis Center for Children in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Laurie is the author of three young adult novels and A Simple Guide to Socratic Parenting (Luminis Books/2014). For more information, please visit www.SocraticParenting.com.