July 13

Emotional Safety

A week or so we dropped our almost-15-year-old daughter off at camp to begin a two-week hiking, camping and kayaking odyssey with 19 other kids in Alaska. She’s attended this sleepaway camp based in Michigan for several years. Every four years they make the trek to Alaska. She heard about it last year and has been earning money toward the fees since last summer.

The leader is a very impressive guy and one who is very experienced in dealing with children and teens. I have complete confidence in his ability to handle any situation with humor and competence. But it was the first thing that he said at the Parents’ Farewell Meeting that stopped me in tracks. “I know you’re worried about your kids being so far away but even more than their physical safety, I will be mindful of their emotional safety. I would rather bring them home with a broken finger than a broken heart.”

For those of us who didn’t always know emotional safety growing up, this phrase needed no explanation. I had never been conscious of parenting this way but in retrospect, I have been less concerned about her skateboarding or skiing black diamond slopes than I have being bullied at school by the mean girls.

I’ve also been thinking about my own emotional safety and if that means distancing myself from hurtful people, my daughter will see that emotional safety, like physical safety, requires lifelong vigilance.