One of the best protective factors for our girls is providing them with safe bases . Margaret Mahler defined these as people kids feel safe with and who give them a sense of security. They are people kids can count on to be there for them no matter what.
Think about toddlers who sit on their parents laps, and then wiggle down and go off to explore the world, only to come back looking for some love. Parents are their anchors; the safe home base kids come back to for reassurance. It’s the same reason kids leaving soon for college tell their parents that they want to come back at semester to the same house and the same bedroom, with as little changes as possible.
Emmy Werner’s seminal book “Vulnerable But Invincible” followed impoverished kids on the island of Kauai for about 40 years to figure out factors that might protect them from going down the wrong path. Most of the kids grew up to repeat negative cycles: poverty, prison, kids out of wedlock. The kids who made it despite tough circumstances had several things in common, and one of the most important was having someone in their life who stood by them and was there for them. That’s why a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters makes such a difference in the lives of children. Their ‘Big’ provides a constant adult presence who can befriend them and provide that safe base.
For girls, this person can be a relative like a grandparent, aunt or uncle, older cousin, or it can be a teacher, coach, or youth group director. The counselors at my summer camps often become confidants and mentors for our campers long after the summer fun is over.
Every girl deserves to have someone who loves and accepts them for exactly who they are, who doesn’t judge them, and who takes the time to really listen to them. What an incredible gift it is for a child to hear these magical words from an adult they love and trust: “Take all the time you need.”
We can’t always be there for our kids, and even kids with great parents need people other than their folks to talk to sometimes. Help guide your girls to people you trust who can become their safe bases and safe havens.