Right around the time I was in high school, the “Safe Zone” movement caught momentum.  Often in the form of stickers on classroom doors or pins on teacher’s shirts, the Safe Zone label indicated that a person or space was a place of safety, acceptance, and support.  As you can tell by the image, this message was primarily targeted at the LGBT community. Even though I wasn’t out in high school and never felt the need to seek out a Safe Zone for any specific comfort or support, just knowing they were there brought me a wonderful peace of mind.  I enjoyed my algebra class a little more because my teacher had that sticker on his desk.

But what if we could expand the concept? Couldn’t everyone benefit from having a Safe Zone? A place where you could fully and simply be embraced?

This idea came to me recently after facing a difficult time in my life.  A time when I realized that so many people, including those I love, do not have a Safe Zone. Ever since, I have been consumed with creating such a space in my home.

In our Safe Zone:

  • You can like any TV show, color, game, clothing choice, or whatever that makes your heart sing and you will not be made fun of for it.
  • In fact, no making fun at all!
  • It’s cool to be different. To have ideas, feelings, fears, and joys.  It’s cool to be just who you are.
  • You are safe to share. Silly, quirky, embarrassing, scary, sad, mad, guilty.  It is safe to tell me. I will listen.
  • Everyone matters. Everyone is important.

Granted, this isn’t an entirely foreign concept or a vast departure from the vibe of our home to begin with.  My wife and I have always been on board with creating a family that operates around the concepts of value and respect. But, something about the label really does something for me, and I’ve noticed a difference in my children, too. For example…

Before:

“Please stop teasing.”

“But so and so did such and such first! And she’s _____!!!!!”

After:

“Remember, this is a safe zone. We all get a break from teasing here.”

::sigh:: “Okay.”

Cheesy? Maybe.  Will I stray from the specific terminology and label in a month or two? Probably.  But, I’m determined to make the concept a touchstone for our family.

When everyone comes home at the end of the day, I want them to be able to breathe.  I can’t be by their sides every minute of the day. I can’t shield them from every bit of teasing, discrimination, peer pressure, harmful social messaging, or other crap they may encounter.  What I can offer, is a safe place to return to.  A place to lay down the battle armor and take a deep sigh of relief.  A place to feel seen, heard, valued, accepted, and loved for the perfectly unique person they were created to be.

If I’m choosing a hill to die on, this will be it.

The other night I was laying in bed with my littlest daughter.  That day I had been faced with the pain and despair that can came from living a life without a Safe Zone, so I was nearly in tears when I squeezed her close and whispered, “Baby, please please tell Mommy if anyone ever hurts you. I will listen. I will be here.”

She took a little breath and said, “Well…today, at the con-pUter, my friend said I was not sharing and he was not gonna be my friend any more and it hurted my feewings.”

Then a tear did fall, and I was glad it was too dark for her to see the smile that spread across my face.

“I’m sorry that happened, baby.  Thank you for telling me.”

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