How To Be A Secure Anchor For A Child During Turmoil

Advice From A Psychotherapist

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Turmoil in childhood, especially if it is repetitive, can deeply affect a person for life. Often, it is an adult’s response to seeing a child in turmoil that makes the difference in how a child will persevere. So, as an adult seeing a child in turmoil, how can you help them through and help them persevere?

In order to get a better understanding of the answer, I spoke with Nicole Vykoual, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and yoga instructor. She believes that during times of turmoil you can help by being a secure anchor. You can be a secure anchor by doing the following three things:

1.) Be empathetic: Show a child experiencing turmoil empathy and validate their emotions and experience. Empathy is not the same as sympathy – you’re not feeling sorry for the child, but instead intently listening and showing that you care and want to understand how they are feeling.

2.) Manage Your Own Adult Anxiety: Nicole acknowledges it can be difficult to compassionately bear witness to another’s struggle and focus on validating their emotions while not prematurely jumping into problem-solving, but an anchored adult is one who listens to the child while managing their own anxiety and desire to fix the emotional pain.

3.) Have an attuned presence: Work to separate your emotions from the child’s but remain attuned to the child. An attuned presence allows the child to mirror your regulated nervous system and feel heard, seen, and understood. The child feels less alone and can face the turmoil, knowing he or she has a trusted adult to work through the process with.

These emotional regulation skills acquired by being empathized with and emotionally validated are critical to growing up to be a well-adjusted adult and living the human experience, which can be full of adversity.

Lastly, be sure to anchor yourself through the process. If you begin to feel too overwhelmed or saddened, know that it’s okay to reach out for support from others. Sometimes, that means professional support, for the child and/or yourself. 

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Source Shutterstock By fizkes

Why you should rewrite your children’s future during times of crisis


Tips for Teaching Your Toddler Empathy

by Dr. Gail Gross

An Age-by-Age Guide to Talking to Your Kids About Race and Racism

by Dr. Shelli Dry

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.