My Own Safe Space – for REAL!

July 17, 2021

I attended the “ Safe Spaces for Children/Youth/Young Adults Session II” virtual training.  Stacey Hall-McLeod was the facilitator.  Two other presenters, Mildred and Ted (dispensing titles), also shared their strategies for creating safe spaces for lifting young people voices. 

As the Session II group, we practiced the strategy of “REAL” introduced to us in Session I, by Melissa.  We practiced active listening during this session. 

It was not just my opinion that the session was a blessing because other participants shared their thoughts (not to mention the follow-up phone calls that I received as why Session II  was relevant to their personal life and ministry going forth).

I am anticipating that our final session, August 14, will be just as rejuvenating.

Starting with Good Food

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If you thought that we ended this session with sharing our thoughts, you would be wrong.  We were given an outside assignment… Oops! Put what you have learned into practice.

Basically, I have long believed from personal experiences that I have created “safe spaces.”   But after Session II, I had to rethink. To start, we were told to create space with an inviting meal! Well, as the family has grown, over the years, and I am older, that task has been left to my daughters and son-in-laws. They are the ones with the growing children now. Still, I am gain.

Before Session III, I am to organize a small event with friends and/or family. Keeping it to a small gathering, I am going to prepare a beautiful meal. Therapists sometimes called this activity “The Transformative Circle.”  For our assignment, we are calling it “Set the Dinner Table.” 

At each place setting, I will place a beautiful card (or paper) with an open/ended question (Stacey gave us examples of open-ended questions).  We will practice active listening (without interrupting) as each person answered his/her question(s).  A few other instructions were given to ensure I am creating  a “safe space” for my guests.  We are not expected to give answers to what we may hear; but  validating another’s trauma or situation is key to the process.  Uncertain as to what triggers we may encounter, Stacey reviewed how to implement the “breathing” technique for any anxiety that may occur (for we are setting a safe space).

I must say as a retired educator and in my current ministerial leadership, one would think that this is not asking too much. It is true that we consider ourselves a connective family and feel very blessed to have each other. I have always desired and worked to ensure that our home felt warm and inviting (SAFE SPACE’ FOR ALL WHO ENTERS). The difference in this activity is that I am being asking to do this activity with the expectations of not knowing what the open-ended questions might trigger and these family members are also coming into my personal space as I share.

Well, I say to all the participants from Session II and anyone who use this exercise, “Good luck.” We will be sharing our pictures before the next session.

I have already reached out to family members to help me complete this assignment.

a mother sitting on a bench with her child
Photo by Barbara Olsen on

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