What All Children Need
As parents, we all strive to do the best we can for our child. Despite our best intentions, our efforts may fall short if we don’t know what our child needs. Do you ever pause and wonder whether there’s something you’re missing, or something more you could be doing, to ensure your child’s optimal development? Read this article to discover what your child needs from you. Use the statements below to help you gain a clearer understanding of what you’re already doing that’s helpful and/ or what you could be doing differently to support your child's optimal outcomes.
Unconditional love and safety. Every child needs to feel safe, seen, and secure in relationship with their significant caregivers. They need affection that conveys connection, warmth, and closeness. This means that no matter what the circumstance, your child knows that they are known, loved, and accepted by you for who they are. It means that they know you believe in their best intentions and capacity to do well, even when they struggle to do what is expected of them. It means that you treat them with respect and keep their dignity intact.
Structure and support. Every child needs some structure in their life. This means that you have appropriate and explicit routines and guidelines in your home so your child knows what to expect and what is expected of them. Every child also needs appropriate support to meet their demands. This means that you have realistic expectations of your child and actively support them to effectively manage their responsibilities in ways that promote their competence, confidence, and autonomy.
Regulated adults. Every child needs for their significant caregivers to be skilled at managing their own big feelings (e.g., anxiety, anger, and disappointment). This means that you parent your child from a place of calm, patience, understanding, and compassion. It means that you know how to handle your internal reactions in ways that do not alarm or overwhelm your child with fear or worry. When you have the skills to regulate, you can be a role model and teach your child to do the same.
Capacity to feel and express all emotions. Every child needs to feel understood, heard, and validated by their significant caregivers. This means that no matter what your child’s experience, they know that you are there for them and you will listen to them - without judgment. It means that your child knows their feelings are valid, acceptable, and understandable - and that they can express them freely.
Rest. Every child needs moments of rest in a day - to be absolutely free from having to meet any external demands or expectations. We all need a break to rest, rejuvenate, and revitalize. Children are no exception. This means that you offer your child the gift of rest, sprinkled throughout the day. It means that you actively reduce unnecessary demands that cause your child undue stress.
Play. Every child needs moments of imaginative play with multiple aged friends where they are connecting with others, having fun, and feeling good. This means that you make time to connect with your child in creative and spontaneous ways. It means that you plan for your child to engage with their peers in ways that do not involve external sources of entertainment.
Room to make mistakes. Every child needs room to make mistakes without judgment or fear of repercussions. This means that your child feels at ease to try their best, make mistakes, learn, and grow from them. It means that you give your child space, while letting them know that you believe in them and are here if they need you. On the contrary, children who fear their parents’ reactions live in a state of anxiety that interferes with their capacity to freely engage, learn, and grow.
As you reflect on your parenting approach, notice what you feel good about and any areas you can improve upon. Parenting is an ongoing process of fine-tuning and troubleshooting. Our children need us to keep implementing new ideas and strategies - assessing, monitoring, and evaluating how things are going - and adapting ourselves to support their ongoing growth and developmental success.
- Written by Cynthia Yoo, Registered Psychologist -
Books on parenting:
The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired - By Daniel Siegel & Tina Bryson
Kids Are Worth It: Raising Resilient, Responsible, Compassionate Kids - by Barbara Coloroso
Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive - by Daniel Siegel & Mary Hartzell