How to fill your child's emotional needs

We all know that there are essential needs such as food, shelter, clothing and healthcare but what about the emotional health of our little ones? We want to raise happy, healthy and well-rounded little people. 

Here are a few examples of what children really need.

LOVE

This would be the most important need of any child, or adult for that matter.  An unconditional loving atmosphere creates security and happiness and an unbreakable bonding.  Our kids need to know that we love them unconditionally, accept their feelings and their mistakes.  

PRAISE - FOSTERING A GROWTH MINDSET

In the early years (1-3) children are little sponges.  They soak up everything around them and have a huge desire to meet your approval,  often doing things purely to attain your praise.  

Don’t underestimate the power of praise!  Research shows that by encouraging a growth mindset (the belief that they can develop basic abilities through perseverance and dedication) will have a massive impact on their lives.  Praising your child for their ‘efforts’ and not for their ‘ability’ or the ‘end result’ will develop a growth mindset which in turn, has a positive effect on their confidence. 

Just because your child didn’t manage to put their shoes on the right feet doesn’t mean they don’t deserve praise for trying. The praise will encourage them to keep trying until they succeed. It’s all about encouraging the continued effort and determination and praising them for it. 

Try not to do anything for them that they can do themselves because it can make them feel incompetent.    They may not do the job as well as you would do it and that can be extremely frustrating sometimes but it is important that they are allowed to try it themselves.

SAFE BOUNDARIES

Kids can test your patience!  Don’t we all know it!  They want to do things by themselves but sometimes these are not entirely safe for them to do.

Setting up safe boundaries helps them feel safe to explore by knowing that you will step in when they go that one step too far.  Thus, setting clear and concise limits and guidelines is important and they need to understand that when you say ‘stop’ they need to stop immediately.  They might not like it at the time but having boundaries instils a feeling of safety and knowledge that they can go so far before you will stop them.

Don’t ask your child over and over to do something you have asked them to do.  Give them an ultimatum and stick to it.  Such as ‘You may choose to pick up the toys and we can still go to the park to play or you can choose not to go to the park if the toys are still on the floor by lunch time’.  They will soon get the message that you mean business and have set a boundary for them.  They will learn to understand the consequences of not staying within that boundary. It encourages a mutual respect between you.

EMPATHY

Children don’t always have the words to express their feelings and oftentimes they end up getting angry and frustrated as they struggle to communicate their wants and needs.  Taking the time to understand what they are trying to put across and letting them know that you ‘get it’ can help to ease the situation.  

It may be that you want them to have a bath but they don’t want to stop playing their game.  By being understanding of their needs without giving in to them can help them to feel that you understand that what they are doing at that moment is important to them but there is something more important that needs to be done. 

Perhaps try something similar to the acronym ACT - Acknowledge how they are feeling, Communicate the limits, Target the options available to them.  In other words, you are saying to them ‘ I understand how you feel about not wanting to leave your game now to take a bath.  It is okay to feel that way but it is not okay to behave like this just because you feel like that. How about we leave the game where it is, take a quick bath and then you can continue your game afterwards?’

ROUTINE

Children really thrive on routine because they know what to expect and this makes them feel more secure. It makes life easier for as parents too because we are not constantly having to argue about ‘bath time’ if there is a routine in place.  They know that is what takes place at that time of the day and are already mentally prepared for it.  When something unexpected happens or a change occurs they will handle it better it if has occurred in the context of a familiar routine.

MISTAKES ARE OKAY!

We are constantly learning in life and more so as children.  Mistakes will happen frequently and that is how they learn new skills.  As parents, our protective nature pushes us to step in and fix their problems.  This is not always the best solution.  Take a step back and let them learn to resolve things on their own, frustrating as it can be to do this, it really encourages that growth mindset.  

Allow them to solve their own problems instead of feeling compelled to ‘save’ them from frustration and disappointment.  

POWER STRUGGLES

Part of the Growth Mindset is letting your children have some sense of control.  No one likes to be controlled by other people.  We as parents, may feel that we should have full control over our children because it is for their own wellbeing.

Find little ways that you can hand over some control to them without it affecting their safety.  Simple ways of doing this are offering options for them to choose from, for instance, offer options for a meal, which clothes to wear or where they would like to go and play.  

EMOTIONAL VS PHYSICAL

Giving your children emotional support and love is so much more important than all the toys in the world.  Yes, you might not get that instant look of excitement and gratification that you get when you give them physical things but the long term effects will be much more rewarding.

You may have heard parents say ‘I have given my children everything they could possibly want and they are still ungrateful and are never happy, never appreciate what they have’.  In a nutshell, children who are spoiled like that are just not getting their emotional needs met.  Too many ‘things’ and not enough ‘love, understanding and support’.

If we were to give our children everything they want or feel they need to keep them happy and entertained then that is the result we will end up with.  It’s totally okay to let them get bored occasionally, in fact in inspires creativity when they have to find something to do.  Set limits often, lovingly and firmly.


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