Family Friday: 5 Critical Needs for Emotionally Healthy Children

Second Friday of the month:  Parenting / Family

“Being a parent is one of the greatest joys that one experiences in life, but also one of the most difficult and anxiety provoking responsibilities any of us will ever have…yet we come to it almost totally unprepared, with little or no training.” – Dr. G. Newmark

I was trying to think of a topic for today's Family Friday post over the past week. And since it's the "love month", I was hoping I would be inspired by this season of hearts. Nothing.

Then I remembered reading something about how to raise emotionally healthy children from Moms Like You, a mommy site on Facebook I've followed recently.  It was so enlightening. I realized that loving our children unconditionally is not enough. As parents, we have to truly understand our children as individuals in order to fill their needs and help them grow to become the best person they can be, in all aspects -- physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. Now that's how we give love.

Believe me, this is something worth reading. Allow me to share, and I quote:
"An expert in parent-child relations, Dr. Gerald Newmark, developed these guidelines recognizing the five critical needs that children have in common – the need to feel respected, important, accepted, included, and secure. By understanding these needs, we can develop an “action-oriented strategy” and a consistent approach to parenting to achieve emotionally healthy children and families."
5 Critical Needs of Children
From the book How To Raise Emotionally Healthy Children, by Gerald Newmark, Ph.D.

1. Need to Feel Respected
    Children need to be treated with courtesy, consideration and esteem. Parents’ opinions, values, attitudes, and actions matter to them. 
    Adults tend to be rude and inconsiderate, which stems from thoughtlessness. Avoid calling them names, belittling them by word, tone, or action. Inappropriate anger, impatience or sarcasm creates defensiveness or retaliatory behavior by the child. Parents should learn to say “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me” to them. Remember, children have feelings too and how we say something is as important as what we say. 
    Parents need to stop lying to children. When we lie, we lose credibility, giving them the impression that lying is okay. Honestly is still the best policy. 
    Listen more and talk less. When we get easily distracted, when we ignore them and don’t give our attention, we disrespect them. 
    As long as parents understand this need and show children the respect they deserve, they will feel good about themselves. They can grow up with self-respect and in turn be respectful of others. 

2. Need to Feel Important
    Help children develop their sense of self-worth, usefulness, control, and identity. If they don’t develop a sense of importance in constructive ways, they may seek negative ways to get attention. 
    Children need to try things to learn and grow. So we need to encourage rather than inhibit their curiosity, experimentation, and desire for adventure. But there should be a balance in protectiveness and permissiveness on our part. Negotiate and establish limits. Involve them in the decision process as it will contribute to their sense of importance. Ask their opinions and give due recognition. Avoid doing all the work and controlling everything. 
    Children feel powerless when parents talk too much. One of the most valuable assets in interpersonal relations is the ability to give someone you are with your undivided attention, the feeling of being the most important person in the world at that moment. A great way to show how important they are is when we listen to and care about what they have to say, even for just a few minutes. 
    Always give children constructive, meaningful ways to feel important and treat them as though they are. 

3. Need to Feel Accepted
    Acceptance means listening, trying to understand children, recognizing their feelings, desires, opinions and ideas. 
    A child’s feelings are not to be suppressed or feared but rather to be understood, discussed, and worked with when necessary. We often do children a disservice by attempting to talk them out of their feelings. It’s not comforting or enlightening. A parent who understands that feelings aren’t right or wrong will send a message that it’s perfectly fine to have these feelings.
    Children need more acknowledgements than put downs. Parents should learn to focus on the behavior and not the person, and to reject with love and not with anger. 
    Acceptance is not permissiveness. It actually hinders adversarial relations and power struggles. Accept them as unique individuals; recognize accomplishments, emphasize the positive; and when you must say no, do so with love.

4. Need to Feel Included
    Children can’t be included in everything, but make a conscious effort to include them in as many discussions, decisions, and activities appropriate to their maturity and family situation. 
    When you do things together, you will feel close to one another, strengthen relations with other family members, and improve communication. Families can also start feedback sessions where children can freely share their fears, concerns, questions about growing up, school, sex, and other subjects which they typically might be embarrassed to discuss. 
    Parents can also include children in their worklife by sharing information and introducing co-workers. This will help them better understand that part of your life. 
    Make a plan and involve them in planning. Having such activities will make them feel they’re an integral part of the family and will learn to appreciate their parents more.

5. Need to Feel Secure
    Provide children with a stable, consistent, safe, and caring environment where they feel loved and protected. There should be a balance of freedom and control. 
    Establishing traditions and rituals like celebrating events or going on a holiday also provide a sense of stability and security. 
    As for discipline, a child is more secure when parents say what they mean, mean what they say, and appear united. 
    Children need to be in a positive environment where people get along, care about one another and consistently express love in words and actions. Seeing affection between parents and receiving affection is vital to the child’s sense of security.

I do hope you learned something valuable from the list. I am actually guilty of several points raised here, like we should treat kids with more respect, recognize their feelings, and include them in some family decisions. With the help of hubby, I'll be trying (very hard) to apply a more pro-active and consistent approach to parenting. As I've written before, parents could need all the help we could get!

Hug your kids, shower them with kisses, listen more. Enjoy parenting. :)
Happy Love Month!

Get more tips and read the whole post from The Experts tab of Moms Like You (Facebook).
How To Raise Emotionally Healthy Children

More parenting-related entries:
ABC's of Parenting
His Needs, Her Needs: Marriage-in-21st Century
Got Milk?
Picky Eaters and Feeding Woes
A Closer Look at Progressive vs. Traditional Schools
Top Supplements For Kids
8 Years After I Do

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it! Stay connected and Follow me on Google friends, Facebook and Twitter @mymomfriday, or Subscribe here via email and get the latest updates!