PARENTING – the basics
There are a few ‘templates’ I like to share with clients about meeting children’s emotional needs. Here is one:
FOUR BASIC NEEDS
This comes from a type of therapy called Theraplay.
The predictability and routines that organize daily life. Having a predictable ‘world’ (environment) allows children to feel safe, and to concentrate on their natural developmental tasks – rather than on trying to understand, control, or withdraw from a chaotic, confusing, or overly demanding environment.
“The adult, the leader in the relationship, creates organization and predictability for the child which communicates safety.”
“The adult provides caring that can calm and soothe the child in a manner that makes them feel good physically and emotionally.” This includes such basic care tasks as feeding, bathing, dressing, taking care of ‘owies’, rocking, putting to sleep, as well as narrating or explaining what is happening or about to happen in the child’s immediate experience. For older children, providing for basic needs is nurture, when it is done in a connected, loving way – taking time to serve meals made with caring, taking time to shop with them for the equipment they need for activities.
Insisting on adherence to routines as children grow is also nurture: bedtimes (not staying up late with a screen); providing limits and support so they complete homework; continuing those habits such as teeth-brushing, basic cleanliness of the bedroom (so as not to be unsafe or unhygienic).
Providing older children with the privacy they need is also basic nurture. (‘Discliplinary’ measures such as removing an older child’s bedroom door can be seriously damaging. [See “Authoritative Parenting.”] )
“The adult is present in a manner that the child experiences being seen, heard, felt, and accepted.” This includes sharing experiences with the child, listening to the child’s thoughts and feelings, exploring the world together, playing with the child, and allowing them to show us things.
A child without engagement is a lonely and emotionally abandoned child.
“The adult supports the child in the acquisition and mastery of new skills, enhancing the child’s sense of competence and confidence.”
This includes activities that encourage a child to stretch into new abilities (face challenges), and respects their need for autonomy and their ability to achieve it — as developmentally appropriate, of course!
Children of all ages will reach for challenges themselves, as long as they feel safe in their environments, so we can often follow their lead.
A child who is not challenged is an easily bored, helpless child with low self-confidence or a sense of entitlement.
All four of these are necessary for children of all ages – Just in different degrees, and increasingly provided by others than just the parents. Even an 18-year-old, though, is happier and more secure knowing that all of these are available from parents as needed (or as appropriate).