Parents and Caregivers Join to Meet the 5 Critical Needs of Children
from Paige Beatty
In a time of increasing attention to standards and a focus on knowledge and cognitive skills, we continue to hear about a crises of bullying, social isolation, and children unprepared for school in many ways. Last year I attended a panel discussion of kindergarten teachers talking about the skills they wish children had when they entered their classes. These teachers, from a variety of schools and backgrounds, agreed unanimously that the social emotional skills made the biggest difference in school success.
Those of us in early childhood recognize the importance of social emotional development and emotional health. We understand that all learning happens through relationships. So how can we make certain that we are meeting the emotional needs of the children in our care? How can we help families do the same?
In the book How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Needs of Children…And Parents Too! Gerald Newmark offers insight and tools for just that. The book, although geared towards parents, is applicable to anyone who spends time with children.
Dr. Newmark recognizes that many parents have spent large amounts of time being educated and trained on a variety of topics – but seldom on raising children. Parenting, while based in love and enthusiasm, may at times be hit-or-miss. Dr. Newmark states that childrearing is too important to leave to chance. He encourages parents to be thoughtful about what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. Dr. Newmark advocates for being a professional at parenting – use a set of core values to make conscious decisions about behavior; act in a way that is knowledgeable and systematic; study and change your own behavior (the only thing you actually have control over) when a situation is not what you’d like; and have an experimental attitude.
Every interaction with another person represents an opportunity to connect or disconnect. Connections build positive relationships, which are the foundation for all types of learning and growth, but particularly for social emotional development. Irrespective of the situation or type of interaction, we can work on building connections by focusing on meeting what Dr. Newmark calls the 5 critical needs.
The 5 Critical Emotional Needs are the need to feel:
Respected – I am treated in a courteous, thoughtful, attentive, and civil manner as an individual, deserving of the same courtesy and consideration of others.
Important – I have value, I am useful, I have power, I am somebody.
Accepted – I am an individual in my own right. I have a right to my own feelings, opinions, ideas, concerns, wants, and needs.
Included – I belong, am a part of things, connected to other people, with a sense of community.
Secure – I am safe and protected. I’m in a positive environment where people care about one another and show it, people express themselves and others listen, differences are accepted and conflicts resolved constructively. There are structures, limits, and consequences.
With these needs met, children – and adults! – are more likely to: respect themselves and others, believe in themselves and others, have a positive attitude towards life and others, develop and use self-discipline, and develop healthy relationships.
At our Center, we took a dual approach to using this book – distributing it to parents for their edification and use at home with their children, and distributing it to staff not only for use in their work with young children, but also in their daily work with one another.
Reproduced from The Virginia Association for Early Childhood Education (VAECE)