Meeting Your Child’s Needs
By Angela b. Chrysler
My husband and I are very active in our parenting. We are the kind of parents who hold nightly meetings to evaluate the day. Right after the “Hi, honey. How was your day?” we launch into a “How do you think the day went?”
“Well, Daniel was okay. Here are the problems.”
In which case the other parent replies, “How do you think you handled it?” and “What do you think we should do better/different?”
We then run our conclusions by our son’s therapist (and our own) and make adjustments accordingly.
Today, I sat down with my almost thirteen-year-old daughter who asked the big question. “Why do I have to trust you, but you don’t have to trust us.” My answer resulted in a simple diagram and a ten-minute explanation. This is the adult version of what we explained to the children.
Humans have three basic needs to survive.
- Food and water (energy and strength)
- Shelter (Security and safety)
- Clothing (safety from the elements)
- Companionship (Debatable)
A parent’s job is to…
- Protect from danger
- Provide the three basic needs
- Guide and teach the child
- Comfort to reduce insecurity and fear
- Reassure to confirm safety
When a parent successfully fulfills these needs, a child trusts the parent. They can drop their guard and focus on:
- Their Education
- Properly developing their social skills
- Properly developing their five parenting skills (see above)
But puberty happens and now the child is confronted with:
- Physical Changes
- Emotional Changes
- Environmental Changes
Change results in a feeling of insecurity, which compromises safety. This develops fear. Instinctively, the child trusts the parents to supply their needs and re-establish/reaffirm security and safety.
In a healthy home and strong family unit where trust is not compromised, the cycle looks like this:
But in a home where the parent fails to provide even one of the basic needs, trust is lost, the child raises their guard, and instincts activate, putting the child in “survival mode.” The cycle looks like this:
The more needs the parent neglects, the more insecurity and fear results in the child, which will most likely lead to behavioral issues, feeling of worthlessness, poor/risky/dangerous decision making, lack of control, mental disorders, criminal offenses, drug use, depression, and/or suicide.
Therapy occurs when the parent realize a problem and seeks to redirect the cycle starting with themselves and evaluating their parenting skills.
Is the parent:
- Protecting their child from danger
- Providing the three basic needs
- Guiding and teaching the child
- Comforting the child to reduce insecurity and fear
- Reassuring their child to confirm safety
An adult also must receive the basic five needs. When any of these five needs are compromised within the adult, the adult’s parenting skills suffer and they are more likely to not meet all their child’s needs.
Example 1: A parent who isn’t financially secure (provided for) may not provide well for their child.
Example 2: A parent who was neglected and/or physically abused as a child may not comfort their child resulting in a child who lacks reassurance and comfort.
Assuming the parent does supply the five requirements, the child still has to trust the parents. Situations in which trust could be compromised are:
- If the parent failed to nurture in the past, the child may be resistant or hesitant to trust.
- If even one of the parents failed to meet the required needs of the child, the child could develop trust issues with both parents.
- If one or both parents are abusive or openly fail to provide their child’s needs, the child will not trust.
- If both parents provide all their needs, the child still has to believe and trust that the parent is doing so. This is where CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) or DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) can redirect the child’s way of thinking.
Without trust, the child may feel the need to nurture themselves resulting in parentification, which could activate the child’s instincts to survive. Survival mode triggers an instinct to provide without the knowledge or resources to do so. This lifestyle mimics one of war where the three most basic needs—food, shelter, security—is not being met. This can be traumatic and PTSD could result.
In addition, if the child feels the need to parentify themselves, mental disorders could develop leading to an overall traumatic experience. Even in households where the child is being supplied with their basic five needs, if the child doesn’t feel safe, accepted, loved, if the child doesn’t know their needs are being met, the same negative affects could result.
About The Author
Angela B. Chrysler is a writer, logician, philosopher, and die-hard nerd who studies theology, historical linguistics, music composition, and medieval European history in New York with a dry sense of humor and an unusual sense of sarcasm. Growing up without books, Ms. Chrysler spent her early life reading the encyclopedia for fun. By mid-teens, she gained access to her school library, and began working her way through the Great Books. She spent many an afternoon in an old opera house turned library in the town where she grew up. There, she found her passion for reading and writing through the words of Hugo, Shakespeare, Tennyson, and Poe. She lives in a garden with her family and cats.