Helping children (and parents) understand what needs children are attempting to meet in their daily lives are essential to help children go deeper beyond thinking and feeling and explore the underlying needs that sustain behavior.
Simply put - it’s uncovering the “why” of behavior. AND once we can figure out the needs that are driving the behavior we can evaluate (nonjudgmentally) if it is working for the child and the world around them.
In working with children, parents are one of the biggest sources of support to help children meet needs in healthy, effective ways in their day to day life. Parents and caregivers also can be more insightful into behavioral patterns or changes (you know, because of their fully developed prefrontal cortex), therefore have a greater role in creating the structures that help children succeed.
One of these structures I work to teach parents about is helping their child meet their 5 basic needs. Read more about the 5 basic needs and grab a free downloadable handout to help explain the 5 needs HERE!
I wanted to highlight four simple ways parents can help their children meet the four emotional basic needs in helpful and healthy ways:
Freedom: Give as many choices as you can - shorts or pants? Orange juice or water? Brush teeth before or after pajamas? Homework before dinner or after? Pizza or tacos? There is no such thing as too many choices here!
Fun: Schedule fun! Seriously put it on the calendar. Have the child choose from a number of fun activities (you get a bonus freedom need met too!) and decide when they fit in the schedule. It can be easy and available (a go-fish tournament) to a little more complex (hop in the car we’re going to the aquarium!).
Power: Enter a child’s world. Sit down and learn about their favorite video game, Pokemon Character, or Disney Princess. Why do they like Gekko from P.J. Masks? (Ok I have personal experience in this one and can vouch that Lizard Grips are the best). What stage are they on in Super Smash Bros? What do they need to advance?
Love and Belonging: Tell children you love them, but get specific. What specific thing did they do today that makes you proud, made you laugh, or showed you how creative they are? What are you grateful for?
And there you have it! 4 easy ways to meet a child’s basic needs each and every day!
What are some other ways you work with parents to help them meet their child's needs? Drop a comment below!
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I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC, RPT-S, and EMDR Consultant. I help other therapists grow in their passions as play therapists, trauma therapists,and child and adolescent therapists.