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ParentsCare: Tending the emotional needs of children

Jim Rogers

Jim Rogers

Last month I shared with you how some parents in my professional past would respond to my offering parenting classes with “what’s a parenting class?”

I told them what I still say today: “we meet to talk about our children, their needs, how we can help, and what may be a good way to raise them.”

Continuing with that goal is what we offer today, almost thirty years later. And now, I add the sentence, “even more important in these dark days of uncertainty and challenge.” There is now so much available knowledge from years of scientific research, that information can be found for almost any issue or challenge parents encounter with our next generations. And there are even several new professions with practitioners ready and eager to help.

Today, let’s start looking at the needs of most children and how we can best respond with ability. Of course they need nurturing, safe environments, and caregivers who truly know what’s important and the proper way to show love. But they need more.

Emotional health provides a foundation for success in school, work, marriage and in general over the life span. Failure to satisfy important needs may jeopardize our children's future and the future of their children.

Children need to feel respected, treated in thoughtful, attentive and civil ways, which leads to treating others with respect. Avoiding belittling, yelling and keeping anger and impatience to a minimum sets the tone of the relationship. Honor truths, listen more, talk less. Make sure they hear "please," "thank you," "excuse me,” "I'm sorry.” Oh, we will make our mistakes, but willing to admit them, and making corrections, is cultivating similar values in our children.

Like us all, children need to feel Important, valued, useful, capable, able and lovable. So we can say, “I am somebody. I matter!” This need starts at a very early age. Children want to do things for themselves, and so often we get in their way. We parents have to avoid being all powerful, solving all problems, doing all the work, controlling everything. We can involve the children more.

Ask their opinions; give them things to do; and show appreciation. Have patience with their less-than-perfect performance when it takes a little longer or doesn’t meet our standards. If children don't develop a sense of self-value in constructive ways, they may seek negative ways to get attention, to feel "I am somebody, I can make the big people nuts.”

Children are individuals, and need to be seen that way, with their uniqueness, not as reflections of their parents or siblings. They have their own feelings, opinions, concerns, wants and needs. Trivializing, ignoring or ridiculing is a rejection, weakening the relationship. Proper attention and discussion, even when we dislike or disagree, strengthens the relationship and the connection will last. Children need to feel included, being a part of things, connected to other people, with a sense of being in family.

Engaging with others in activities, they experience togetherness in meaningful ways. People who do things together feel closer to each other and can have fun, learn, and contribute. And, children need to feel safe and secure in a positive environment where people care for each other and show it, where people express themselves and others listen, differences are accepted and conflicts are resolved constructively. Proper structure and order for children helps them feel protected, leading to a sense of contentment and happiness and better behaviors.

Next month we continue with Parenting Styles and the Four Keys to effective parenting. Let me hear from you with questions or input, or interest in resources. I will continue to support your parenting journey and encourage you...

Don’t lose heart!

Jim R. Rogers, M.Ed., CFLE, is a parent and family life educator. He can be reached at, via or (843) 238-9291

Reach Nick Masuda at 843-607-0912. Follow him on Twitter at @nickmasudaphoto. 

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