They need their parents to meet their emotional needs. All parents need to give:
Children need parents to stop what they are doing and pay attention. They need parents to show an interest in them. This may mean interrupting your own leisure time or it may mean stopping doing the housework. Parents sometimes need to abandon their own agendas and invest time and complete attention on the child.
Children need parents to love and accept them the way they are and not to compare them with other children or wish that they were different. “You’re just like your mum / dad / any other family member” as an admonition is not helpful for the child as it implies there is an inherent problem which can’t be overcome.
Children need to be recognised as unique and valuable – even if they are challenging and strong willed. They need their parents to ‘fight their corner’ and to see the good in them.
Children need parents to give positive encouragement and practical help when they are finding something difficult. It may be a piece of homework, or it may be a behaviour target they are trying to reach – they need to know that you believe they can achieve it.
Not all children or parents are ‘kissy or cuddly’ but there are always ways for parents to show their affection. Your love can be shown in physical touch, facial expression, body language and words of positive affirmation. Try getting down to their level and speaking right into eye contact when you’ve got something nice to say – your child will hear it properly and take in the compliment more effectively.
Every child enjoys an element of choice. Ask your child for an opinion on family matters. Small decisions like what to have for tea and big decisions like where to go on holiday or what to name a new sibling can all be made by your child within reason. Children choosing from a range of options ensures their engagement and is a powerful raiser of self esteem.
All children need your practical help at times. Sometimes though, they just need you to sit by them when they are doing a challenging task like homework. At other times they may simply need you to facilitate their activity such as keeping smaller siblings out of their bedroom or providing a listening ear if they have had a fallout with a friend.
It’s a parent’s automatic response – you want to protect and save your children from anything that upsets them. However, sometimes they need to solve problems for themselves and they just need a hug, a bit of advice and maybe a chocolate biscuit or a drink of milk to feel better!
Children need to hear that you are proud of them when they have made the right choice and done well at a challenging task.
Children need parents to be available 24/7 and to be consistent – no matter what is going on in the parent’s life. They need parents to be parents – not friends. If boundaries are not drawn consistently by parents, children will undoubtedly seek to put their own boundaries in place over you and they won’t necessarily fit with your own!