Parent & Child
Caring for Your Whole Child
By Caron B. Goode
Mar 27, 2006, 23:48
Your child is a unique blend of traits, habits, and qualities. This blend is what makes her an individual. Therefore, caring for a child demands we address the whole person, not just part of her. While every child must be approached on her level, all children have five basic needs. They are physical, emotional, social, mental, and spiritual. These needs are basic to all human beings, and having them met is crucial to your child s growth and development.
Humans have three basic physical needs. We all need oxygen, water, and food to live. In our world, the quality of these things varies. These differences affect our bodies and how they respond to daily living. Polluted air and toxic water and food does not offer our bodies ample energy. On the other hand, pure air, water, and food allow the body to function at its best. While it is hard to control air and water quality, most parents can control what their children eat. Eating a healthy diet gives your child the strength to meet life head on. That means eating foods that are high in fiber and low in fat. It also means eating enough protein, fruits, and vegetables. In addition, parents should choose foods that are free of additives, preservatives, and food coloring.
Creating a secure environment is the most important way to meet your child s emotional needs. For a child, physical and emotional safety is imperative. Physically, she needs the security that comes from structure and order. This can be obtained by imposing gentle structure on her time, surroundings, and belongings. You may choose to include morning and bedtime rituals, routine meal times, and when age appropriate, chores. Emotionally, she needs a stable environment, which includes knowing her parents or mentors will be there when she needs them. It is from this place of absolute safety that she will develop and mature emotionally.
All children need support. For younger children, the family fills that role. As children age, however, that changes. They start moving into different communities and develop the desire to belong and achieve. They also begin to want friends and to be part of a larger group. In order for their social needs to be met, children must be encouraged to grow beyond the family. They must also have good role models on which they can build their own brand of social interaction. As with most things, children model their social behaviors after the ones their parents exhibit. Therefore, it is important your children see you as a friend and community member. Let them see you display acts of kindness and affection. Also, let them see you give and receive social support during times of adversity. By watching you, they will acquire the skills necessary to formulate a support group outside the family. From this group they will learn the importance of friendship, community, and social support.
Like the body, the mind requires basic things in order to thrive. Two of the most important things a child needs for mental growth are inspiration and positive self-talk. Inspiration is the key to living well, and realizing ones potential. Encourage your child to find inspiration through the acts of others or through self-reflection. This can be done by journaling, exploring creative outlets or simply reading about the accomplishments of others. Once inspired, your child must believe in herself in order to reach her goals and fulfill her dreams. Believing in oneself is rooted in how we feel about ourselves and what our internal dialog tells us. Helping your child learn positive self-talk can influence all facets of her life. It can affect her confidence, energy level, performance, and relationships with others.
All children want to be connected to something greater than themselves. Younger children depend on their family to fill this spiritual need. As a child matures, however, her circle expands and the need for spirituality grows stronger. It is important that the child understand she is loved and supported by something bigger than she is. This gives her a sense of belonging and establishes faith in herself and the world around her. Parents can help their children develop spiritually by sharing their beliefs and relating them to values shared within the family. This includes introducing your children to religious or spiritual doctrines. It is also important to address the concepts of compassion, love, hope, forgiveness, and faith as well.
Dr. Caron B. Goode is the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents International, a training and certification program for parent coaches. In addition to duties with the academy, Goode is the founding editor of the website InspiredParenting.net, and the author of eleven books, the most recent of which is Help Kids Cope with Stress & Trauma, which includes several chapters on he use of storytelling strategies. For more information on The Academy for Coaching Parents International or to sign up for academy announcements, visit www.acpi.biz.
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