Basic Needs of Children, Part 1

Basic Needs of ChildrenYou may wonder why there are times when you become upset, seemingly “out of the blue.” Or why the Harsh Inner Critic chimes in to blast you unexpectedly. At times, the explanation can be found by examining how your basic needs were not met as a baby and/or as a child.

These unmet needs lie dormant in your unconscious mind, and can be activated by events or interactions with others.

Babies are born totally dependent upon a caretaker for their survival. Infants who do not have their physical needs met will die. If emotional and mental needs are not met, those children will fail to thrive.

They will grow into adults whose unfulfilled needs lead to problems in relationships, both with themselves and others. This will lead to emotional issues, and in some cases, physical illness

In my work, I divide the emotional needs of a child into eight categories: place, attachment, nurture, protection, support, structure, respect and emotional boundaries.   We need to understand the needs before we can look at their impact on our relationships. The list is quite a bit to tackle at once, so let’s examine the first four categories.


From day one, humans need a safe, healthy, loving environment in which to develop. At conception, that place is the mother’s womb. When a child is born, s/he needs to know s/he has a place in his/her mother’s heart, and a place in the family home. This fills a need to feel wanted in this family.


When a child is born, he/she begins to develop a sense of who s/he is through the connection with caretakers. The primary caretakers are the first mirror through which a child sees him/herself, providing the child a reflection of his or her value and worth, or lack thereof. Only from a secure attachment can a child develop a strong sense of self-worth.


Having parents nearby, being heard, receiving hugs and kisses, hearing words of love and kindness – all of these are vitally important in the emotional development of a child. A caretaker’s loving nurture teaches a child they are important and worthwhile. It tells the child they are important.


Children need to feel safe. Infants and children are vulnerable and helpless. They need a safe home and responsible caretakers. They must be protected from both physical and psychological harm. Uncontrolled emotions will harm them just as much as uncontrolled actions. They need an environment where there is freedom from fear, with parents who are calm and dependable.

Pause for a moment, and think about whether these needs were met in your childhood, or if you are providing them for your children.  Next week, we will examine the other four basic needs: support, structure, respect and emotional boundaries.

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