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Children's Three Basic Needs & How a School Can Help

What every child needs is security, acceptance, and power. How do we as educators, administrators, PTA leaders or PTO leaders, and boosters help kids meet these needs? Kristina Campos, parent educator from the Impactful Parent, joined The Multipurpose Room podcast to discuss each of these needs and how we can help.

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Children Need Security

What do we mean by security?

There are two parts to security. The first is physical security and the second is being secure in your support network. The first is easy to understand – kids want to know they won’t be physically hurt on the playground, on the field, or in their walk to school. The second is more about being loved no matter what they do including if they advance an unfavorable opinion.

How can we help kids feel secure?

Physical security is a little easier to understand a school’s role. Doing things like keeping the campus secure, having bullying policies and enforcing them, and ensuring any physical altercations are avoided or dealt with appropriately are all ways schools can keep our children physically secure. With respect to security in the support network, this is more about creating an environment where teachers start from a place of support. Showcasing that failure is encouraged and accepted as a learning tool goes a long way to this. Coaches, PTAs, PTOs, or support educators also play a role here in ensuring they aren’t shining a light on any potential “failure” during afterschool or extracurricular activities.


Children Need Acceptance

What do we mean by acceptance?

Acceptance and security are really close. Security is about knowing someone will not turn their back on you if you are different. Acceptance is about feeling like you fit in – that you truly have a place to feel at home in the school community. It is about feeling like the school wants you in its community.

How can we help kids feel accepted?

This one is a bit harder because the school does not have as much power over a child’s peer group. However, educators can help by creating policies of inclusiveness, ensuring they are identifying and addressing any equity issues, and by listening to the students. Here, PTAs, PTOs, and administrators can help a lot by creating after school programs or supporting clubs that match the interests of the children. In older grades, supporting any kids’ ideas about clubs they may want will address this need.


Children Need Power

What do we mean by power?

This is an often misunderstood need because the word “power” can have so many different meanings. This need specifically refers to the need of having a sense of power over your environment and, conversely, not feeling powerless. Children need to feel like they matter and that their actions matter and have consequence. You need to give children some choices in their education and what is being presented to them. If they don't have any choices at all, and they're just powerless and they're just kind of going through the system and then they feel powerless. And the scary part about this is powerless turns to hopelessness, hopelessness turns into depression, depression turns into self-harm and self-harm can lead to suicide.

How can we help kids feel empowered?

School administrators can help here by providing choices in courses and extracurricular activities and by creating clear behavior policies and enforcing consequences. Schools should also publicize any emotional health resources they offer so that the children know where they can go if they feel powerless or hopeless. Finally, teachers can look out for children who are pulling away, engaging less, or giving up. If they notice these behaviors, they should talk to the child and/or pull in additional support resources from the school.

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As PTO parents, coaches, teachers, administrators, etc, we play an instrumental role in our children’s development. Ensuring we are helping them meet their three basic needs allows our children to learn more, engage more, and ultimately be a happier child. For more details on these needs and your role in supporting our children check out the full podcast episode.

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