As parents, we want to make sure our children have everything they need to help them develop into kind, caring, capable human beings. Sometimes we get carried away with providing more material things rather than focusing on their emotional and developmental needs.
This can be an especially easy with preschoolers. By the time they reach this wonderfully exciting age where they are so curious and eager to learn, they may have a room full of toys designed to do the job for them. It’s the experiences they’re exposed to that influences how they grow and the people they become.
I realized this one day while playing with my then four-year-old daughter. It had been a while since I had actually taken the time to really play with her so I sat down and gave her my full attention. After we had our playtime, I knew I needed to focus on fulfilling her emotional needs more.
Here’s what preschoolers and kids in general need need from the adults in their lives.
Someone who actually listens
Preschoolers babble all day long so it’s easy to tune them out. What they need from you is confirmation that they are being heard. When they tells you stories, repeat them back in condensed form. It’s a great lesson in how communication works.
Someone who stimulates the imagination
Preschoolers lives in an imaginary world; jump in and play along, you never know where you might end up! My daughter loved fairies. She made a mailbox and put it in her closet to leave them notes and drawings before she went to bed. While she slept I took her notes and left a reply, signed by the fairies of course. The fairies encouraged her to practice her ABCs and she cooperated happily.
Someone to open new worlds
The airport, a museum, even a new park or library that you haven’t been to will expose your child to a new and interesting place.
Someone to model an enthusiasm for life
Find someone you know who has a passion for a hobby or skill and share it with them. Whether it’s classical music, painting, writing or racing cars, any activity can be simplified to give them an idea of why it brings that particular person joy. Pick up on their interests and start the ball rolling on a lifelong passion of their own
Someone to break down complicated life issues
Answering questions about religion, birth, and where fish go when they die. These are things that are constantly on preschoolers minds. Talking about life’s mysteries eases fear of the unknown.
Someone to show them that they are perfect the way they are
Nothing can hurt a person more than being unaccepted by others. Adults don’t like it when another’s opinion is forced upon us but sometimes feel we have the right to bend and shape our children into a preconceived mould. Behavioral issues are different, but we should never compromise a child’s spirit.
Someone to teach them how to behave socially
Give them examples of how to act in social situations. “Please” and “thank you” should be the first few words they learn. Letting children grow up with bad manners is setting them up for embarrassing situations. Give them a few basics to get by.
Somewhere to find refuge
Home should be the safest place for kids but often is not. Any kind of arguing or uncontrolled behavior by parents can make children feel afraid and unsafe. Make your home a loving and nurturing place for your children.
Someone to confide in
Kids see and hear things whether they’re meant for their eyes and ears or not. They may have questions about what they’ve experienced in another person’s home or at preschool. Quiet time on a walk or before bed often creates an opportunity for kids to bring up concerns or ask questions
Someone to give them credit where credit is due
Adults sometimes think that children can never be right. Arguing a point and telling them they are wrong because parents are always be right gives the impression that they are not entitled to their own opinions. Before you answer a request with a no, take a couple of minutes to think it over. They may have a valid point and giving them acknowledgement some of the time will help accepting a no from you easier next time.
We have the opportunity to give our children the gift of ourselves many times a day. And although we do our best to give them all of life’s material necessities, it’s the emotional ones that are sometimes the hardest to provide. In the end they make all the difference.