Meeting a child’s dependency needs is absolutely vital and has a profound impact on his or her adult life.

If good enough parenting determines the creation of a secure attachment, obviously it is crucial to understand how this happens on a practical basis. In theory this is very easy, although, judging from the extent of attachment problems, it may not always be so simple to do. Good enough parenting involves understanding and meeting the dependency needs of your children. That is the secret of a happiness when they reach adulthood. It is about how to create an optimum emotional environment for the child.
Psychologists propose different types of needs that a child requires for lasting emotional nourishment. Don Carter in his iceberg series (Thaw, Thawing) lists four childhood dependency needs –love, approval, worth, and competence; indispensable foundation stones for adult life. These needs combine to make a child feel loved and lovable, feelings that endure for an entire lifetime, irrespective of circumstances and fate. Feeling lovable is the essence of self-esteem, which is ultimately unquenchable. Our primary relationship is with ourselves and if that is not right we cannot relate to others. Low self-esteem can spell anger, self-loathing, negative self-analysis, envy, jealousy, suspicion, hardness and fear, to name but a few. It is important for parents to understand self-esteem, and Robert Kelsey has a small but informative section on it in his book What’s Stopping You. In the final analysis, the important thing is that even if such parenting is alien to you, you can choose to meet these needs of your children. Needs must be met or the lifelong negative consequences listed above are inevitable.
But, how are these needs met? In the first instance, if you choose to spend time with your children then they will feel regarded, special and loved. This might seem simple, but in many cases does not always happen and leaves the child bereft. It is not the amount of time that matters but the quality of that time. So, time equals love. Children think in black or white terms – you love me or you don’t. There is no in-between. Saying the words ‘I love you’ to the child is not enough. Jasmin Lee Cori in her book The Emotionally Absent Mother, makes the point that love is best expressed in nonverbal ways, such as touch and this means taking the time to be physically and warmly close to the child. You have already seen what happened to children in orphanages, where there was a sterile emotional environment.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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