5 Essential Needs

Safety

We all crave a sense of safety. Children and teens are especially vulnerable to the upheaval of routines and predictability that provide control and security. Especially during times of disaster, children need to feel safe.

Resources

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful for creating safety for an Infant/Toddler.

  • Create routines: Consistent meal times, nap times and bed routines are helpful.  Routines create security and build trust and attachment during infancy. Maintaining these routines will help your baby to feel safe and supported. 
  • Demonstrate predictability: Games of peek a boo support safety by repetitively establishing the return of something after it disappears. This helps with separation anxiety when parents must return to work and can be especially important in the midst of additional stressors such as disasters. 
  • Consistent and responsive caregivers:  Holding rocking and singing to your baby relieves stress and supports a sense of safety and security.  Take the time to replenish yourself so you can be there physically and emotionally when your baby needs comfort.

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful for creating safety for a child in early childhood.

  • Maintain Routines and create new ones: Preschoolers thrive when they know what to expect.  This offers them a sense of safety by knowing what happens when. Involve your preschooler in the creation of the routines by providing choices when possible.
  • Limiting Media Exposure: Young children struggle to differentiate what is currently happening and what is a repeated image on TV. Today’s news commentators also tend to use strong language and loud tones. These can feel overwhelming and frightening to children.  Turning the television off promotes a safe space, quiet time to think, and an opportunity to connect together.
  • Snuggle Time: Preschoolers may regress to earlier stages of development or cling to you or a security item.  Build into the routine snuggle times, read a book, play, or engage in nature, art or music together.  Even if only for a few minutes, these snuggle breaks will increase your child’s sense of safety.

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful for creating safety for a child in middle childhood.

  • Provide Facts: Discuss with your children what they are hearing and seeing on news or social media sources. Children of this age group need their parents to help them understand and interpret what they are hearing and seeing. Providing explanations that help them understand the events, changes, and new routines will increase a sense of safety by providing an accurate understanding of the information.
  • Manage amount of information: Changes can happen fast during a disaster. When possible help your children by grouping information into manageable amounts. This will allow them the space to decide what they can control and work to develop tools or strategies for what circumstances they cannot control. 
  • Hugs not Shrugs: As children get closer to adolescence, (think tweens) they may not want to be hugged as much.  However, often during times of stress, children need both physical and emotional expressions of a parent’s presence. Text messages, email, and sticky notes can be simple ways to let your child know you are there to promote security.

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful for creating safety for a child in adolescence.

  • Reframing: The way we talk about disasters can have an impact on how teens feel and experience safety. You might change words from “stuck at home” to “safe at home” during quarantine and reframe evacuating during a natural disaster to moving to a safe space. Less threatening or scary images, yet still accurate, promotes a sense of safety and protection.
  • Differentiate between Known and Unknown:  Helping your teen to make distinctions about what is known and what is unknown helps them to foster a sense of control. Most teens greatest source of information comes from other teens. Each time the information is told it has the possibility of being distorted, altered or changed in some way. Provide your teen with accurate sources of information such as school or community home pages, newsletters, and updates.  Initiate discussion with them to clarify information.
  • Provide Reassurance: Teens may feel unsafe regarding their futures. Celebrations of big life milestones may have been changed or canceled. Reassure your child that whatever they are feeling is normal and okay. Let them know that even when you do not have answers for them, you recognize their frustration and sadness.
Everyone has a need to feel safe that is deeply rooted in the brain for survival. We have to experience a felt sense of safety.
Lindsey Murphy
PhD, CCLS

Regulation

In times of stress or high anxiety the body may feel anxious, and the brain may feel overwhelmed or scattered. Regulating our bodies through positive self-talk, deep breathing and an awareness of one’s surroundings can lead to increased feelings of calm, peace and ability to move from chaos to security.

Resources

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful an Infant/Toddler with regulation.

  • Rhythmic movement: Holding and rocking your baby back and forth or using a baby swing or bouncer to create a consistent motion helps to regulate the heartbeat, body temperature and movement.
  • Songs: Singing a lullaby or playful song to your baby can help calm them when upset or just have some fun when under stress. Singing with your baby also supports the connection between baby and loved one.
  • Gentle stroking and massage: Rhythmic stroking across a baby’s forehead, gently stroking of hands and feet helps to regulate a baby’s heartbeat, body temperature and movement.
CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful a child in early childhood with regulation.
  • Breathe: Encourage your young child to practice deep breaths. You can do this using pinwheels, party blowers, or bubbles. Breathing helps your child calm down and regulate their own body.
  • Empathic Responses: Name your child’s feelings. This will help to develop the language they need to name their feelings, giving them the tools to regulate their own emotions.
  • Ride the Emotional Wave: When big feelings occur, you may need to hold, love, and support your child as they cry or tantrum it out of their body. Try to resist the urge to tell your child it will be okay. Being quiet or gently humming, your child will feel supported while gaining control of their own body and feelings.
CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful a child in middle childhood with regulation.
  • Create a Safe Space: Create a safe space where children can go to express emotions freely. Provide pillows for punching or yelling into, art and writing materials for drawing or writing about feelings, as well as space for music and movement.
  • Validate children’s feelings don’t try to change them: By validating children’s feelings you are acknowledging their experience. Let children be upset before moving towards “fixing” the problem. This will help you child learn to regulate their own emotions and discover their own silver linings.
  • Prepare children for changes: Talk about changes that are happening or may happen. Help them create their own strategies for managing changes, preparing for them, and finding ways to cope.

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful an adolescent with regulation.

  • Grounding: When upset grounding helps the body/brain regulate itself back to baseline, by focusing on the sensations of leaning against a wall, reciting a poem, or taking a short walk.
  • Mantras and Self Talk: Encourage your teen to develop a mantra and/or positive self talk. When the brain gets into a negative loop, having a go to phrase to repeat helps to break the cycle of negativity, anxiety, and stress.
  • Music and Movement: Getting the body up and moving helps to release tension anxiety and stress we might be holding or storing. Listening to music uses a different part of the brain and can help override negative thoughts and feelings.

Efficacy

We all need to feel like we are moving forward. Doing something that is productive either for ourselves, someone else, or the community. Efficacy creates a sense of control and mastery. It is especially important when the world around us feels out of control. It can help us feel connected to others, ourselves and our lives.

Resources

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful for an Infant/Toddler with efficacy.

  • Milestones:  Developmental milestones are as important to babies and toddlers as to the loved one’s caring for them. Rolling over, sitting up or saying a new word helps both baby/toddler as well as those caring for them to feel like things are still moving forward.
  • Movement: We all need to feel like we are moving both psychologically as well as physically. Put your baby in a stroller or your toddler in a wagon and move around. You don’t have to go far or anywhere at all. A change in position, placement, room or environment is often enough for your baby or toddler to gain a new perspective.

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful for a child in early childhood with efficacy.

  • Provide Appropriate Choices:  Being able to make simple and appropriate choices  helps young children gain a sense of control.  What do you want for snack: crackers or pretzels? Would you like to color or play a game? Keep the choices limited to not overwhelm but to help your child with a sense of control. 
  • Simple Tasks:  Encourage your child to complete age appropriate simple tasks, putting on their socks, helping clean up toys, and/or sweeping the floor gives children a sense of purpose and encourages learning of a new skill. 

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful for a child in middle childhood with efficacy .

  • Chores:  Encourage chores, teach your child to do laundry, load and unload the dishwasher, make their own lunch. Learning and completing a task supports a sense of accomplishment. Children this age want to contribute and doing chores is a great way to feel needed, even if they dislike the task. 
  • Creating and completing projects: Encourage your children to make art, dance, or write a song.  Look up a “How To” video and create a squirrel picnic table, or diy hand sanitizer. Through creating and completing projects children feel industrious.  Encourage them to share their projects with others as a way to bring people together. 
  • Hold family meetings: Provide space for children to ask questions and talk about feelings and fears. During these meetings talk to your children about the different challenges your family has encountered. Identifying family strengths and encouraging children to participate in problem solving will build competence and reassure children you can get through this together. 

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful for an adolescent with efficacy.

  • Interests and hobbies:  Encourage teens to continue their interests and hobbies. Do they play a sport, instrument, or collect items? Help them to find innovative ways to continue those passions. Help them to recognize that disasters don’t take away accomplishments or the effort put into something. Engaging in activities reinforces a sense of productiveness.  
  • Do something positive: Participating in the clean up after a disaster, handing out fresh water to those in need, or watching younger siblings while parents access services will help your teen feel like they are capable, effective and contributing to something bigger than themself. 
  • Identify Strengths: Ask your teen about the challenges in their own life from learning a new skill to facing a fear. Discuss ways they might use those strengths in the current situation.

Hope

In times of stress or high anxiety it's important to maintain hope. Hope in the future, hope in ourselves and others is vital to one’s emotional well being. Seeking out ways to create and maintain hope will support your children’s belief in the future, spark imaginations, and inspire them to develop hope.

Resources

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful for an Infant/Toddler with hope.

  • Hope for the future:  Look to your own baby as an inspiration for hope.  Even in the most stressful of times babies and toddlers continue to grow, develop and explore the world. Take time to notice moments of growth and let your baby be your inspiration for hope in the future. Infants have a sense of the emotional state of their caregivers and will benefit from your hope inspired by their development. 

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful for a child in early childhood with hope.

  • Be a role model: Say out loud in front of your children what gives you hope, share your beliefs, and encourage young children to talk about theirs. 
  • Make future plans: Asking children what is something they would like to do when it’s safe again instills a sense of hopefulness. By making future plans children consider the future and imagine themselves returning to school, playing with friends and family, and participating in activities again.

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful for a child in middle childhood with hope.

  • Gratitude: Gratitude helps children remain hopeful by remembering that the world is kind and good. Encourage your children to keep a gratitude journal, jar or create a family time when everyone shares something they are grateful for.
  • Identify Hope: Help your children to identify the people in their lives who help them have hope, what are the rituals in your family that support feelings of hope? Encourage your children to consider ways they might demonstrate hopefulness to others?
  • Reflect on learning: Hope can come from overcoming challenges. Talk with children about other challenges they have faced themselves or together as family. Encourage your child to identify for themselves how they have grown to overcome difficult experiences.

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful for an adolescent with hope.

  • Gratitude: Gratitude helps children remain hopeful by remembering that the world is kind and good. Encourage your children to keep a gratitude journal, jar or create a family time when everyone shares something they are grateful for.
  • Identify Hope: Help your children to identify the people in their lives who help them have hope, what are the rituals in your family that support feelings of hope? Encourage your children to consider ways they might demonstrate hopefulness to others?
  • Reflect on learning: Hope can come from overcoming challenges. Talk with children about other challenges they have faced themselves or together as family. Encourage your child to identify for themselves how they have grown to overcome difficult experiences.

Connection

In times of stress or high anxiety it's important to develop connections with ourselves, each other and nature. Through connections with loved ones, the community and nature children feel supported, validated, and reassured that they are cared for and can care for others.

Resources

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful to an Infant/Toddler with Connection.

  • Be present: Be present with your baby or toddler by providing moments of your undivided attention. Look into your babies eyes while nursing or giving a bottle, repeat the sounds and gurgles your baby makes, and narrate your baby’s movements or play. These simple moments of attention can help you and your baby feel connected to one another and ease each other’s stress and anxiety.

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful to a child in early childhood with connection.

  • Play: Do something silly that brings you and your young children happiness and joy. Play helps children feel heard, be seen, and releases anxiety and stress in healthy ways that supports a connection to each other. 
  • Family activity: Engage your young children in family activities such as writing a story, reading a book, having a sing a long. Connecting with each other through positive activities supports social emotional and physical well being. 

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful  for a child in middle childhood with connection.

  • Write letters/thank you notes: Children this age are looking for ways to connect with friends, extended family or teachers. Writing letters or thank you notes will connect your child with others and strengthen their sense of community.  Sending cards, drawings, and/or thank you notes develops a support network that extends from the family to the community. 
  • Connect with nature: Encourage your child to engage with nature. Taking a walk, looking out a window, growing a garden or house plant helps improve positive outlooks and well being.

CLDR’s Genevieve Lowry talks about what might be helpful for an adolescent with connection.

  • Celebrate:  Celebrations often bring family and friends together, but when there is a disaster, celebrations can be easily forgotten or overlooked. For teens these milestones are even more important to acknowledge and the connections they create can potentially be lost. Posting a banner, doing a clap out, or singing a congratulatory song will not only acknowledge the achievement but also bring family and friends together.
  • Help others: Teens are developing their own identity and looking for ways to connect with causes that are important to them. Starting a food drive, helping care for younger siblings, or an elderly neighbor are ways that teens can feel connected and feel good about themselves and the world.