5 Essential Needs


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.


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


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.


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.


To develop a coordinated and global network to ensure that children in disasters and crises have the tools and support needed to promote positive coping and resilience.