The Main Emotional Needs of Children

We must be sure to meet the main emotional needs of children so that they can grow up with health and well-being. Keep reading.
The Main Emotional Needs of Children
Sharon Capeluto

Written and verified by the psychologist Sharon Capeluto.

Last update: 27 April, 2023

A child with their main emotional needs met will be an adult with sufficient resources to build a healthy and enjoyable life. All parents are aware of the basic necessities of life that their children should have. For example, food, rest, and shelter. These are essential elements that any human being needs to live. However, there are other equally important needs that are associated with the symbolic plane. We’re referring to the psychological and emotional needs of children so that they can develop and grow in a healthy way. In addition, these are essential aspects for them to establish healthy bonds throughout their lives.

The basic emotional needs of children

Once we become parents, we’re faced with certain challenges that we never even imagined we’d experience. There’s no such universal manual that answers the question “ how to be a good parent. We have countless doubts about raising our children and often wonder if we’re doing it right.

But the truth is that before we know what to offer our children, we must start by knowing what they need. Because it’s not a matter of indiscriminately offering what you have, but being able to provide the necessary and meaningful elements for them. It’s clear that each child is different and has different needs. However, there are other basic emotional needs that all children share.

Black parents smiling at their baby boy.
Love is an essential element in the integral well-being of people and in the construction of self-esteem. All children need to feel loved.

Love and affection

First things first. Love is the basis of everything. From the need for affection, all other needs derive. Children need to feel loved by their parents or significant adult figures in order to grow up healthy.

Affection for children can manifest itself in different ways . We can show it through words, or through our company, support, and recognition. In turn, physical contact, such as caresses, kisses, and hugs represents one of the most intense signs of love.


Another basic emotional need is attachment. John Bowlby, British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, describes this term as the close and lasting bond between a child and a caregiver. Secure attachment represents a critical element for the survival and the physical and emotional development of children.

It provides a secure base from which children can explore the world and optimize their cognitive, emotional, and social abilities. In other words, it provides security and protection, while enhancing the indispensable resources for adopting an independent and satisfactory life in the future.


Children need to be looked at and listened to. Just like adults, children need to feel that they’re taken into account. But when it comes to children, recognition is even more important, as it’s from it that they create their identity and self-image.

Implicitly or explicitly, parents leave messages to their children. During childhood, children see themselves and feel according to the way their parents see them. For this reason, it’s essential to be careful when giving words or descriptions to children. In addition, it’s key to recognize their achievements, as well as to validate their emotions and make room for their opinions without judging them.

A black mother gives her daughter a high 5 while she does her math homework.
Without falling into absurdity, adults must make sure to recognize the qualities, abilities, and achievements of our children.


In tune with the need for recognition comes acceptance. For children, not only is it essential to feel recognized by their closest family members, but they also need to perceive that they’re accepted just as they are. This means that, despite not sharing some personality traits, interests, or points of view with their parents, adults shouldn’t take this as something negative that needs to be corrected.

Furthermore, both the mistakes they make and the difficulties they present should be accepted and perceived as valid. They need to feel that they’re worthy and deserving of love and respect, with their strengths and weaknesses. In this way, they’ll feel free to be themselves.

Why are the emotional needs of children so important?

It’s common knowledge that childhood is a very relevant stage of the human experience. It’s then when personality is developed and an attachment style is built that will later impact adult life. The relationship with early childhood caregivers leaves traces. Although these don’t have to be determinant, they’re significant in a person’s development.

Therefore, attending to the emotional needs of children with dedication and care is something that we must do. In this regard, if you have doubts about how to exercise your role as a mother, remember that you can ask for professional advice.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Galtung, J. & Wirak, A. (1973). Humans needs, humans Rights, and the theories
    of development. Paris: UNESCO.
  • Hidalgo García, M. V., Sánchez Hidalgo, J., & Lorence Lara, B. (2008). Procesos y necesidades de desarrollo durante la infancia. XXI. Revista de Educación, 10, 85-95.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.