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Top Ten Emotional Needs of Children and Adults

Here is a list of what could be called the top 10 human emotional needs of children and adults, in alphabetical order. It is intended to be a general guide. Each person's needs will vary according to the individual.

Note: Another list will be coming soon for teenagers, since their needs are a bit different than either a child's or an adult's.


1 Accepted, Forgiven
2 Cared about
3 Free
4 In Control
5 Loved
6 Safe
7 Supported
8 Trusted, believed in
9 Understood
10 Valued, important, special


1 Accepted
2 Appreciated/Valued
3 Cared about
4 Free, In control
5 Helpful/Needed/Useful
6 Productive
7 Safe
8 Supported
9 Trusted
10 Understood


These lists of needs started with just one list, the list for children and teens. Then the list was modified for adults. Another list is probably need for teens. They may need more freedom than either children or adults, for example.

We believe that if parents adequately fill all of their children's needs, then the child's or teen's behavior will take care of itself. We also believe that feelings predict behavior, so if children and teens have positive feelings, positive behavior will naturally follow.

It was very difficult to decide which 10 of the many emotional needs would go on this list of the top 10.

What about respected, important, validated for example? In creating the first list it was decided that if a child or teen felt all the feelings in top ten list, they would also feel respected. Likewise if they felt understood they would feel validated, listened to and not invalidated. And if they felt valued, they would feel important and needed.

Finally, if they felt supported and safe, this would contribute much to feeling free since they would not feel afraid to try new things, express differing opinions or or go new places.

Supported could also include feeling believed in, backed up, encouraged, helped, listened to

One important feeling, though, which we almost included on the top ten, but left out just for the sake of keeping the list to 10, was "admired."

April 2011, updated 2016

From the teen support group chat

...I just went over the top 10 emotional needs; somewhat-kinda feel #1 (accepted), not really #2 (believed in), #3 is at a moderate level (cared about), never truly felt #4 (forgiven), sometimes have bursts of #5 (loved), quite often don't feel #6 at all (safe), don't really know if i've ever even understood how #7 is (supported), there's a fragile amount of #8 (trusted), about half #9 (understood), next to nothing at all of #10 (valued).

More info on the teen support group chat

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Ten Essential Emotional Needs of All Children

Here is something found on living-library.com. Our comments are on the right.

If we expect kids to grow up big and strong on the inside, it is critical to fully nurture their inner lives. When parents or caregivers adequately fulfill these ten essential emotional needs, it gives kids the best possible chance to mature into emotionally well-adjusted adults.

Emotional Need #1 - Attention
All children need consistent, attuned attention from their primary caregivers. It is important that parents or other caregivers develop a routine of focused interaction with each child because individual quality time is what makes kids feel valuable. Fulfilling a child's attention needs is a key component in building a strong self-image, and helps cement the parent-child bond.

Emotional Need #2 - Understanding

Parental understanding creates deep feelings of trust between parent and child. This trust enables children to confide in their parents about problems they are facing, rather than try to hide them due to fear of punishment. Parents can then use the knowledge they acquire to make the best possible decision about how to help kids overcome their problems, such as, more reassurance when they are feeling insecure, help in thinking more clearly about a confusing issue, or more guidance and/or effective discipline when they are having trouble maintaining control.

Emotional Need #3 - Structure

Parents who set ever-expanding healthy limits for their maturing children provide them with the safe haven that every child needs to grow and thrive. In an overly permissive family, children often suffer from the lack of emotional security that well-defined rules and boundaries provide. In an oppressively rigid family, children may suffer in the area of personal growth because they are not given enough freedom to learn how to depend on themselves. Kids do best in a balanced environment of clearly defined and enforced limits that are fair, non-oppressive and occasionally negotiable, as they grow through the different stages in their lives.

Emotional Need #4 - Expressed Love

Feelings of love have no value unless they are given. Enthusiastic parental expressions of delight and support provide vital emotional nourishment for a child's developing sense of self-worth. Since children base their self-concept on how they perceive their parents' feelings toward them, it is not enough to merely have these feelings; we must routinely demonstrate our love for them throughout their early years and beyond. New research indicates that this essential input actually stimulates the growth of neuronal connections within the brain in those areas associated with positive emotions, giving kids the best possible chance to live a lifetime filled with inner joy.

Emotional Need #5 - Validation

The study of the human mind reveals that all of our emotions - even the so-called negative ones - play pivotal roles in our emotional health. As a result, children need to have all of their emotions validated (supported), when expressed in appropriate ways, to ensure their proper development. Take the powerful emotion of anger, for example. It's true that children cannot have everything they want. But denying them the freedom to express their displeasure about it may cause their healthy anger to become repressed, which could cause them health and relationship problems later in life. Conversely, children who have difficulty calming their own anger will need help in learning how to maintain control. Through the use of soothing words of validation for their anger, such as, "that would make me mad too," these children will begin to emulate this comforting tone in their own heads and eventually learn to calm themselves down.

Emotional Need #6 - Inclusion

A child's healthy attachment to his or her primary caregiver(s) is the first way that children learn to feel like welcome and valuable members of the human community. This core sense of belonging to the family group is what enables children to move confidently into society and reach out to others in a spirit of good will and camaraderie. Another important aspect of inclusion is learned when children experience the satisfaction of having others depend on them. This is taught in the home by having kids be responsible for age-appropriate family duties. These responsibilities help children embrace the concept of "earning one's keep," and that other people's needs are as important as theirs are.

Emotional Need #7 - Modeling

Children naturally take their cues form parents or caregivers about how to interact with others. This means that the most effective way to teach children emotionally healthy thoughts and behaviors - from interpersonal relationship skills to the ability to deal with life's daily frustrations - is for parents to model emotional health for them. The contradictory messages contained in the "Do as I say, not as I do" parenting style do not serve children well because it is not a parent's words that children are most influenced by; it is their behavior

Emotional Need #8 - High Expectations

If we expect children to develop the emotional and thinking skills necessary to accomplish their goals, it is essential that they internalize the psychological traits of goal-setting and self-motivation. Studies have shown that maintaining high expectations for children is the most effective tool that parents can use to help them become the best they can be. Of course, this does not mean holding children to impossibly high standards, or scolding and punishing them when they do not perform well. Instead, through the use of measured encouragement and praising, the feelings of self-confidence and inner satisfaction that children gain from their personal accomplishments will motivate them to work toward fulfilling their dreams.

Emotional Need #9 - Power-Sharing

It is normal for emotionally healthy children to "fight" with their parents as they mature, continually pushing the boundaries to gain more personal freedom and control over their lives. It is the natural expression of a child's journey toward full independence in adulthood. Power-sharing is a teaching method that offers children structured choices as a way to guide them through the process of expanding their physical and psychological boundaries. If parents or caregivers are willing to negotiate new boundaries with their maturing children - while resisting the urge to always dominate them in order to maintain control, or always give in to them because they tire of arguing - it creates an interactive, cooperative home environment where kids can learn the critical life skill of balancing their own needs with the needs of others.\

Emotional Need #10 - Emotionally Honest Caregivers

It is crucial for parents or caregivers to be honest with themselves about their own level of emotional health and their ability to effectively nurture their children. If the goal is to raise emotionally healthy children, then we can't sit around and rely on the tired old excuse: that's just the way I am. If we have an emotional problem of our own - be it inappropriate anger, difficulty showing love, overly controlling behavior patterns, emotional withdrawal, or what have you. - we choose to muster the courage to face our challenges, take a good, hard look in the mirror and do what needs to be done. Our kids are too important not to.

EQI comments

We agree with the opening statement.

1. Attention - We don't believe "attention" is specific enough. For example it is possible to give someone negative attention by over-controlling, criticizing etc.

They mention "feel valuable" - this is similar to our belief that children need to feel valued. We prefer valued, however, because valuable sounds a bit too much like they could be sold!

2. Understanding - We agree children need to feel understood. They confuse trust, understanding and emotional safety however.

It also souds too much like the goal of parents understanding their children is so they can use this knowledge to control or manipulate the behavior of the child or teen.

3. Structure - Structure isn't really an emotional need. They way they describe structure they might as well say "boundaries enforced by punishment". But children don't need punishment. They need to feel safe. You can't feel safe when you know there is always the threat of punishment.

They imply children need some amount of freedom, but we would just say directly children need freedom and need to feel free. You can feel free and still feel safe You don't need punishment to help you stay safe. Information is needed. Not punishment.

4. Expressed Love is too general of a term, but we agree with the thought (We also say "loved".)

5. Valdation. We agree children and teens need to feel validated, supported. But notice the use of the parental/authoritarian word "appropriate." We agree it is unhealthy to deny people a means of expressing their emotions. We also suggest the authors of this list read our writing on anger so they will become more aware of how it is a secondary emotion, and so they will see the importance of identifiying specific emotional needs. We also suggest our page on pain management to them.

6. Inclusion - We are not to thrilled with their reference to "earning one's keep." Again it sounds too much like some kind of financial model of love and parenting.

7. Modeling is not really an emotional need. You can say "I feel understood" but it doesn't make sense to say "I feel modeled." But we do agree about parents having integrity between their words and actions, and about children following what parents do.

8 High Expectations - Again this is not really an emotional need. And again words like "the use of measured encouragement and praising" suggest they are wanting to manipulate their children, for example, with rewards for desired behavior.

9. Power sharing. We would say they need to feel "in control" and maybe "empowered" or "powerful". We didn't put these on our top ten list because we think they will follow naturally if the other needs are met.

10. Emotionally honest caregivers. We feel encouraged to see this included in the list. We would add "emotioanally responsible" - in other words, not blaming the child or teen for the adult's feelings, for example by saying "You made me angry" or "You disappointed me."