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What Do Kids Actually Need?



Join Dr. Raghu Appasani for a deep exploration into the emotional and psychological needs of children, with a special focus on those who have experienced trauma. Disregarding the common assumption that kids simply require lectures and straightforward advice, Dr. Raghu delves into the crucial concept of secure attachment. This is a need that transcends socioeconomic status, educational background, and other external factors. Learn how consistent emotional presence—more than any lecture or punishment—can fundamentally improve a child's mental health and well-being. Listen as Dr. Raghu discusses strategies for fostering secure attachments, revealing findings from a poignant French study on the human need for touch and emotional safety, and offering insights on how to truly 'be there' for a child.


Transcript:


What Do Kids Actually Need?


"We often operate under the assumption that children are unaware of their needs. While this may hold true for many, it doesn't discount the fact that even if children are not consciously aware of their needs, they still have them. My experience with numerous children who have endured trauma—a term that ought to be defined broadly—reveals that trauma and addiction, both broadly interpreted, are common experiences for many. At their core, both children and adults seek one thing: secure attachment. This need is both conscious and unconscious.


Children usually do not require lectures or unsolicited advice. Rather, what they need is for someone to simply be there for them. Despite their resistance, the presence of a consistent figure in their lives can teach them trust and reliance. This is becoming increasingly challenging in modern society, where adults are often preoccupied with work or other responsibilities, or may be physically present but distracted by their phones or laptops. What is essential is the establishment of secure attachment.

A poignant yet distressing study conducted in France years ago involved dividing infants into two groups. Both groups received basic necessities like food, nutrition, and water. However, one group also received physical affection, while the other did not. The infants deprived of physical touch did not survive, highlighting the critical need for secure attachment and nurture. The hormonal release from physical touch is vital for survival.


When dealing with children who cannot explain their actions, whether it be self-harm or behavioral issues, the key is to be present with them. Creating a safe space allows them to release their energy and begin to express themselves. It's important to encourage children to develop a vocabulary for their experiences and feelings, as many adults struggle to articulate their emotions. Asking children not just about their feelings but also about their physical sensations can help them better understand and regulate their emotions from a young age.


As society has evolved, we have prioritized cognitive intelligence over physical presence. However, it's crucial to reintegrate the two to address the mental health crisis. Reflecting on my work, I recall a transformative moment with a troubled youth at a residential center. By simply sitting with him, offering physical comfort, he was able to find peace and regress to a state of infant-like security. This experience underscores the profound need for human connection, touch, and being held, which may seem far-fetched to some but is fundamentally human."


-Raghu Appasani, MD



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