All human beings have three basic needs for love, security and acceptance. Out of all of these needs, love is the most essential nutrient a child needs to develop emotionally, mentally, spiritually healthy and whole. The other two needs are the byproduct of experiencing authentic love.
How can a child’s need for love be met? According to Lana Bateman, founder of Philippian Ministries, children from birth to about eight years old can only grasp love in one of two ways.
Touch – a child needs lots of warm, healthy displays of affection. They need to be cuddled, kissed and shown how much they are valued and loved. The importance of human touch should never be overlooked.
Time – a parent needs to show a child that they are willing to invest time to get to know them, communicate with them to draw out feelings, to laugh with them, talk about what they think, fear, what makes them sad, cry, what interests them, etc. The message sent is that they are valuable, precious and worth the investment of time, all the while seeds of love and security are being planted into their little hearts and minds. They will begin to grow secure in the knowledge that they are accepted by the most important people in their lives.
Beyond these two displays of love children, do not comprehend more sophisticated forms of love such as a house to live in, clothes, money, food, and toys. Sadly many parents think that they are meeting the needs of a child if they merely provide their physical needs. Children need so much more in order to grow and thrive.
When the needs for love, security and acceptance are not met, children will learn to redefine love. For example, a child who was showered with material things but little forms of touch and time may redefine love to mean that material possessions are the only things that satisfy. As adults they may go to great lengths to buy, earn, and store up material wealth, causing extreme feelings of failure and disappointment when those things are unattainable. Another child who never received affection from a mother exhausted from working long hours to provide and care for the physical needs of her family may redefine love as having to work hard to prove or earn love. Other children may not get much of anything and are left with a ravenous craving in their heart for love leading them to search for it in various unhealthy ways.
Children are a gift from God and need to be loved and cherished. If your were a child whose need for love was not met in a healthy way, it’s never too late to let your Abba Father nourish you with His perfect and satisfying love. Your past does not have to define you or affect you. Jesus can heal your wounded heart and meet all your unmet needs.
“When my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take care of me. “ Psalm 27:10