What Do Our Children Need Most

What Do Our Children Need Most

Thursday, 21 March 2019  | Allan - Middle School Coordinator

As I have pondered what to write about in this week’s editorial the topic that has weighed heavily on my heart is ‘What do our children need most?’

This is not an easy topic, and it involves some aspects that are quite sensitive. It is certainly not my intention though to offend, to stir old (or recent) hurts, nor do I wish to give the impression that I have ‘all the answers’. So, in an attitude of love, and with some fear and trembling, I share some thoughts.

Life can be tough for our young people. In many ways our children live at a time of great material wealth and comfort compared to earlier generations. Nonetheless, children today can experience significant confusion and discouragement due to the ‘heavy burdens’ they  may carry. These burdens can arise from many factors including:

mixed messages from many directions

manipulation by the media

brokenness in families

difficulties at school

the inconsistency/failure of significant adults in their lives

premature loss of ‘childhood’ and innocence


peer pressure

low self-esteem


Such matters are not easy for children to navigate. As parents and teachers we would like to magically protect our children from hurt but that is virtually impossible. Of course we all want the ‘very best’ for our children, and strive as best we can to meet all their needs.

Sadly though, sometimes as parents and teachers, we can act out of our own fears and needs and end up compounding the demanding challenges that children face. For example, an insecure teacher can over-react and set an unreasonable punishment, or an angry parent can yell hurtfully at their child. While such things are understandable they are not without a cost.  

Such encounters damage the fabric of the key relationships between the child and the important adults in their lives. They also undermine the child’s sense of belonging, self-worth, justice and security. While it is true that children are amazingly adaptable and durable, often they have scars that are invisible but deep.

How are we as parents and teachers to respond to these challenges? How can we partner better together in nurturing the children God has entrusted to us? What do our children most need?

I suggest that children have at least four vital personal needs that we ought to be mindful of:

Unconditional love

Wholehearted acceptance

Consistent boundaries and guidance

Genuine hope

There is nothing original or surprising about this list. However, if children do not experience them all, they suffer as a result. In the partnership between families and school these four things need to be conscious and overt priorities. A positive partnership between home and school is the pivotal context for these to be expressed. This partnership is fundamental to why the school even exists. It is a partnership that recognizes parents’ God-given responsibility and authority for their children’s nurture and education. It is a partnership that also recognizes the legitimate ‘office’ of teachers and school staff as they share with parents in their children’s care and learning. It is important though that students are also understood as partners in their own education, and that they need to be both challenged and empowered as they learn and grow.

Unconditional love

Our children need to experience love that is not dependent on their behaviour, talents or achievements, but rather is freely and unconditionally given. Within their family context and in their MECS school community it is so important that they experience ‘shalom’. Shalom is not so much peace in the absence of difficulty or conflict, but rather peace and joy even in the midst of struggle. As God has shown his unconditional love for us in Christ’s sacrifice, so too are we called to love unconditionally.

Wholehearted acceptance

Closely linked to unconditional love is wholehearted acceptance. As parents and teachers we play a vital role in communicating to children that they are truly welcome! Seeing them as God does -  his precious children created in his very image, we can unambiguously convey to our children their intrinsic worth and belonging. This is so important as children strive to find their identity and maintain healthy self-acceptance.

Consistent boundaries and guidance

If children are to adopt ethical and healthy lifestyles they need age appropriate boundaries and ongoing guidance. They will need adults with the wisdom and courage to exercise balanced discipline and to also model self-control. Young people also need the opportunity to make some real choices if they are to develop self-control. It does not work if we as parents and teachers try to exercise 100% control, or adopt the other extreme of abdicating responsibility for setting boundaries and indulging and ‘spoiling’ our children.

Genuine hope

Our children also need to hear a clear message that their lives have rich purpose. That even in times of hurt, loneliness, confusion or self-doubt, there is an unshakeable foundation for genuine hope in life. Such a foundation cannot really be fabricated. It rests uncompromisingly on the truth and presence of Christ. Enduring hope is grounded in authentic faith experience. Like the three areas already mentioned above, this also is ultimately a gift from God.

In all these things, these essential and in some ways mysterious things, we need to help and trust one another, and possibly most importantly, seek God’s grace in prayer as we share the wondrous task of loving, accepting, guiding and encouraging our young people.


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