HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — There are a lot of things that children need to grow up strong.

Different children might need more or less of different basic needs as they grow.

Dr. Kelly Graves with the Kellin Foundation discusses core strategies for helping children grow strong.

Talking points

Build Connections

Child development research shows that one of the strongest predictors of the success of a child is a relationship with caring adults. While it is great when these caring adults are parents, the research also shows strong relationships with non-parents is beneficial too.

As humans, we thrive in connection with others, so it’s critical for children and teens to feel like they have a strong connection with adults in their lives.

Provide opportunities to do dangerous things (carefully)

Children should be given the chance to stretch themselves and try new things that they might see as a little scary. Taking some risks so that they can begin to see that when they try things they can achieve more than they think they can.

Fill with “nature nutrients”

We know that children benefit from a healthy diet, but we also need nature nutrients. That is, time in nature. Ecopsychologists have shown that children’s (and adult’s) cortisol levels drop, blood pressure decreases, immune systems are enhanced, and we see reductions in anxiety and depression. In Japan, it’s called “shinrin-yoku” or “forest bathing”.

Provide unconditional love and sense of safety

Children need to feel loved not for what they do, but for who they are. They need to know that they are enough just like they are.

It’s also critically important that they know that they are safe so they can attend to growing in other areas, whether that is physically, emotionally, or cognitively. Our sense of safety always comes first in our growth, and when we feel safe and secure, we can spend our mental and “growing energy” in different ways.