Lesson 6 of 7 - learn how to parent effectively

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Assess Your Minor
 Kids' Many Needs

Learn what they cannot ask for

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council


The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/parent/assess.htm

Updated  04-13-2015

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      This is one of a series of Lesson-6 articles on how to parent effectively. Doing this is crucial to protect the next generation from inheriting lethal psychological wounds + unawareness.

      This video overviews "effective parenting." Were your parents effective? Are you?

      This article is for committed, single, divorced, widowed, and re/married co-parents and their grandparents and other supporters. Co-parents includes all adults who regularly nurture any dependent kids in your family. Nurture means "to fill needs."

      Premise - effective parents learn...

  • how to judge if they're ready to conceive and/or parent;

  • what each of their dependent kids need as they develop,

  • how to fill each need while not neglecting their own needs, and they learn...

  • how to maintain an effective co-parenting team to fill their and their kids' needs in a dynamic world.

      Do you agree? Lesson 6 in this Web site proposes options for achieving these four vital goals. This article focuses on the second goal: how to assess where your kids stand with their unique mix of short and long-term needs. .


      To give your kids their best chance, your family adults need to evolve clear, consensual answers to...

When should we assess our kids' needs?

Who is included in our family?

Who will participate, and who will lead?"

Which kids are we going to assess?

What preparation do we need to do our needs-assessment well enough?

What specific questions are we trying to answer?

What should we do with our results?

How will we resolve (inevitable) disputes during this family childcare project?; and...

How can we all optimize our efforts together over time?

      Let's look briefly at each of these...

  When Should We Assess Our Kids' Needs?

      Whether you're courting, committed, or veteran co-parents, your young and grown kids need you adults to begin this needs-assessment now! This is specially true if parents just separated and/or began cohabiting with a new partner.

    Every day that passes without you adults (including grandparents) learning your kids' status on their sets of developmental and adjustment needs increases their risk of developing psychological wounds.

      Because people, families, and the environment constantly change, your kids need you adults to re-evaluate their needs and status regularly.- e.g. at birthdays or around New Years.

  Who's Included in Our Family?

      Family feuds, cutoffs, divorces, adoptions, cohabiting, and remarriages can cause confusion and disagreements over who belongs (is included in) kids' families.  Consider drawing and discussing a genogram (diagram) of who comprises your current family. Do so from your kids' point of view. If you have significant membership disagreements, see these options.

  Who Will Participate, and Who Will Lead?

      Ideally, all adults in your kids' multi-home family will take part in this needs-assessment. Many factors can prevent this ideal. Your option is to accept that, and say "Starting with all co-parents and co-grandparents, how many of our family adults are genuinely interested in helping with this important child-needs assessment?

      If some adults are blocked from supporting your kids by various barriers, your options include (a) ignore them; (b) appeal for their help for the kids' sakes; (c) scorn, ridicule, and reject them; or (d) keep them respectfully informed of what you're trying to do, why, and what's happening as you progress.

      Many divorcing parents and some new mates have trouble maintaining co-parental respect and cooperation because of problems like these. If this is so with your family adults, your kids need you all to admit these problems and work to reduce them - for their sakes. To do this, you all need to want your true Selves to guide you (Lesson 1) and to gain fluency with effective communication skills (Lesson 2).

      Someone has to take responsibility for doing this assessment project or it won't get done. The alternatives are leadership by consensus, or no effective leadership. Do you have a leader yet? If so, what do you know of this leader's primary needs and motives?

      How does the style of this family leader (authoritarian, democratic, dictatorial, decisive, inconsistent, timid, empathic,...) affect the motivation and cooperation of your other caregiving adults? Does s/he acknowledge being the leader? Is s/he comfortable with that role? What help does s/he need from the rest of you? From knowledgeable outsiders?

  Which Kids Will We Assess?

      I suggest evaluating the status of each minor and grown biological, adopted, step, and foster child of each of your co-parents, Beware assuming that an apparently-happy, "well-adjusted" child is mastering all their many concurrent needs! This is because well-meaning false selves are adept at protectively camouflaging inner pain and unmet needs from the host person and other people. 

  What Preparation Do We Need?

      To be effective at assessing kids' status with their many needs (filled / partially filled / unfilled), adults need to adopt a long-range view, and study and discuss...

  • online Lessons 1-6 (or 7, if you're in a stepfamily); including...

    • symptoms of psychological wounds (Lesson 1),

    • how to judge if an adult is guided by their true Self - and if not, how to free their Self; and...

    • symptoms of incomplete grief (Lesson 3);

  • the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle and its effects ;

  • how to assess and resolve most relationship problems;

  • how to assess for toxic attitudes;

  • kids' developmental and family-adjustment needs; and...

  • how to talk well with typical kids and teens.

Option - to gauge your knowledge of these topics, take and discuss these quizzes.

      Once your adults have studied and discussed these, you're ready to draft a meaningful long-term family mission statement together as a framework to guide you all. 

      Pause and reflect: are you willing to prepare like this? Are your other family adults and supporters? If not, some of you risk passing psychological wounds on to your young people.

 What Are We Assessing For?

      The most important thing to assess is whether each nurturing adult in your family is guided by their true Self or not. Use this and this for an initial evaluation. If one or more adults is psychologically wounded, that raises the odds of significant family dysfunction and wounding your kids. See Lesson 1 for healing options.

      Next, assess the recent nurturance level of your child's home/s and multi-home family (low to high). Use this article and worksheet to do this. Option - use this worksheet for more perspective. Discuss your results together as teammates, with your kids in mind.

      If you decide your nurturance level is too low (and your "dysfunction" too  high), take a long-range view and commit to improving your level together with the resources in Lessons 1 thru 6 or 7. Your kids will have an easier time filling their needs if you do, and your parenting effectiveness and satisfaction will increase.

      Next, assess and discuss the status of each child with their set of ~25 developmental needs. Depending on each child's age and unique abilities, you'll conclude "s/he is progressing well enough" with all age-appropriate needs, or "s/he needs our help with (specific needs) now."

      Finally, if a child's bioparents divorced or died, assess the youngster's status on their set of these family-adjustment needs. Because all these needs are concurrent, you may want to prioritize them and focus on the most important ones.

      If this seems like a lot of work - it is. Keep motivated by steadily imagining your end goal - feeling great future satisfaction in growing a healthy, well-adjusted independent young adult guided by his or her true Self. Option - imagine how your life might be different if your family adults had regularly monitored your needs as you grew up.

 What Do We Do With Our Results?

      If all your kids' needs are filled well enough for now - congratulate yourselves and keep doing what you've been doing. If some needs aren't being well filled: Decide together...

  • which adults are best are best able to fill the needs?

  • what help they need?

  • what may hinder them? and...

  • how are you all going to monitor progress?

      If you need to reduce psychological wounds and/or get educated use Lesson 1 to evolve a meaningful personal recovery plan. Study Lessons 1 thru 6 or 7 to raise your knowledge and awareness. If you feel that another family adult needs to reduce psychological wounds and/or ignorance, see these options.

      Use your assessment findings to evolve co-parental job (role) descriptions to clarify and document your responsibilities and goals. Also discuss your findings with any teachers, tutors, mentors, coaches, and clinicians working with each assessed child.

      Whatever you adults do, keep the end goals in minds: (a) successfully-independent young adults with minimal wounds, and (b) a stable, high-nurturance family system.

 How Will We Resolve Disputes in Assessing Our Kids?

      Your needs-assessment process may be hindered by...

  • relationship barriers among your adults - specially between ex mates,

  • family- membership (inclusion) disagreements;

  • personal and mutual  values and loyalty conflicts, and...

  • stressful relationship triangles  

      Follow the links to learn how to reduce and manage these stressors. Also refresh yourselves on how to assess and resolve typical relationship problems. Use the seven communication skills in Lesson 2 and share copies of these communication-block and communication-tips worksheets to help you all stay focused and effective together.


      The nurturance level (functionality) of your family depends on how well your adults fill the needs of each adult and child over time. Kids of divorcing and re-partnered (stepfamily) parents have many extra adjustment needs that require adult awareness and help.

      Effective parenting requires your adults to assess each child's progress with their many concurrent developmental and adjustment needs. This Lesson-6 article offers specific suggestions on how to assess your kids' status effectively, and what to do with your results.

      Effective parenting is the main defense you have to avoid passing the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle on to your descendents!

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

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