Needs . . . What’s All the Fuss About?

I help parents explore and understand their needs so that they can transform their families in a way that best serves their needs – as individuals and as a family. Helping parents understand the multiple needs of family members helps them create a parenting plan that balances the needs of all concerned. What can be challenging in this process is helping parents discover what their real needs are.

Graphic from the Wikimedia Commons

Graphic from the Wikimedia Commons

So what are needs? Often we think of needs simply as the survival needs of food, water, clothing and shelter. And it’s true, without these, we don’t have a foundation upon which to build our lives. Having spent time in Africa in small villages, I was always saddened to see people struggle mightily day after day just to meet their basic survival needs. I am abundantly aware of how important it is for human beings to have these basic needs met.

And, at the same time, these aren’t the only needs that are important to fulfill in our lives if we are to not only survive, but also thrive. Human beings everywhere have the same needs – what differs is the priority each person, depending on their culture, family upbringing, individual beliefs, etc. places on those needs and the strategies they use to meet those needs.

These needs can be placed in the following categories – physiological (food, shelter, water, bodily functions), safety (security), love/belonging (friendship, intimacy, family, community), esteem (self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect), and self-actualization (morality, creativity, self-expression, meaning, purpose). In 1943, psychologist, Abraham Maslow devised a system that identified human needs and their sequence with the understanding that one level must be successfully accomplished in order to achieve the next higher level. He called it a hierarchy of needs. However, others have disputed that configuration and I too do not believe that to be the case. In fact, in villages in Africa where some of their very basic needs for shelter and food are limited, you often see that their needs for love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization are deeply met. Whereas, I would argue, that in the US, while people may have their basic physiological needs met, many of the other needs are sorely missing.

So rather than think of needs as a hierarchy, I like to think about them in groups and help clients understand that it is important to be aware of all of one’s needs and to explore the various strategies they can use to help get their needs met. It is important to realize that there are a zillion ways to meet our needs and if we rely on only one strategy, it limits our sense of freedom, enjoyment, and ultimately our experience of life.

So how do needs play out in divorce? Divorce dramatically changes how, when and where we will get our needs met. It shakes people to their very core. Not surprisingly, divorce does not alter the fact that we nonetheless still have needs to meet. But perhaps it does mean that, for the first time, we must consciously seek to meet those needs in new and creative ways.

We all have the need to find unconditional love and acceptance, somewhere. We need to know there is empathy and compassion for us and that someone really cares for us especially during difficult times. We need a quality of peace and harmony, at least in our home.

We have a need to both give and receive generosity in the quality of caring and listening we share with one another. We want to know that we are respected, seen and understood for our deepest intentions. And we need forgiveness.

Joy, celebration and gratitude are also in the realm of our human needs. A spiritual connection, whatever that may be, provides a framework that helps you to see the “silver-lining” of even the most challenging situations. We need to be thankful, celebrate what is working for us and experience the joy that can spontaneously come forth in our being. At the same time, we also need to mourn and grieve so that we can heal.

Though the fabric of your intact family may have been torn to shreds and many of your needs, previously met, are no longer; all is not lost. I trust that by making a conscious effort and with a little help, you can and will move into your new life meeting your needs in a new and wonderful way.

This journey you are on is challenging and it offers you opportunities to consciously choose how to meet your needs. I honor you on this path.

Please share how you meet some of your needs in ways you perhaps did not do so in your marriage.

And if you would like to get some support in uncovering your needs and how you might effectively meet those needs, I encourage you to sign-up for a free consultation with my “Parenting With Your Ex” consultant – to do so, click here.


In Service and Support,

Signature for Cat J. Zavis, Coach for divorced parents




CatProfileCat J. Zavis is an Attorney, Mediator, Child Advocate and Coach for Parents co-parenting their children after divorce. As a divorced mother of 2, she deeply understands the challenges, trauma and opportunities divorce provides. She has been practicing Nonviolent CommunicationSM, Mediation and Collaborative Law for 7 years. She conducts workshops and trainings in Nonviolent CommunicationSM for parents, lawyers, teachers, students, spiritual centers and professionals. In 2009, she was awarded a Peace Builder Award for her business. Her combination of personal experience and professional expertise give Cat a unique perspective and ability to help co parents learn to communicate effectively and powerfully to transform their relationships and interactions with their former after divorce so they and their children can thrive.

Cat can be reached at

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