Parent Guide: High School: Lesson 1: Maslow’s Hierarchy

Learning Objectives

The purpose of this unit is to introduce students to the different levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as important foundational knowledge for understanding “well-being.” It also increases the depth of knowledge for those who are already familiar. This hierarchy will become the foundation for future modules, units, and lessons. Students will begin to examine how well their own needs are being met based on the hierarchy and explore strategies to meet identified needs. Additionally, this unit introduces students to the different areas of well-being: physical, social, emotional, mental, and academic.

Lesson Content

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a popular motivation theory that is widely referred to in educational circles. In this theory, Abraham Maslow suggested that before individuals meet their full potential, they need to satisfy a series of needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides a reminder and framework that our students are less likely to perform at their full potential if their basic needs are unmet.

Knowing that there are different areas of well-being helps us understand that “well-being” is dimensional. Each person strives for balanced well-being (physical, emotional, mental, academic, and social), but the reality is that our well-being needs change from day to day, and with each new circumstance and experience. Because of this constant change, we must be willing to make the efforts necessary to maintain well-being in each of the areas to create a happier, well-rounded, and balanced life.

Parent Partnership

My Hierarchy of Needs:

Invite students to share how they marked their self-assessment of needs. Review the “I AM WORKING ON IT” column and discuss what you can do as a parent to better support them in each area. Celebrate the areas where the needs are being met and celebrate what you are doing as a family to meet those needs.

Ask your student what ideas they came up with and have a conversation with them about what you could do as a family to help other family members, neighbors, or members of the community. Talk about what you could do to support the class in the projects they decided upon.

Balanced Well-Being:

Have a conversation with your student about the last time they felt well and happy with life at home? Invite them to share what they thought about in terms of being well and happy at school? Have a discussion about how you can help them feel happy and well at home.

  • What are your needs?
  • What motivates you?
  • Where are you on Maslow’s Hierarchy?
  • What does “healthy or balanced ” well-being look like?
  • Is it full in all areas, or simply full in one area?
  • What is the risk of setting goals that don’t feel attainable?
  • How does this impact “perfectionism?”

Help students understand well-being is not achieved by living a perfect life or having a perfect life. Instead we need balance. We need to invest in each aspect of well-being daily to stay balanced to attain overall well-being.

  • What happens when one area is out of balance?
  • What are the consequences, both short-term and long-term?
  • What is one area you could work on to achieve greater balance?

Invite students to brainstorm ideas for areas they feel are lacking. Encourage students to branch out and try something new in each of their areas.

  • Imagine your personal well-being wheel is in perfect balance.
  • What would your daily life look like?
  • What positive changes would a balanced wheel make in your life?
  • What are the barriers to your personal well-being at home?
  • How can I better support you at home?

Well-Being and The Bill of Rights:

Have a conversation with your student about your personal feelings about the Bill of Rights and specific rights that are more meaningful for you and your family.

Describe what you do to protect those rights in your own life and help your student begin to think about their own behaviors in relationship to protecting those rights for themselves and others. This conversation can be the beginning of helping your child understand what it means to be a citizen of the United States.

  • How do we enjoy these rights as Americans?
  • What do these rights mean to us as a family?
  • Have members of our family always enjoyed these rights?
  • What can we do to advocate and protect these rights for others?

Discussion Prompts:

The discussion prompts above can be used to connect with your child. Choose the prompts that would be most meaningful based on the needs of your own child.

  • Now that you have an awareness of your own needs, how does it explain the things that worry you?
  • How might my needs as your parent be the same of different from yours?
  • Which of the levels of needs can be threatened by social media? Can you think of specific examples?

Extending the Learning

  • Watch the Ted Talk titled “Measuring What Makes Life Worthwhile” by Chip Conley. After watching the video, have your student choose one of the following prompts to expound on.
  • Share with your student some of the things you are doing in your own life to make life meaningful. This is a great opportunity to connect with your child and help them understand that “they” make your life meaningful.
  • Have a conversation with your child about one thing they could start doing today that would be meaningful. Create a plan to identify and celebrate the meaning in your life.
  • Discuss the names of people at home, in the neighborhood, or community that can help your family meet these needs. (food pantries, school social worker, information about fee waivers, anti-bullying school programs, school counselors, electric company grants or fee waivers, homeless shelters, school programs and clubs, mentor programs, etc.).


The following strategies were discussed in class. Have a discussion with your student to see how they can reflect on and implement some of these strategies into their own life.

  • Surround yourself with people who lift, build, and inspire you.
  • Avoid getting caught up in negativity.
  • Monitor your social media use. Chart your use for 3-7 days to see if you can identify patterns. Make sure you are balanced and that what you are viewing is healthy and positive.
  • Increase your circle of friends by saying hello to someone new every day.
  • Study Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and advocate for yourself so that your needs are fulfilled.
  • Take a minute and reflect on how you are doing.
  • Identify an area in your personal life that needs nurturing.
  • Create a plan to consistently check-in.
  • Do something every day that brings you joy.

Are there specific strategies that would be helpful for your child?

Is there an area they need extra support?

How do you implement these strategies in your own life?

What other strategies do you implement in your own life?

How have these strategies and others made your life more meaningful?

Downloadable Parent Guide

Download and print this parent guide in PDF format. 

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