"Awww Mom, I'm not leaving for vacation… I'm just going to the store. I'll be back in an hour." And the door slams shut as your teen-ager leaves. You were unsuccessful in giving him a good-bye kiss. There's no need to give up trying, however. Our children really need our love and physical affection, but perhaps not always in the particular way that we may think. Our younger ones may be too busy playing for a hug or kiss and our pre-teens and teen-agers may pull away at times.
Yet, no one is too old for a hug or a kiss. Haven't psychologists told us that just for emotional survival alone, we need at least four hugs a day?
I believe it all starts in the womb — with the warm amniotic fluid caressing a baby's skin, cushioning him while his mother rocks him gently with her every move. A baby is accustomed to comfort and affection right from the very start.
We emerge into this world wanting to be comforted after a strenuous birth process. The world outside the womb is completely different than our first warm, dark, safe environment. A baby may cry because of hunger, uncomfortable temperatures or a need for a diaper change, but also because of loneliness and a need for physical contact. Sometimes, just a simple touch or caress — a hand on your baby's back, will soothe a fussy baby. At other times, he will need to be picked up, rocked, cuddled or walked to comfort him and stop his crying.
Babies cannot be spoiled by love. When a baby cries for comfort and physical contact and is left in his crib, he will learn to be distrustful about this new world. Each time your baby's cravings for affection are fulfilled, you have helped to establish his sense of confidence and trust.
In the eighteenth century, Frederick II from Prussia wanted to discover the original language of mankind and conducted a crazy experiment. He instructed the nurses at an orphanage to feed and change the babies, only caring for their physical needs. However, they were absolutely forbidden to talk to the babies in the hope that the babies would, on their own, come out with their first language without any outside influence. The babies were left in their cribs without any attention between feedings. The tragic outcome to this crazy experiment was that all of the babies died! They were starved in the psychological sense.
The human touch is a very crucial part of growing up and developing into healthy, stable human beings. Children need to feel loved and to feel that love in a physical way.
At times, during the various phases of development, our children may pull away and become embarrassed because of our signs of affection toward them, especially when given in front of friends. Conversely, they may quietly welcome our hug or kiss at another more opportune time. We learn to use our discretion and we find that our timing is important, as well.
The extremely hectic pace of our world leaves little time for cuddling. As parents, we need to make a point of placing importance on inviting our children to be with us, by sitting them on our laps when they run in from school, encouraging them to talk, even if just for a few minutes, about their day. Closeness is a way to prepare them for their next new adventure, supported by our love.
There's nothing like a parent's shoulder for a child to rest her head upon when she wants a little comfort. Taking time out to read our youngsters a story, holding hands during a casual walk, playing with them in a physical way, or rocking our infants are other examples of simple ways we can physically show our love. These are special times in a child's life and prepare our youngsters to be able to express affection later in life. Life has a way of speeding by, so let's seize every opportunity to express our signs of affection to our children!