Touch is one of the essential elements of our development it is a critical component to our children growing into strong, healthy adults.
Scientists are still discovering the value of touch in a child’s development, physically, emotionally and intellectually. When we are touching our children with loving hugs, holding their hands, giving them a kiss or just sitting next to them while they snuggle, we are helping their development.
Dr. Caroline Leaf says, “we each have our natural inner pharmacy that produces all the drugs we ever need to run our body-mind in precisely the way it was designed to run. Good touching releases the body’s natural chemicals like endorphins, enkephalins, oxytocin, enkephalins, oxytocin and dopamine, setting in motion your love circuits and stopping the fear circuits.”
We often take for granted what is happening within our child’s little mind and body as we live our everyday lives. We can become too casual and not deliberate enough in making sure we are giving our children a loving, secure message about our love for them. Additionally, their value through the way they experience touch with us as parents.
Of course, the opposite is true as well. When our children are touched affected in a negative way, we devalue them and create negative thought patterns in their brains producing ideas that bring ill health as well as adverse effects on their emotional and intellectual development. We all hate hearing of children who have experienced being touched inappropriately and have seen the horrible impact of this. Lack of contact will also deprive the child of the opportunity to grow to their full potential even stunting their physical growth.
There is a lot of scientific evidence showing how infants in overcrowded orphanages don’t grow and develop appropriately for their age. In fact, when I visited Rwanda for the first time in 2012, I witnessed this first hand. Probably the most confronting day of my life. Rob and I, with three other friends, visited an orphanage that had beautiful, caring, loving carers for the children, there was no lack of love for these children. They were clean, had food to eat, a cot for each to sleep in, smiles on some faces because the carers were lovingly smiling at them.
That all being said, there were so many of them the carers had to spend most of their time preparing food, cleaning and keeping the children safe. These demands left little time for loving touch and one on one for these precious little ones. Whilst there, we went from room to room; they were all in their age groups as best they could work out as most didn’t have birth certificates. As we went into the 3-4-year-old rooms there we no more children just sitting in their cots, they were able to be out of their cots while not sleeping. We went into what they called the play room. It was tiny and very cramped; no toys just mats on the floor. The children started to sing for us; tears were running down all our faces. I was the only female; the others were fathers themselves and of course Rob a grandfather.
We could only fit two of us in at a time, Rob and I started to dance with them, just bobbing up and down because of lack of room, they loved it. These children looked like they were 18 months -2 years old, their physical development was so stunted because they were unable to receive many touches at all from their carers.
Along with physical development, research shows us that children deprived of loving touch causes a change in the brain, creating patterns of the negative behaviour of aggression that can lead to violence.
Even as adults we need loving touch to keep us emotionally and physically well, some like it more than others but we all need it in our lives.
If you are a parent who isn’t very tactile, make sure you don’t push your children away when they want a cuddle. You need to learn how to put their needs before your comfort zone.
In amongst my children, there has been varying degrees of need for touch in my parenting. I had to learn that one didn’t like too much cuddling. I had to give it to them when they wanted. Another was often touching me wanting just to squeeze my upper arms feeling my skin in between his fingers when he was young; he is very tactile.
There will always be those who need more touch than others, as parents we just need to be patient and read their needs so we can meet them where they are.
Loving touch needs to be a part of their day with us, even if it’s just a hand on their back as we say well done. I know I am often talking about our words and how they affect our children. However, I want us all to remember “touch” and its importance to help our children and grandchildren reach their full potential.
God created us such complex beings, we all need each other, and we need to receive the loving touch from those we love.