Everything always feels better with a hug, kiss or cuddle from Mum or Dad. But physical touch is not just for when times are rough or when our kids are hurt.
It can be a great way to show them that we love them unconditionally, that we value them for who they are, that they are OK for just being our child. When we are touched we relax, we connect to the person who offers us loving touch, and for a few minutes we forget about stress and tension.
Research indicates that children who receive tender touch are much healthier emotionally than children who receive little touch. For the ‘giver’ it has benefits too. We feel so much better when we have offered a kind touch or hug than a yell or commands.
I know this, because the other day I was standing in a queue with my son (now aged 17) and while we were waiting I gave him a little shoulder rub. His whole body posture changed and he leaned into me. He closed his eyes and I could see that he felt calmer and felt loved. I felt so connected to him and I know that in these small moments l am building on our relationship in a positive way. And a happy by product of these stronger connections is that things are easier when it comes to implementing rules and routines!
So have a think about what you can offer your child every day by way of physical touch:
- a mini head massage
- a gentle shoulder rub
- if your child is OK with it, hold hands or walk arm in arm
- stroke their arm slowly
- rest your hand on their leg or around their shoulder while sat together
Even just touching shoulders while cosy on the sofa with the TV is a lovely non intrusive way of being close. One Mum I support tells me she always gives her young son a back tickle at bedtime. This has been a nightly ritual since he was a baby. And if she has to wake him up in the morning she always does so by gently stroking his temple and smoothing his hair off his face while softly saying, “good morning, time to be up” and allowing him to wake up slowly. She told me she always wants him to know loving touch and loves to think this gives him a gentle start to his day.
Loving touch can be given any time. At bedtime, before going to school (a lovely way to relax), after school (to de-stress), while watching television and so on. You can make it fun and playful too if your child is comfortable with a “Team Hug / Bring it In!” moment. Demonstrations of physical love do not need a reason, find what works for you and your kids and just do it as often as you can! You will feel your child’s self-esteem grow and your connection and relationship strengthened.
Q: My kids do not like physical touch from me, what should I do?
First of all be curious. Does your child have any special needs? Often kids with ASD don’t feel comfortable being touched. Or is it because they are not used to it, because we have not done it much in the past? Then try asking the child what they like, and ask if they can do it to you? Start small with maybe just a finger rub on the arm, stroking their hand softly etc. and see what they respond well to.
You can also use physical touch to stay connected during difficult times. If you are telling your child off (which we sometimes need to do), try putting your hand gently on his shoulder, or touching his arm. This shows that you are present and that you mean what you say. At the same time it sends a positive vibe when you touch them in a gentle and respectful way.
“A hug is the perfect gift; one size fits all, and nobody minds if you exchange it.” ~ unknown
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