thatmom

real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

expressing affection with physical touch

What could be more natural than gently caressing a newborn baby, tussling a toddler’s hair, or warmly hugging your husband? Research over the past 40 years has shown that human touch is absolutely essential for the healthy emotional and physical development of children and the day to day maintenance of adults. Studies have even shown that premature infants who receive consistent gentle touching will gain weight more quickly than those who are not touched because touch releases certain chemicals in the brain that regulate their development.

Did you know that our skin is the largest organ of the human body?  On the average man, it covers nearly 20 square feet and weighs about 8 pounds.  If you could examine a piece of skin the size of a quarter, you would find 3 feet of blood vessels, 50 nerve endings, over 3 millions cells, and roughly 300 sweat glands!  Is it any wonder that human beings respond so quickly to physical touch?

There are other benefits to physical touch.  Consistent physical contact has been proven to strengthen the immune system, lower stress and blood pressure, and increase creativity.  Calmly holding a distraught child has also been shown to teach children to have self-control over their own bodies.

There is a huge difference between the amounts of physical touch among cultures around the world.  One study involved observing pairs of people sitting in coffee shops in various cities.  It found that in Puerto Rico, on average, people touched 180 times per hour, in France they touched 100 times an hour, in Florida, they touch twice in an hour, and in London they never touched!  Isn’t this interesting?

Homeschooling moms have a distinct advantage over other teachers in that we have the freedom to express physical affection to our children all day long every single day!  Other teachers have told me that they will desire to warmly express love to their children but are hesitant to do so for fear of being misunderstood in this crazy world of abusers.  But as moms we are able to fill our child’s emotional tank with affection with wild abandon!  We should never be concerned about doing this!

I do have a concern, however, about homeschooler-promoted parenting materials that encourage emotional distance between parents and their children.  This philosophy came from Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychotherapy, who encouraged severity and sternness in the parent-child relationship.  After decades of applying his theories to child raising, parents and child psychologists alike are realizing that the fruits of his views have created multi-generational problems.  I am waiting for the day when some of the homeschooling gurus follow suit and toss out some of their sacrosanct views of raising children!

Allowing your children to come to you in the night, singing and cuddling a child to sleep rather than scheduling him and putting him alone in a bed in his own room, and swaddling him in a mommy pouch are all methods of physical touch that are so desperately needed for emotionally healthy children. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, closeness to mom is crucial for raising a healthy child.  Physical touch is certainly part of that equation.

I wanted to add a couple others thoughts.  Teenagers need physical touch from mom, too.  Is there anything more disarming that a hulking 15 year old son who wraps his arms around mom and says “thanks for the clean laundry?”  I think we need to remember that the teen years are times of turmoil for our children and letting them know that we still care for them by giving them physical touch reassures and comforts them.

Lastly, volumes have been written about the need for physical touch between a husband and a wife.  While I feel that it is inappropriate to go into detail here about this subject, I will say this: if your husband’s primary love language is physical touch, you cannot underestimate the need for having a healthy sexual relationship with him. 

Next time I will discuss how God touches our children.

Copyright 2007

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1 Comment»

  Julie wrote @

Thanks for such words of wisdom. It’s easy to overlook this need during the course of the day, as I’m so focused sometimes on just getting stuff done that I often don’t take the time to enjoy it. I have noticed my strongwilled oldest son will really mellow out if I start to rub his back or his feet when he’s upset.


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