In this society of extremes, many of us have become hugaphobic. For various reasons we are cautious of embracing or merely touching our youth. This lack of affection is to our kids’ detriment.
They’re Asking for It!
I recently spoke to a group of thirty 12-18 year old girls. These girls expressed they get a lot of love and support from their parents. But in open discussion, every girl (with the exception of one) said they desire more hugs from their parents!
As I interact with youth, I am certain they are asking for loving touch. My own athletic teen son plays with my hair as I work. He leans against me while playing a board game, punches and teases his father inviting a wrestling match, laughter and ultimately, positive touch. He thrives on the bond between us, and he expresses it with his need for touch.
The Unspoken Rule
Some of us have an unspoken rule, that after a certain age our kids will no longer find it socially acceptable for us to hug them. We make the mistake of withholding affection, expecting that our child’s increasing need for independence includes a decreasing need of touch.
Are They Ever Too Old?
A radio caller once asked my favorite family educator, “When is my son too old to kiss and hug?” The definitive answer was, “Never”. Your child, no matter what the age, will always benefit from the bond and support your touch communicates.
Is Touch Ever Wrong?
To an abused child, touch is a sensitive issue. You will need to discover “safe” ways to communicate affection. Discuss this with your child and take your cue from their responses.
Touch is never appropriate if it has to be secret, if it is sexual, or uncomfortable to the young person.
Healthy touch is not clingy or irritating.
Some Fears About Touching
It is not uncommon for dads to begin physically withdrawing from their daughters as they approach puberty.
Parents, either well-intentioned or insecure, fear their son would become too dependent or not manly enough if they continue to hug him.
A friend told a beautiful story of her adolescent years with her father. The one mother figure she knew had recently passed away. Her father’s own upbringing lacked touch. This young girl had the courage to tell her father that she needed his hugs. When the father began hugging her and her adult siblings, they saythe entire family was changed.
Hugs will make them Bloom!
Touch impacts your child’s sense of worth
It keeps them from looking for it in inappropriate places
It lessens behavior problems
It builds rapport and trust
It lightens their load
Painless Ways to Begin
Twist hair, Back rub
Lean into, Wrestle
Massage hands, Fly a paper airplane at them,
Tuck them into bed,
High five, Knuckles!
Whether or not you have the knack for hugging, try increasing your positive touch up to 5 more times a day! Tell me what happens in your home.
Bonnie J. Christensen