As a mother, understanding the importance and impact of touch is extremely important when raising a child. From the moment a child is conceived it is connected to its mother, and although your fetus may not feel the physical touch of your hand, it does have a sense of being held by you. So, continuing that bonding process through touch, while raising your child, is important to their balance and emotional stability.
Recently, a symposium at Notre Dame University led by Dr. Darcia Narvaez, showed how important it is for mothers to breastfeed, touch and respond quickly to baby’s needs. The physical contact that babies have with their mothers is essential for their physical and psychological development, and can be measured even ten years after birth. Apparently touch stimulates brain chemicals that are crucial for growth.
Many babies and young children all over the world grow up in environments where touch and emotional engagement are lacking. Many children who are not the recipients of ample physical and emotional attention, are at higher risk for behavioral, emotional and social problems as they grow up.
According to a study from Development and Psychopathology, in Romania in the 1980s, by ages 6 – 12, levels of the stress hormone cortisol, were much higher in children who had lived in orphanages for more than eight months than in those who were adopted at or before the age of four months. The effects of early neglect on a child can be severe.
Babies who are held, cuddled, and touched often, gain weight faster and meet developmental milestones easier. These babies also sleep better in general, and are more relaxed during wakeful times. Touching your baby will also help to develop a strong bond between the two of you, resulting in a more secure and trusting child.
Mother’s who bond with their babies through touch have shown lower levels of depression, a reduction in stress levels and they are more sensitive and in tune with their baby’s cues resulting in the baby being more responsive to the mother through the first three months. Babies recognize their mother earlier, which lends to facilitating a good start to the relationship between mother and baby. This works the same way with fathers.
Touch is just as important to older children. Touch is a clear sign of affection that is good for children to experience often. When you hug your child, the pressure stimulates receptors under his/her skin, which sends a message to the vagus nerve in their brain. The vagus nerve in turn, slows their heart rate, putting them in a relaxed state. The hug also stimulates digestion and releases serotonin, which relieves pain.
One of the fondest memories that I have of my childhood connection to my mother, was her “tickle and scratch” arm massages. My mother would tickle the arms of my sister and I until we couldn’t stand the tickle any more. We would scream out “scratch, scratch!” and she would then scratch our arms quickly to alleviate the itch that the tickle had caused. We would laugh and giggle together, and then she would massage our arms.
Even as an adult, my mother would massage my back and I would massage her head… I loved the back massage and she loved the head massage. I would also get the “tickle and scratch” when I asked for it! It is a practice that I incorporated into my bonding process with my own children while raising them.
There are other ways besides massage and hugs to incorporate touch in your relationship with older children: Holding hands is one great option, as well as a simple high five or pat on the back.
Touch in general, when coming from a parent, has a calming, relaxing effect on a child. Touch makes children feel safe, secure, and loved. Even if you struggle to touch in any other way, hugs from mom and dad always make children feel loved, which is a good thing.
Learn how to effectively establish a Soulful Connection with your child by clicking here.
BE Love, BE Power!
The last massage I received from my mummy before her passing. Such a beautiful memory. Touch was a huge part of our connection! :)
I am a lover of life and a lover of people. When we learn to connect in our heart space, love will be the driving force behind all we do. BE Love, BE Power!