It’s an unfortunate reality that we live and are brought up in a touch-deprived society. More and more, parents are losing the skill of compassionate touch and aren’t passing that value onto their children. Recently, much to my horror, I saw that a school in Australia decided to ban hugging. More on that horrendous story here, but first let me tell you why it’s such an horrendous decision.
Without going into too much detail, studies in the early 1900’s proved that without a doubt, compassionate touch is absolutely essential for survival past infancy. The studies were performed in orphanages and produced chilling results, yet they highlighted that at least equivalent in importance to food and water, another key to living and thriving is physical contact with another human.
Numerous researchers have since described the plethora of biochemical processes that take place when we make contact with another – highlighting the benefits within the realms of individual hormones and other chemical compounds. They’ve also extrapolated these results to human behaviors, and regular touch is associated with improved mood and feelings of connection with others, our empathetic response and interpersonal skills, our degree of cooperation, our mental clarity and focus, our overall wellbeing, along with many more observable influences on our day-to-day living. Don’t we want all this for our kids? Don’t we want them to grow up in a positive-touch environment, which aids in their communication skills and helps them feel connected to their family, peers and the world at large?
In our present lifestyles and societies we often see inappropriate touch becoming more prevalent. This feeds a downwards spiral of less and less touch and even less touch-education. The thing is that the inappropriate touch comes from an innate need to be touched. By no means am I condoning the act of inappropriate touch. Instead, what I’m suggesting is that rather than avoiding touch out of fear for what could happen, we should seek and practice compassionate touch. We should also begin to educate our children on how to touch – they’re the next generation of touchers!
Here are 3 really useful tools to help you practice positive-touch training/development with your children:
- Permission – it’s really important in the present day to ask permission and to be given permission to touch. From a young age, permission instills strong values of respect, and helps kids to understand that they have the power and right to refuse if they are uncomfortable. A simple “can I have a hug?” is often a great way to ask permission. The most important part about permission is to listen to the response. As adults we can often have a tough time with perceived ‘rejection’. Know that it’s not your place to steal a hug if one is not wanted – don’t take it personally if a child says no. Hugs with permission are the only ones worth having anyway!
- Hugs are the best starting point. They are [hopefully] full of positive and loving intention. Yes, there will be the odd creep, but step 1 should usually highlight who they are. Kids don’t generally like to hug abusers – they know. Trust their instincts. When you approach a positive, love-felt hug, embrace fully and without reserve. If you don’t hold back, neither will your child.
- Take a massage lesson from your local massage therapist! Seriously! Learn how to skillfully touch your children to calm them down and to help them through times of discomfort (like after that hockey or soccer match…). Mostly your massage professionals in the area will be happy to help and will teach you a few simple techniques to use. Get your kids used to massage early in life, and build your own touch-skills at the same time.
I hope we can create a new generation of young people who are using touch as a positive social value.
If this article clicked for you and you’d like to read more you can check out our E-Magazine “Touch & Children“, or one of the following posts: “You Cannot Live Without Touch“, “Developing Fluency In The Language Of Touch“, or “Be Kind When You Touch Me“.