Touch is a powerful thing. It can hurt tragically, and it can heal supernaturally. It makes neurons fire in our brain like the fourth of July.
Touch is a remarkable God-given tool to build relationship and connection from the neighborly casual to the most intimate. And, it’s something our children who have had hard starts often have a hard time with.
Some kids can’t get enough of it; some kids struggle to accept and receive it at all. And when they struggle with touch, we as parents struggle along with them.
We want to respect where they are with it all, but we also want to do our best to help them increase their capacity. When our kids are small, we can hold them, literally “wear” them, co-sleep, guard those moments when we feel trust and connection can build. But, those small kids grow bigger, and our strategies to help them give and receive touch have to grow with them.
If your hugs and kisses aren’t readily accepted, here are some ideas of other ways you can connect with your kids through touch:
• Give a simple high five.
• Make up a special handshake for just the two of you.
• Make a pinky promise.
• Touch his or her back as you walk by.
• Give a quick one-arm side hug.
• Standing next to your child, give him or her a gentle and silly “hip bump.”
• Ruffle your child’s hair (unless your child puts efforts into styling it ).
• Ask to hold your child’s hand not just when you cross the street or are in a crowd.
• Offer a piggyback ride.
• Finger paint together with real paint or with shaving cream on a baking sheet.
• Play with playdough together, looking for opportunities to work together to make something.
• Trace your child’s hand slowly, and invite your child to trace yours.
• Ask your child to close his or her eyes and then use something around the house to touch his or her arm (like a cotton ball, Q-tip, paint brush, shoelace, etc.) and have your child guess what it was.
• “Draw” shapes or letters on your child’s back with your finger and have your child guess what each one was.
• Read a book to your child side-by-side so that your sides are touching.
• Invite your child to flip the pages of the book you are holding so the book itself serves as a physical connector between you.
• Pet an animal together so the animal serves as the physical connector between you.
• Apply lotion to his or her hands.
• Take your time putting on a band-aid even if it isn’t really needed.
• Paint your child’s nails.
• Have fun putting makeup on each other’s faces.
• Help your child put his or her socks and shoes on without a rush.
• Whisper something while cupping his or her ear with your hand.
• Wash your child’s hair in the bath. Don’t rush as if you are just getting the job done. Go slowly, and vary the pressure.
• Play hair salon, and wash your child’s hair in the sink or simply brush and style it.
• Give your child an “eskimo” or “butterfly” kiss.
It’s good for them. And, it’s good for us too.
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