Concerning Kids – The love language of physical touch is crucial to children
Anna Gnatyshyna, CNE.news
There are some moments linger in my memory. One of them is the moment I shared a ride with a friend’s family.
A 5-year-old girl sat next to me in the car. I tried to talk to her, but it seemed she was not interested. Then I gently touched her hand, and she closed her eyes. I kept stroking her hand and she enjoyed every moment of that while keeping her eyes closed. Her mother started to laugh and said: “She loves physical touch so much that she reminds me of a kitten who likes to be pet”.
Somehow from early birth kids need to be hugged and touched, so they feel care, safety, and love. The older they get, the fewer touches they want. My house is located right opposite the school and each morning I see children going to the school. Some parents walk their kids to the school, and I see the same pattern. The youngest ones always hug their parents goodbye and wave their hands. The oldest kids act like the adults are not their parents. That is hilarious when a woman tries to kiss her son goodbye and 12-year-old is desperately looking around to make sure nobody sees it.
Physical affection is an essential component of a child’s emotional and social development, and hugging is one of the most powerful forms of physical touch we can give. There are many studies that prove that physical touch boosts the kids’ self-esteem, reduces stress, improves their mood, and enhances brain development. But we don’t hug our kids because of the research we read. It is built in kids’ system so they long for physical closeness.
When I worked in the orphanage I saw how the absence of hugs causes loneliness, insecurity, and stress. The kids long for love, but without it they are closed, distant and cold. It seems that kids have a love tank and when it is empty, they run to us to get more love and affection. And when they are full, they want to socialize and discover the world around them. Physical touch communicates love to them more deeply than giving them praise, buying a gift, or fixing a toy.
Every time my friends come for a visit to my house, they bring their daughter along. I am always prepared for that; therefore, I keep a box with different toys so the kid will be busy and entertained while we do our adult talking. However, after playing a while the kid comes to us and wants to be seated at the table.
When sitting next to me, she asks me to scratch her back. When I laugh, she says with a serious intonation “It is not funny, just scratch my back”.
And I enjoy the moment of being with a kid, while she enjoys the physical touch. I know that when she gets older, she will focus on her smartphone and ignore the adults around her. But now it is the moment that we both share, and I want to keep this moment in my memory.
About the author
Anna lives in Kyiv and runs an Evangelistic Children's Club. She is a Children's Ministry Coordinator in Eurasia with the organisation OneHope. Anna studied theology and is a guest teacher at the Kyiv Theological Seminary.
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