Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Continuing Nurturing Touch

Along the lines of blog carnivals I missed out on, last month, Attachment Parenting International's Carnival was about nurturing touch. I missed the carnival, but I still have thoughts on the subject.

A lot of AP Principles are infant-focused and nurturing touch easily brings to mind things like kangaroo care and skin to skin contact at birth, babywearing, and breastfeeding. It's easy to keep an infant close to you. But then they get bigger and it's easy to neglect that. They want to walk on their own, they grow up and have activities of their own and aren't with the family all day, then they hit puberty and they pretty much don't get touched at all. I can understand that: as a parent you don't want to cross any inappropriate boundaries once your children are suddenly able to be sexual.

Earlier this year, I was reading The Whole Parent: How to be a Terrific Parent Even if You Didn't Have One. Look past the cheesy cover- it's a great book. It discusses attachment theory in great depth and is written specifically for parents who have had very abusive childhoods and want to break the cycle. While I didn't relate on that level, the ideas and examples in it were really great, though some of the stories are very heart-wrenching, so be prepared for crying. It pointed out that even teenagers need nurturing touch from their families and suggested that if they don't get it at home, they'll look for it in other places, places you probably don't want your teenager looking for touch. What was really great is that it gave examples of ways that you can encourage touch with your older children that are safe, eg. doing your daughter's hair for a dance.

As we continue on upwards in age, we still need touch. Before McKay and I were married, I read an article about how a 20 second full-body hug can increase the oxytocin levels in your body. Because it was years ago, I can't find the exact article, but here's a google search for you. That idea stayed with me and throughout our marriage on bad days, I ask McKay, "Can I have an oxytocin hug?"

Anyway, the point is humans, no matter our age or size, need touch. This is something I've been trying to remind myself with Margaret. Yes, she is 2. She doesn't always want to be on my back in the mei tai, she doesn't get 100% of her nutrition from me, and she spends some of the night not cuddled up to me any more. But she's still human. And 2 is still very much a baby. It's hard to sit down and give her cuddles when my belly is so huge, but I know she needs them.

One of the ways I fit nurturing touch into our days is nursing after showering. We usually take baths together: I shower and she plays in the tub at my feet. After I dry myself off, I wrap her up in her hoodie towel and she gets really excited because it means we're going to go sit on the bed and cuddle and nurse. Because neither of us is dressed yet, it's how I fit skin to skin contact into our lives. Obviously, this isn't something I'm going to keep up for years and years, but just because she's not a newborn, it doesn't mean she doesn't need skin to skin contact.

Over the past few weeks, I've been thinking about the day that I won't be able to cuddle her as much; there will be another little person who will need nurturing touch as well. I need to remember that she needs cuddles and not to neglect that when the baby comes.

How have you kept up nurturing touch as your child has grown older?


  1. i like the newest post on parentingpassageway... sometimes nuturing your child is playing with them, having fun with them and enjoying them as they are...

  2. It's not just the kids - the parents need nurturing touches too!

    Before I was married, even when I was 20, I still got a lot of nurturing hugs from my mom. Now that I am married, I get a lot of nurturing touches from my husband, so I don't think about hugging my mom as often, but she needs touches too!

    In my family we always hold hands during prayers. Usually in church services, I sit between my mom and my husband and hold both their hands during prayers. (It's so totally and completely the highlight of my week.) This past Sunday my husband happened to land in the middle of my mom and me...and during the prayer, he held my mom's hand. I didn't even see it but my mom told me later that she had a really hard time not crying happy tears. She was so touched that my husband would touch her affectionately. She's so proud of me for 'training' my husband so well that he knows to give nurturing touches to my mom.

    Thank you for this post. It was a great reminder for my to honor my mother with nurturing touch!

  3. I try to give Camila and Alondra lots of hugs throughout the day since they love to be close to me. They will often come up to me and ask for a hug and I try to respond in the moment as much as possible. Alondra still gets carried quite a bit. I also give them Reiki before bed which is a nice connection. It really helps me tune into them and get intuitive suggestions for helping them. After a bath Alondra loves to cuddle in her towel too :)

  4. We gather her special blankets and pillows and her special bear and snuggle on the couch. It is hard with my huge tummy but some how we still fit. We also have snuggles when she wakes up in the morning she will wondering and cuddle up to me or my husband and snuggle for 10 minutes or so before getting the day started. One of her favorite things that I'm not a huge fan of is taking baths together. We simple don't both fit, but she loved it so I do it still.

  5. I like the part of teenagers needing hugs too. I have never been huggy with my teenage step son but he and his dad always were. Now I am always reminding him to hug his son because it's important all through life, and even if he rejects him now he'll be glad of it later. My mom didn't hug me very much growing up - I really have no recollection of any hugs actually, and then she suddenly started hugging me when I was in my 20's and now I'm 36 and it still feels weird to hug her. And I'm a bit resentful of that. So I hug my kids all the time and will make sure to do it all the days of their lives.

  6. When I was about 4 years old I refused to let my mom or dad hug or kiss me. I really didn't like it. My mom told me she talked to some kind of professional and they said it was important that she respect what I wanted, but as a parent she had needs for physical closeness with me, so she needed to find a way to get it, even though I really didn't like being physically close to people.

    My mom turned it into a games, where she would pretend to be my pillow and then she would move and she would tickle me and hug me and I would laugh and laugh. I can't remember what else she did, but I really like when it was games that made us be physically close.

    As an adult reaching out to people physically still makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable, but I now recognize how much I really need it, when I didn't when I was younger. I am really grateful for all the work my mom did to make sure I got physical nurturing touch. Mothering my own children is the one area I never feel awkward about nurturing touch. I love hugging, snuggling, cuddling them, and it comes really naturally.

    My point is, I think it is important to provide our children with nurturing touch, even if they don't want it, or reject it, but to do it in a way that they enjoy it.


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