I looked into the small bassinet and saw a beautiful baby girl crying to be touched. The new momma was laying in her bed staring out the window. Softly I asked, “Can I pick up your baby for you?” She replied, “No. I don’t want to spoil her” I began asking questions and sharing gently about the importance of touch.
Years later, I sat listening, with tears filling my eyes, as a woman shared that she hasn’t had any physical contact with her husband in years. “When did you stop touching?” I ask. The woman thinks for a moment and says, “I don’t know when it happened. It just happened over time.” She continues to share that she’s filing for a divorce. I walk away from the conversation humbled, quiet, and sad.
Science Shares the Importance of Touch
There are many different philosophies in parenting and unique needs in marriages. We all find what works for us and what doesn’t. My words are not intended to put someone else down, make anyone feel less than, or guilt anyone into another way of doing things. This is a post to encourage, inspire, and remind all of us about something so simple as touch, and its vital role in our lives!
When we purpose to build healthy relationships despite the time, work, investment, and even pain, we can have something more rewarding than one of the Worlds Seven Wonders. Just as the Great Wall of China took bricks, stones, and wood, there are many elements in building healthy relationships. Communication, trust, expressing love, loyalty, and touch are a few that I’ve found essential in my home.
The Power of Touch
Touch is an essential aspect of the development of human relationships. According to a study done in Oct. 2013 Psychology Today reports that gentle touch increases brain development. Another article, The Neuroscience of calming a baby, clearly states the vital role of touch. I encourage you to read that article if you’ve ever wondered why your baby begins to cry when you put him/her down! I found it a thought-provoking read.
These reports speak directly toward the infant stage of development.
From giving our children loving, affirming touch to touching our spouse, the importance of touch cannot be overstated; it is something we should be actively engaged in daily.
Types of Touching
The type of touching I am talking about builds each other up. It is done in a way that respects the other person’s needs and boundaries. It’s the gentle, encouraging, touch that builds healthy relationships. Participating in this type of touch teaches our children about safe and healthy, relationships.
If this sounds difficult, challenging or even foreign to you, you are not alone.
A worldwide study showed that many of us here in the US have a touching barrier that comes from our culture. The US couples observed touched two times per hour compared to Puerto Ricans who touch 180 times per hour! Research goes on to report that all humans are born with a need for touch. The lack of touch contributes to depression, anxiety, boredom, and loneliness.
So what do we do if we are not a “touchy” type of person?
How do we start developing healthy moments in our relationships with the power of touch?
First, We must be intentional to the act of loving touch to build strong, healthy relationships!
I want to give you a few ideas for touch in different stages of development and the relationships you might have. Many of these suggestions can cross over into the next age group. Use this list as a springboard to start thinking of ideas that would be unique and special for your loved ones
Touch for Different Stages
1. Make skin to skin contact part of your daily routine
2. Respond with a gentle touch, quickly, when your baby cries.
1. Hold them when they cry.
2. Make eye contact with them as you rub baby down with lotion or oil after a bath. Infant Massage is also beneficial.
3. Gently stroke their hair and face as you read a bedtime story and kiss them goodnight- Touching a child’s face builds trust between you and the child. Make sure that any contact you have with your child’s face is loving and gentle.
1. Play games with them on the floor- laughing, touching, and imagining together
2. Enjoy feeding each other snacks- to allow someone to feed you or touch inside your mouth takes a great deal of trust. If your child is uncomfortable with this at first keep trying in small, frequent, sessions. Always keeping in mind that you’re building trust through touch.
3. Cuddle just because
1. Hold a child while you read to them
2. Randomly hold hands
3. Hold your child’s face in your hands and tell them how much you love them.
1. Place your hand on their shoulder as they tell you about an event that’s happened. Don’t forget to make eye contact, with a smile!
2. Reach over and hold their hand when you’re driving, sitting, or watching a movie together.
3. Hug them before bed
1. Sit next to each other
2. Hold hands as you take a walk
3. Put your arm around them and tell them you’re proud of them.
1. Kiss your spouse in a variety of places on the body, not just the mouth
2. Randomly touch your spouse, make eye contact, and offer words of affirmation
3. Touch, Feel and enjoy your spouse’s body for the sole purpose of being close together without the need for intimacy. (Of course, that is acceptable just not the purpose of what we’re talking about today).
4. Dance together
5. Make time for skin to skin contact
This week, our challenge is to offer loving and gentle touch to those that we cherish.
Don’t become impatient; healthy relationships aren’t built overnight. However, they are built by consistency. Let’s commit to the time and effort this rewarding task requires!
I am confident that if we do, we will build relationships more beautiful and lasting than any of the worlds seven wonders!
With much love,
Mrs. Joseph Wood