Physical contact part of bonding

We have become very careful, even wary, about touching children.

We might worry about how others could misconstrue our touching their youngsters or about others inappropriately touching our own.

Physical contact is important to all mammals and is part of the bonding process between parents and children and siblings.

A lack of physical contact can have a tremendous impact on our emotional and physical wellbeing.

Our sense of touch is a particularly intimate sense.

Like all things it can have its downsides and it requires us as parents to develop a notion in our children of the difference, for want of a better description, between good and bad touching and to feel comfortable with the good sort.

If you aren't a greater toucher or hugger yourself then it could be a bit of a challenge for you initially.

From the day they are born it is advisable to make constant body contact with children gentle stroking, hair brushing, gently drying with a warm towel and massaging head, back and feet as they grow a little older.

Carry them, kiss them, hug them, tickle them, hold their hand when out walking, give them butterfly kisses, let them snuggle on your lap and let them fall asleep on your shoulder.

Get them used to others hugging and cuddling them.

For a child having trouble getting to sleep or staying in bed, gentle rocking or a foot or back massage will help relax them, keep them in bed and hopefully set them on the path to sleep.

A gently firm, ''I'm here hug'' can remove a lot of fears and anxieties as well.

As they grow older, respect their personal space and don't be offended if a response changes and you feel that you are being pushed away.

There's a natural change as part of a child's development and that has to be accepted.

You will need to find new, acceptable ways to make contact, particularly for boys.

A forced hug is no hug at all.

A head or neck massage might work, you might still get a snuggle on the couch so try sitting there, then there's the hair ruffle, cheek stroke, and side-on squeezy hug around the shoulder for a young man of the world.

You might be able to rough-house with them but watch out as they grow stronger!

If human touch remains a problem, a cuddly pet can give that needed intimate contact.

And all the time you are teaching them appropriate touch.

By respecting their wishes when they don't want to be touched, you are letting them know that it is OK to indicate to someone that they are uncomfortable and to expect to have that respected.

- Ian Munro 

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