Today guest author Arlene Pellicane, author of the new book Growing Up Social, shares what this generation is beginning to lose–physical touch. Let’s wake up to our children, the gifts that they are, and be present with them. Hug your child today!
Samantha is a fifth-grader whose family recently moved to a new community. “It’s been hard this year, moving and having to make new friends,” said Samantha. When she was asked if she ever felt as if her parents didn’t love her because they took her away from her old town, she said, “Oh no, I know they love me, because they always give me lots of extra hugs and kisses.”
Like many children, Samantha’s love language is physical touch*; those touches make her feel secure and let her know that mom and dad love her. The language of touch isn’t confined to a hug or a kiss but includes any kind of physical contact. Even when you are busy, you can often gently touch your child on her back, arm, or shoulder. Although this love language is very easy to express, studies indicate that many parents touch their children only when it is necessary: when they are dressing or undressing them, putting them in the car, or carrying them to bed. It seems that many parents are unaware of how much their children need to be touched and how easily they can use this means to keep their children’s emotional tanks filled with love.
A man named Bob has two children in elementary school and one in preschool. When the two older kids were younger, Bob would often put them in his lap and read them a bedtime story. Reading together builds a sense of oneness, a sense of love for kids. But life got busier and nowadays, the older kids read on their own and his youngest daughter Lisa, four, is used to reading children’s books on an e-reader. Bob rarely puts Lisa on his lap to read Goodnight Moon. She sits by herself on the couch reading with her device.
An electronic reader may save space, trees, and be convenient, but using one with kids short circuits something important – physical touch between a parent and child.
Sure a parent can put a child on his lap and read an e-reader or play a video game together on a tablet. But typically, when a child is engaged with a screen, he or she is not touching a parent. He’s not being held in a lap. He’s not sitting close enough to touch mom or dad’s leg. When family members get used to engaging with screens, they lose the physical touch dynamic which should be a normal dynamic in a healthy family.
If your child’s primary love language is touch, you will know it. They will be jumping on you, poking you, and constantly trying to sit beside you. I believe my youngest daughter Lucy, age 4, has physical touch as her primary love language because she always wants to sit next me and one of her favorite words is “Huggie!” She tells me every day to scratch her back, and the first thing she does in the morning is come in my room for her hug.
When you put your arm around your child, wrestle, or give him a high-five, you’re communicating your love and interest in being together.
Physical touch communicates love in a powerful way to all children, not just young children. Throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school, your child still has a strong need for physical touch. A hug given as he leaves each morning may be the difference between emotional security and insecurity throughout the day. A hug when he returns home may determine whether he has a good evening or makes a rambunctious effort to get your attention. Older boys tend to be responsive to more vigorous contact such as wrestling, playful hitting, bear hugs, high fives, and the like. Girls like this type of physical touch also, but they like the softer touches of hugs and holding hands.
Screens can’t do any of these things, no matter how advanced they are.
Children need loving physical affection from a parent in order to thrive. So the next time you and your child are in a room together, put your device down and hug your child. No app can do that; only you can.
*Read Gary Chapman’s bestselling book The Five Love Languages to find out more about the love languages.
Adapted from Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Arlene Pellicane and Gary Chapman. If you’ve ever felt like screens are taking over your family, or as if your children are losing the ability to have real-life relationships, you need to read Growing Up Social today! Reclaim your family. Don’t sacrifice it to a screen!
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife. She has been featured on the Today Show, Family Life Today, K-LOVE, and The Better Show. She lives in San Diego with her husband James and three children. Visit Arlene at www.ArlenePellicane.com for free family resources including a monthly Happy Home podcast.