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Tickles and Hugs
“Touch is the only sense we cannot live without. You child could be blind and be fine, she could be deaf and be okay, but without touching and being touched, a child will die.” — I Love You Rituals, Becky Bailey, Ph.D., pg. 10
The other day my son asked me which of my five senses I would give up if I needed. I told him that although it would be sad (more than sad) if I couldn’t hear him or his sisters again, or if I couldn’t see their faces as they grew older (and life without chocolate might be unbearable!) I certainly would retain my sense of touch. I want to be able to nurture my children through touch, and I definitely want to be loved and held myself. Nothing soothes my soul like a hug from one of my kids.
Researchers have looked extensively at the devastating consequences of non-touch, especially at the deprivation that occurred in the Romanian orphanages. This Scientific American article points out that skin-to-skin contact with babies calms them and helps them sleep better (who doesn’t want a baby to sleep better?) and helps mom’s own levels of stress and depression.
Of course, if I had read this as a new mom I would have an increase in my stress levels, wondering if I was holding my baby girl enough. Sometimes she didn’t sleep well at night—was I doing everything “right?”
Now, I read that advice and I notice all the times during the day that I DO hug my kids, or snuggle with them while we read on the couch. And I think to myself, “My preschooler may be upset today, but it’s NOT because I didn’t touch her enough—it’s got nothing to do with me and I’m doing my best here. And just think how upset she might be if I HADN’T hugged her?”
Having an 11-year-old daughter, I know it isn’t always easy to give her a hug (especially when she really needs it—that’s when she’s at her most resistant to me). Still, I try to look beyond the moments that she squirms away from my hugs and instead find the times when I can put my arm across her shoulders or brush her arm gently to wake her up in the morning.
You may have noticed that in the green studio we have some words on the wall. From time to time when I’m snuggling with my son during class I look up and see the word “touch.” I’m reminded that this is the gift of Kindermusik—it gives me a chance during the day to focus exclusively on my son, to hug him and let him know that I see him and I value him. If there are more important things to give my son, I’m not sure I’ve found them yet.
One of the rituals we do in some of Kindermusik classes is called “Round and Round the Haystack.” It’s a great way to entertain the kids while you’re waiting for the oil to get changed or while standing in line at the grocery store, as well as engage in some playful touch.
Round and round the haystack goes the little mare (draw circles on your child’s hand/knee/shoulder, etc.) with your index finger
One step, two steps (walk your fingers up the child’s arm/leg/back, heading for a ticklish spot)
Tickle you under there! (Give a gentle tickle under the child’s arm)
(Also found in I Love You Rituals, pg. 111)
Do you have a favorite snuggling ritual with your child? What are some of the ways you engage with your kids in some playful touch? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!