We don’t sit and think about it very often but it is actually a hugely relevant part of our lives. I noticed the other morning, waking up in bed, that I mold myself around my husband’s body trying to make contact with every bit of his skin that I can. I’ve never heard it explained, exactly what we receive through skin-to-skin contact. There is heat, of course, but there is so much more. I know that they have saved the lives of struggling newborns by giving them another infant to cuddle with. I know that touch can alleviate depression, change sadness into happiness. It seems to be a strong need that we have as humans that we tend not to assign quite enough importance to.
I remember once when my close friend’s husband had been out of town for several months working, she got to the point where she gave really long sustained hugs. She would apologize for it, but she understood that with her husband being away for so long she was missing the human contact that she normally depended on him for. She was pretty smart to recognize what was going on. I don’t think that most people consider the possibility that a lack of touch could be a contributor when they are feeling a little down.
I cannot remember where or when, but I once heard a brilliant woman explaining that she paid to get her teenaged children weekly massages so that they wouldn’t be missing out on touch. If you really think about it teenagers are the largest group of people who probably don’t get a lot of skin to skin contact on a regular basis, and this may be the reason that they are seeking it out through dating at a young age, even if they don’t realize it. They get to the age where they don’t want to hold hands with mom or dad a long time before it is appropriate or safe for them to be seeking out human contact from their peers. I’m not talking about friendly hugs; I’m talking about moving towards sexual situations at a very young age. I think that the woman who set up the massages for her kids had a pretty wonderful idea. I think that there are other ways that we can go about it though. I know that I would be stretching it to afford weekly massages for all three of my kids, but I can remember to be aware of the touch that they are lacking. I can force them into hugging their mother even when they don’t feel like it. I can set an example for them by hugging my friends when I greet them and hope that my children will model the behavior. I can offer to do the girls’ hair and encourage them to do each other’s. I suppose even participating in full contact sports could be a helpful thing for boys.
My husband and I are dealing with our oldest daughter making the transition into teenagerhood right now, and it is happening much earlier than we had expected. It is not easy; her moods are insanely erratic. I am grateful for any tool I can collect in helping me deal with her behavior. I may become an excessive hugger here sometime in the near future. I think that it is important that we pay close attention to our children’s happiness. I don’t mean I should be doing anything and everything that I can think of to put smiles on their faces; I just need to be aware of where they are at emotionally. If necessary, I may need to hug the crap out of them on a daily basis.