ABC by Paley – TOUCH
Touch is extremely important for both children and adults. This is the first sense that develops in mother’s womb. Touch is the link between the child and the outside world. As mammals, we have a need to be close to other people from the very first moments after birth. For several months, the toddler was carried and rocked in his mother’s womb all the time, so after being born he needs physical contact just as much to grow up as to be healthy.
Research reports that touch plays a particularly important role in premature babies. Skin-to-skin contact, kangarooing, massage – the tenderness of the parent and medical staff helps the baby develop. Babies who experience physical contact from birth put on weight faster and can leave hospital walls up to several days earlier than those who have not been touched. With premature babies, every minute of closeness is important.
Positive changes under the influence of touch occur not only in the child. It has been observed that closeness to a toddler has a positive effect on the well-being of parents. In addition, the area of skin on the chest of mothers who have just given birth has the ability to change temperatures by 1-2 degrees Celsius. The skin temperature adapts to what the baby needs. If the baby’s temperature drops, the mother’s temperature rises. On the other hand, if the baby’s temperature is elevated, the mother’s skin cools down.
Touch is a form of communication. When we are happy, we want to share our joy by hugging others. When we are sad, disappointed, or have had a difficult day, hugging a loved one can ease our pain. We know intuitively that touch is beneficial for us and we strive for it ourselves. The same is true for children. The little ones look for our closeness by sitting on our laps or hugging us. When they get angry and upset, one effective strategy is a hug from a parent or other close person. A child who is angry needs an adult to help him regulate his emotions. Therefore, hugging your child when they are angry will not make them recognize it as a reward for their behavior and will therefore get more and more angry. On the contrary, the child will sooner learn to calm down and regulate his agitation and will be sure that the parent supports him even in these difficult moments. By hugging a child, we let them know that they can feel safe with us and learn to trust us. We react to the signals it sends. When the baby calms down, there will be time for conversation and explanation. But, as long as his body and brain are agitated, any rational explanation, prohibition, or command will not work.
This is because at birth and for many years to come, a baby’s nervous system is not mature enough to regulate high emotions on its own. Young children who are experiencing something intensely find it difficult to calm down. This does not mean that they are stubborn, malicious, or manipulating adults. They just cannot react otherwise and have yet to learn.
The sensitive touch of the parent causes the level of stress hormones in the child to drop, which has a direct impact on the child’s health. Long-term stress can weaken the immune system making it easier for your child to catch infections.
Hugging lowers blood pressure and heart rate, improves mood, gives the body a signal to calm down and relax. It is worth remembering this during medical interventions. Taking blood, preparing for surgery, or coping with pain will be easier for the child if the parent is close and holds the child in his arms.
The therapeutic effect is also achieved by stroking or cuddling pets. If you have a cat or a dog, you have certainly experienced many times how soothing it can be to pet peacefully lying and relaxed pets. Of course, being close to a pet will not replace the care of a parent or another loved one, but it is worth remembering that our pets can also support us (and with reciprocity).
Hugging has many advantages. But it’s just as important to teach your baby that his body belongs to him and that we may not be able to touch him. Let your baby decide if he wants to cuddle or not. When he refuses to kiss or hug her aunt or uncle, he has the right to do so. By accepting your child’s decision, you build a conviction in them that their limits are important, and that other people cannot touch them without their consent. This is a valuable lesson that will pay off in adolescence and adulthood. At the same time, if you want to avoid conflict with your family or you are embarrassed by talking about unwanted kisses and hugs, teach your child to say hello in other ways, such as by high-five or a fist bump.
There is one more issue with touch. Often there is a situation where primary caregivers who spend all day with their children in the evening are heartily fed up with any physical contact. They have the impression that one more stimulus and they will explode. The biggest dream then becomes to hide in the deprivation chamber. It is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the touch is very intense, long-lasting, and quite unpredictable (after all, the child may emerge from the room and start pulling the trouser leg at any time). Paradoxically, what can help you survive such a state is a deep, strong massage and pressure. It will help to regulate and calm the stimulated and excited nervous system. It is worth a try.