Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Loving Touch

Several months ago, I wrote a post about how simple things can show love. Specifically, I described my desire to renew my intentionality regarding eye contact with my loved ones. This week, I’ve been challenged to be deliberate about another relatively simple thing: physical touch.

It first came up when I was doing some stuff online. A pop-up for 5 Love Languages self-analysis came up. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about here, check out this site.) I had previously read a couple of the books on this topic, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the ideas or where my loving tendencies might be assessed. Not being particularly busy, I decided to see how I scored on the test. When my results came up, I was a bit surprised! My love languages have adapted quite a bit over time. Quality time used to be my run-away top pick, but, according to my latest results, quality time and physical touch (interesting!—I don’t necessarily think of myself as a “touchy-feely” kind of person) actually fell just behind acts of service (there’s something about being a mother of four that enhances this language, I think!). I took a bit of time to reflect upon how acts of service and physical touch might be more important (or even just accessible) to me now than ever before.

I was reminded of this idea again while I was preparing for a Bible study group. We were supposed to be talking about relationships and how people give and receive love. There were questions about how we’d received love, how we’d given love to others, and how we might have missed opportunities to give love. Hmmmmm.

Then, last night, I finally took time to look up some information on brain chemistry and neurotransmitters that I’d dumped into a file for “another time.” This is a fascinating topic of study for me--how physiological formation of the brain corresponds to one’s physical activities and circumstances. For instance, did you know studies suggest that an 80-year-old couple who reach out and hold each other’s hand stimulates new connections in their brains, making possible the production and release of chemicals which support feelings of satisfaction and well-being? Furthermore, children’s brains are all about making these types of connections which optimize brain chemistry. However, they do not happen automatically. Positive, loving physical touch is essential to ideal brain development.

From my research, I found and watched a fascinating interview with child development specialist, Karyn Purvis. If you find this post interesting at all, I highly recommend that you take some time and watch it here. (The whole video is over 25 minutes long, but it includes another interview as well. If you want to watch the information on providing loving touch for children, you need to give yourself about 15 minutes.).

I was reminded that all children need loving touch. Not touch that only facilitates something necessary (like changing a diaper or bringing a child safely across a street). Children need touch that simply communicates affection. Children, like mine—who may have had periods of their lives during which they received little or no affectionate touch—may have an especially great need for such physical touch. This is because they must make up for some “lost” brain connections, which would often occur naturally in those with less stressful or traumatic early life circumstances.

When an idea repeatedly pops into my life within the span of just a few days, I figure that it is something to which I probably ought to pay some attention. So, this morning, as the children ate their breakfast, I intentionally made unnecessary physical contact with them: resting my hand across a back, pulling a body close for a moment, touching a cheek, gently rubbing the shoulders. Ethan noticed immediately: “Mom, can you keep doing that? I like how it feels.”

So simple. Yet so easy to miss.

I needed a reminder.


Helen said...

[Sigh] So lovely. Thanks for sharing that.

Kathy Castor said...

Yes, yes, yes! So simple and so true. So glad you posted this reminder as well. Glad Jack connected me to you too.