Parenting

Science Confirms the Best Way to Love Your Child

April 4, 2017

Science confirms what God established when he created us: physical touch is life-giving. The best way to love your child is to touch them–hold them when they are young, hug them when they are too big to hold.

From inception, a baby is held, in the womb and then in the arms of a mother or father. They are constantly touched. In the hearts of parents from birth we want to cradle and kiss our baby. This is instinctive and it is imperative for the growth and development of a baby. But what about the child who is eight, twelve or sixteen? Do they need to be held, hugged, patted, kissed? 

Yes.

And what about beyond 16? Is this when a child begins to replace desire for parental affection with desire for romantic affection? 

Did you know that there are major studies on the science of touch? All of them validate its importance. 

The science of touch convincingly suggests that we’re wired to—we need to—connect with other people on a basic physical level. To deny that is to deprive ourselves of some of life’s greatest joys and deepest comforts. ~ Dacher Keltner, University of California, Berkeley 

I have pondered the importance of physical affection a lot lately in regard to how to love your child. Could this be an overlooked key in our family relationships and in loving well those suffering in the world? It may also be a key to why so many children are becoming sexually involved at an earlier age–perhaps they crave physical touch.

When studied empirically, it is my experience that science is a validation of how God created the world. He created us to love each other through touch from birth to death. It is vital to life and provides joy for both the receiver and giver.  

Giving and receiving touch triggers a variety of physiological responses. It reduces the cardiovascular stress response—lowering heart rate, blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol—and triggers the brain’s release of oxytocin, a neuropeptide that promotes feelings of well-being, devotion and bonding. Touch is inherently reciprocal. It’s impossible to touch someone or something without being touched. And research shows that the benefits of touch are available whether on the giving or receiving end. ~  Dr. Matt Hertenstein, DePauw University 

You and I have an incredible opportunity as parents. We can instill good study habits and develop their brain. We can teach them healthy choices and develop their body. And we can train them in the Word and develop knowledge of God. But if we do all this, devoid of the connection that only touch can bring, have we missed a key ingredient to loving them well?

Perhaps we need to make more time for a little more love–physical love…hugging with joy, holding in compassion, kissing with affection–in the morning as you wake your kids, in the afternoon when you reconnect after school or work, and at night when you say goodnight. Perhaps it would do more than anything else we could do as a parent.

To touch is to give life. ~ Michelangelo

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