Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Primal Way to Show Love to Your Child

by Phoebe Farag Mikhail

Congratulations to Marianna A. for winning my "Brain Candy" giveaway, a copy of the novel Illuminations by Mary Sharratt. I'd like to Visit the "Brain Candy" section of my AStore for more summer reading recommendations, and stay tuned for the next giveaway!

I’ve written about how important it is to discover our children’s primary love languages in a previous post about The Five Love Languages of Children. According to the book, primary love languages don’t emerge until children are a little older, past the preschool years. Until then, parents should share love with their children in all five languages. So this is my second post in a five part series with practical examples of using the five love languages with my own children. You can read my first post, on words of affirmation, here.

Love Language: Physical Touch
Sometimes, my pre-schooler wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, often with no obvious explanation, like going to bed late the night before, or being unusually hungry (I admit, he gets this from his mom). We used to combat his negativity with more negativity, which of course led to a downward spiral of arguments and time-outs all day. Reflecting on this, I considered another way to combat his morning bad moods. Lately, he had been getting interested in medicine, pretending to be a doctor and giving us “shots” with any writing instrument he could find. I had an epiphany, and decided to try my new idea the next time toddler woke up in a bad mood.

Soon enough, pre-schooler had a cranky morning. After refusing to say his morning prayers or eat his breakfast on no uncertain terms, I looked him and said, “It looks like you lost your good mood somewhere. I think we need to go back to your room, have an operation and find your good mood!”

Curiosity peaked, he allowed me to scoop him up and take him back to his room, where we conducted the following “operation:”

“First, we smooth out the frown on your face.” I smooth his frown wrinkles in between his eyes with my thumb.

“Second, we find your smile.” I turn up the corners of his lips; by this time he may already be smiling.

“Third, we TICKLE TICKLE TICKLE TICKLE!!!” By this time he’s laughing.

Finally, I ask, “Did we find your good mood?”

Usually, he’s laughing at this point, and says, “yes,” which is promptly followed by a hug. Sometimes he says “no,” just so we can do the “operation” again. Occasionally, it doesn’t work – sometimes he’s just crabby, and sometimes it is for valid reasons, like hunger, a late night, perhaps a headache, or a bad dream that he can’t verbalize. Sometimes we don’t do the whole “operation” – just scooping him up and holding him is enough to remind him that he is loved, even when he is cranky.

It’s no accident that in the well known story in Luke 18 and Matthew 19, parents bring their children to Jesus so He could touch them, and pray for them. “Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 18:15-16, NKJV). By asking Jesus to touch their children, they were asking Him to express love for them. One of the first ways a child receives love from parents is through physical touch.

The emotional and psychological benefits of cuddling infants and young children are well known; some studies have even shown that cuddling premature babies helps them experience less pain during medical procedures.

I have no trouble finding opportunities to cuddle my two year old – she will often play for a little, then come over to me to be hugged and kissed, then go back to playing. My son did that too, but the “cuddle breaks” are fewer and further between as he spends more and more time focused on play. Thankfully, showing love through physical touch does not always mean cuddles, hugs and kisses. He still likes to sit on my lap to read a book, ride piggy back on Mom or Dad, play rough-and-tumble every so often, hold my hand when he’s scared, or help me “find his good mood.”

How do you show your older child how much he or she is loved?