By: Curtis Peterson ©
I am going to start this blog with a simple statement: children need loves, hugs, and affection! I have been stewing over a conversation I had the other day with a few individuals who feel that problem with today’s youth is they been hugged, kissed, and loved TOO much. That all this stuff about giving infants too much attention and holding a child too much does long lasting damage leads to a child who cannot handle their emotions and behaviors. Too all the people out there, who believe this, I have one begging plead – please stop having children.
Let us look at facts instead of myths. First from a scientific perspective there is a direct association between how much affection individuals show children and the child’s mental and physical well-being. Adults who were held a lot and had affectionate parents have lower divorce rates, make more money, are more satisfied with their relationships, are more physically healthy, live longer, and have less emotional and psychological problems. To emphasize this point in my career I have worked with criminals, abused children, abused spouses, rapist and rape victims, addicts, and homeless. In the great majority of these cases I will tell you it was a very very rare case that the person came from an affectionate home. And in the cases where the child did have affectionate and caring parents, the parents often provided the wrong kind of affection. A good number of them had the stand-off “I teach you how to be a real man or real woman” by not showing any affection method of parenting. Another good portion of these individuals had parents who just simply were not capable of showing affection.
In my own scholarly work, there is a solid foundation of literature that indicates that an infant’s attachment style – based on parent’s affection and attention – determines the socialization of child and early childhood friendships. If the child does not have a secure attachment – created by a responsive, attentive, and affectionate parent – the child is more likely to develop chronic loneliness in early and late childhood. This loneliness inhibits the ability to develop strong social skills that are necessary for survival in adolescents. In adolescents this results in higher rates of depression, suicide attempts, and ending up in bad social crowds. These bad social crowds feed off of adolescents who have weak social skills, treat them with love and respect (often not shown at home) and then encourages them to engage in dangerous and often illegal behaviors.
The bottom line is that we as a society cannot show children enough affection and love. It helps children feel safe and allows them to explore the world – and make the mistakes – that are necessary to become a healthy human being. Please hug your child, hold them close, and make sure they know not only through words but through your actions they are loved completely.