Changing Touch

My son, my oldest child, is 7 1/2 years old and a rising second grader.  For his entire life, he has always been the child who would never stray far from me, loves cuddles and physical contact.  And he has stopped holding my hand in public.

Since his toddler years, our rule has been that hands must be held while walking in parking lots, crossing streets, or at any other time there might be a danger.  There’s no doubt it provides a convenient way to keep track of my kids, but more than that, I simply enjoy holding my children’s hands.  I often reach for them just walking through stores, or in the zoo, or wherever we happen to be.  It gives a physical presence, which in turn creates a positive emotional atmosphere.  I’ve never spanked my kids, so there’s never been any instance of negative touch between our kids and their parents, but the hand-holding is a positive touch I particularly enjoy.  Not that I don’t enjoy the hugs and kisses and cuddles and bedtime snuggles, but hand-holding provides an intimate atmosphere in a place where other forms of physical parent-child intimacy is not feasible.

Nothing is changing at home; he still curls into my lap at all opportunities, gives me hugs, will happily snuggle with me on the couch, and loves our bedtime ritual of cuddles and a story in his bed.  But the public hand-holding is clear; I’ll habitually reach for his hand, and he’ll keep it to his side and make a tiny groan of protest.  I’ve begun putting my hand on his back or around his shoulders, and he seems to have no problem with that.  Oftentimes, he will go to younger sister’s other side and grab her free hand.  I’m sure he sees this not as holding hands for the mere pleasure of it, but rather as helping keep his sister safe.

I’m sure this objection is his first of many more to come as he gets older.  And while I will always respect his wishes, for the first time I find myself wondering if his cuddling little boy days are closer to the end then they are to the beginning, and reflecting on how parenting changes as the kids grow.

How do you ways to maintain contact as your kids grow up while not embarrassing them to death?

Author: sarah

Sarah has been involved with API since 2002. She is the mother of two school-aged kids.

5 thoughts on “Changing Touch”

  1. I don’t have any great tips, since my oldest is only 4. However, this is what I try to keep in mind when I’m feeling ‘touched out’. One day my kids won’t want to hold my hand. They won’t want to touch me. I’m trying to appreciate these days and their fleeting nature while they last, because I just might miss them when they’re gone.

  2. My boys are 7 and 9, and I’ve experienced this, too. I try to keep in mind that it is a natural thing for them to want more distance – after all, AP is about giving them what they need when they need it, expecting a lot of those needs to diminish over time. Every so often (mostly in the comfort of our own home!) my 9-year-old will snuggle with me, and I try to really appreciate those moments with him, knowing they are few and far between.

  3. Boys still need touching, even if the ways we touch change. The fact that he is still cuddling at home means he just needs you to recognize that he’s growing up. He’s following social norms of how older boys touch their mothers in public, and that’s fine.

    Here are some other ways to connecting through touch:
    – wrestling
    – tousling his hair as you walk by
    – shoulder hugs
    – a hand on the shoulder
    – back pats
    – high fives
    – bear hugs, especially silly ones

    Think of all the silly ways boys love to connect with each other, and add them to your repetoire: thumps and bumps, winks and special handshakes. The funnier the better he’ll like them.

    But at home, he’ll probably continue to cuddle. Eventually he’ll have to move out of your lap, just because his weight won’t be comfortable any more. But he’ll still always keep his need for physical connection. So let him sit close. 🙂

  4. Awwww. Growing up can be tough on momma’s! My 6 year old is going through this as well. In public, she is a “Big Kid” and says that she is big enough to pay attention and stay close without being “a baby.” For safety reasons, I often try to sneak in a task that will keep her more connected, like being “in charge” of the grocery cart (which I also have one hand on) or “helping mommy” by holding her little sisters hand.

    I think we make up for that lost touch in other ways throughout the day…reading books keeps us close (I hold the book close so she has to snuggle to see the pictures!) and bedtime routines bring us together. Tickles. Tag. Hair brushing.

    The good news? Hang in there and keep finding ways to allow him his space. This will pay off in the long term! My 15 year old daughter is a big fan on holding my hand in public, or linking arms with me when we walk together. I allowed her to have her space when she asked for it, and she came back to me in a time when most parents are struggling to find anyway to connect again.

  5. It is perfectly natural for children to break away from their parents. Each year they get a little more independent, and that is a good thing! Even as a teenager, they will sometimes act as a child, and sometimes act as a young adult. Their right of passage to adulthood is finding that line between wanting to be a child, and going off on their own. Each year, parents must take on different roles in their child’s life. First you were his/her teacher, but soon it will change, then change again. Do not take it personal, because it is a part of growing up…


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