Nurturing touch beyond babywearing

kelly shealer 4Use Nurturing Touch is one of Attachment Parenting International‘s Eight Principles of Parenting. With a baby, there are so many ways to put this into practice: babywearing, breastfeeding, the fact that babies want to be held most of the time anyway. But as my son has grown older, he’s become less and less interested in hugs, kisses, back rubs and other types of nurturing touch that naturally follow in the toddler years.

He’s almost 5 now, and it’s a challenge for me to still remember his need for physical touch and to find creative ways to meet that need.

I try to make a point to do small physical gestures — a high-five or a silly, exaggerated handshake — and to engage in more physical play with him or just be close to him during playtime. Sometimes, I pretend that he — not his sister — is the baby, and I playfully pick him up, rock him or carry him on my hip. That usually gets a giggle from him.

Most importantly for us, though, I’ve found that a big part of nurturing touch means also respecting my son’s desire not to be touched. If he doesn’t want to hug me or if he pushes my hand away when I go to rub his head at bedtime, I listen to him and I don’t take it personally. I understand that it’s not what he needs at that moment and that it’s important for me not to force it. I know that he, like me, is very sensitive to touch and only wants to be touched on his own terms.

I think it’s important for me to at least offer a hug. There are times when he will accept the hug, and even if he doesn’t, I feel that it lets him know that I’m willing to connect with him that way.

I’m sure that as he gets older it will get even harder to connect with him through nurturing touch, but I hope that I can continue to show my love in the ways that he needs.

Author: Kelly Shealer

Kelly Shealer is the mom of 2 active boys and 1 adventurous girl, all born almost exactly 2 years apart. Kelly encourages imaginative play and messy art projects and sees everything as a learning opportunity. She also enjoys the library, relaxing at the beach and cooking Italian food. Kelly is a postpartum doula and API Leader in Frederick, Maryland, USA.

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